For my fellow wine bloggers who have not, yet attended the Wine Bloggers Conference, here is an overview of all the things I experienced in a short four days. I write this in an effort to persuade you to attend next year’s conference in Walla Walla Washington. It is a fantastic experience for many reasons.
We arrived in Santa Rosa on Wednesday morning and after a quick lunch at Jack and Tony’s where I had the best burger of my life, we boarded a charter bus for a field trip to Mendocino County, a place I had heretofore not been. Mendocino, the bottom of a temperate rainforest is breathtakingly beautiful! We were taken to Fetzer Vineyards, just outside the small town of Hopland. Fetzer was founded in 1968 and has been implementing sustainability practices since its beginning. The winery also incorporates organic farming and is biodynamic certified. This is quite a commitment, especially from such a large production winery.
As we exited the bus we were led to a barn where we were greeted by Courtney, a master of organization, and enjoyed a glass of Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay. We sat on hay bails hearing the rain come down on the tin roof as we listened to a panel of experts in the fields of sustainability and biodynamics. After the talk, we were led by winemaker Bob Blue in a Zinfandel blending. We each had a chance to make our own bourbon barrel blend that was later judged by a tasting panel.
At the end of a fun and educational afternoon, we got back on the bus and were taken to Campovida Winery where we entered yet, another barn and enjoyed a wonderful family style dinner along with some lovely wines including the Campovida Arneis, a crisp, zesty little white wine. After dinner and dessert, we were taken back to our hotel in Santa Rosa.
The next morning we got on the bus at 7:30 am and were driven back up to Mendocino where it was still raining. In Ukiah, we had a tour of the Bonterra Vineyards. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the vineyards on a misty morning while sipping a Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc which was as crisp and fresh as our rainy morning. Bonterra is another large producer that practices organic, sustainable and biodynamic grape growing.
Our walk led us back to a barn where we had the opportunity to fill cow horns with cow pooh to be buried in the vineyards as part of the biodynamic practices. We washed our hands and sat down to a wine tasting in the barn where the wines were presented by the Mendocino winemakers. We got to hear from nine winemakers and tasted through close to 30 wines.
Once the tasting wound down, we returned by bus to Santa Rosa to begin the conference. Yes, all of these activities were a pre-conference excursion. The conference had not, yet begun.
That afternoon back at the hotel I attended a panel discussion and tasting on Zinfandel. My next session was on Etude wines, a discussion, and tasting. After my education sessions, I cleaned up for dinner and had time to stop by the opening reception which featured several (20 to 30) producers offering tastes of their wines. I could only stay for a short time, sampling a few wines and visiting with old friends from previous conferences. Then it was time to board the bus for my Jackson Family Wine Dinner, where we were treated like royalty at the beautiful Kendall-Jackson Estate.
On the second day of the conference, we heard talks on professional wine writing by speakers such as Andrea Robinson, MS and Debora Parker Wong, DWSET, as well as Cyril Penn of WineBusiness.com and Fred Swan of the San Francisco Wine School. After a short break, I attended a panel discussion on What Companies Want from Wine Bloggers. Lunch was catered. After lunch, I attended a tasting and discussion on the Carinena DOP. There was another short break and then we heard a talk from the keynote speaker, Doug Frost, MS, MW one of only four people in the world to hold both a Master Sommelier and a Master of Wine. His talk was very entertaining and inspirational as well as educational. But the day was not, yet finished. We spent the next hour and a half Live Wine Blogging white and rosé wine. This portion of the conference is also known as speed tasting. The producers (there are 25 of them) came to our table and had five minutes to introduce their wines. We tasted and made notes on Twitter. Even with only half the producers making it to our table in such a short time, this was a very intense session that required more gut reactions than thoughtful evaluation of the wines. But it was an awful lot of fun. The day ended with another fantastic wine dinner at the Thomas George Estate where we had dinner in a cave.
My last day of the WBC began with the breakout session, Take Your Camera off Automatic given by Jeff Burrows who taught us a lot of great tips on how to take better pictures both with a camera and with a phone. My second breakout session was Lights, Camera, Action, a panel discussion on using video and working the various social media platforms. After lunch, I attended the Rias Baixas discussion and tasting. The afternoon offered discussions on the Wine Country Fires and How Media Can Respond to a Crisis. They were both sobering but needed talks. Then it was time for more Live Wine Blogging, this time with red wines.
The conference closed with one final wine dinner, with all attendees together. And this is what I loved most. The meals, the talks, the wines, the winery visits were all wonderful. But what I love most about the WBC is the attendees. Throughout the conference, I could and did strike up a conversation with whomever I sat next to on the bus, or at the dinner table, or in the audience or at the speed tasting, and know I would have a good conversation. Wine bloggers are a warm, creative, thinking and collegial group. I enjoyed the wine, but I really enjoyed the fellowship. Cheers to you, wine bloggers!