I’m trying to nail down exactly what I want to write about the recent Wine Bloggers Conference I attended in Portland, OR in August. I don’t want to simply recount the activities that had us going (and tasting wine) from 9 AM through the wee hours (more than a few of us). That wouldn’t be very interesting if you weren’t there. Truth be told, there were some incredible experiences to be had. You can read about many on the WBC Blog Post Directory.
Some of us went on excursions before the conference to wine regions in Oregon beyond the Willamette Valley. We were instructed on the correct pronunciation with the helpful phrase “Willamette Dammit”. I learned something new. Some of us were invited in small groups to spend the day at one winery. We met interesting people and virtual friends became real. We met legends in the wine biz like Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon and Rex Pickett, author of Sideways and the sequel, Vertical. We were entertained by Rex’s comfortable use of colorful language. We enjoyed instructional seminars and gathered to discuss our role as writers in the grand scheme. We were feted to a sumptuous and meticulously paired five course wine dinner by King Estate Winery. We attended some special sponsored, some private, and some off the hook parties after the day’s official agenda was over. Some of these parties offered the best tastings, like the Jordan Magnum party where one could taste side by side magnums and 750ml bottles of the same vintage to compare, and the Dundee Hills party where I hung with the locals and enjoyed roasted hazelnuts and truffle popcorn that was a little addictive.
Last year I attended as a scholarship recipient and I felt awed by the people I met in Virginia. This year I was a conference veteran and a scholarship donor. I felt no less awed in Oregon. People write amazing, well-researched, detailed posts on the varietal, the technical, the regional, and every other angle from which to approach wine. If you have any interest at all in wine you should start to follow some of these writers. I think my blog has evolved into the experiential. It is what is most important to me about wine. In my real life (as opposed to my virtual life) back in the world (as opposed to the total immersion of a Wine Bloggers Conference) my friends don’t understand my social media life. I think some of them consider my wine friends like avatars in a video game, and therefore not real. It’s a funny exercise staring at someone’s chest with whom you are engaged in conversation and trying to figure out their real name when you only know them by their Twitter handle. A warm smile comes across as recognition finally dawns. You leave a conference like this with real and not just virtual friends. For me it is the greatest gift the conference bestows.
Oh wait, I said I didn’t want to just recount my four days immersed in wine bloggery. I want to tell about some of the unique experiences I had while I was there. I’m practicing living in the moment, and consequently I may miss a detail while my fellow bloggers and wine geeks are juggling their smart phones, tablets, and laptops in an attempt to capture and document every moment as it happens. It’s hard not to do this by the way. I told myself that it would be better to contact someone after the conference for any details I could not recall (and that happens after all that “tasting”). It keeps me in touch with the people I met and allows me to fully experience what goes on around me. I promise that my next post will begin to tell of these experiences. For now I do want to extend my heartfelt thanks to the following:
Zephyr Adventures– for putting together a conference worthy of a much higher price tag but so grateful they don’t charge it (and please don’t’ get any ideas that you should!).
Stoller Family Estate – for inviting me to spend the day at their winery, when I was unable to join the pre-conference excursions – for providing me with the opportunity to spend the day with some fine people, drink some great wines (Pinot Camp school bus ride aside Sebastien), and for the gift of a bottle of their excellent 2008 vintage Pinot Noir .
R. Stuart & Co. Winery – for inviting me to spend the day after the conference at their winery – for their exquisite hospitality, and for the incredible learning experience it provided (more on this to follow).
King Estate Winery – for caring so much about what some citizen bloggers would think of their wines, their foods, their sustainable practices, their stewardship of the land, and how much they cared about locally sourced foods.
Willamette Valley Vineyards – for being wonderful hosts to busloads of wine geeks with cameras and all manner of electronic recording devices, and for teaching me how to correctly pronounce Willamette, dammit!
Oregon Wine Board – for being great conference hosts and providing so many opportunities to get to know their fine wines and people.
To all of the sponsors who keep the cost of this conference affordable for those of us who write for pleasure over money – THANK YOU ALL!
International Wine Night