I just returned from the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, where a diverse group of impassioned wine writers got together to speak, write, tweet, network, hone their skills and share their unique takes on wine. Oh, and taste and drink a fair amount of wine too. The conference was set in Penticton, British Columbia in Canada, a far out-of-the-way destination for east coast Americans. Attendees were mostly writers from up and down the west coast.
Not coincidentally, Penticton is in the heart of a small sliver of wine country in British Columbia called the Okanagan Valley, the largest of the five British Columbia appellations. Thus, much of the wine tasting centered around wines from the emerging BC region. There were also wines from the mostly Verdejo-based whites of Rueda, Spain; a range of wines from Uruguay, featuring their flagship Tennat-based reds; a small grouping of South African wines; and a fairly representative selection of white, red and dessert wines from Greece.
There was also some surprisingly excellent cooking served from the likes of Joy Road – Cuisine du Terroir, one of the most reputed caterers in the region, and Chef Christopher Van Hooydonk, who really knocked our socks off with his smoked oysters with rhubarb sauce, and a host of other precise, small dishes created with great flair and flavor.
Overall, the conference was successful at gathering a mix of committed wine lovers, exploring the issues of on-going wine writing/blogging, and getting a taste of the relatively unknown, but up-and-coming wine regions of British Columbia. At least this was true from the perspective of a first time attendee, like myself.
There were, however, a few notable gaffes. Most prominently, the poor, sub-standard quality of the stemware was a bit of a shock to find at a serious wine event, and a disservice to both the attendees and especially the sponsors that went to considerable effort and expense to try to showcase their wines. Also, the lack of wifi bandwidth was an ongoing source of frustration to this heavy tweeting and social media connected group—despite online access being a touted as a sponsored feature of the event.
I highly recommend the Online Wine Bloggers’ Conference to beginners thinking of starting a blog or those who have recently begun, along with intermediate level bloggers looking to hone their craft and reach out to a wider wine world. But it should also be helpful to more advanced wine writers and bloggers, looking to build their networks, gain some insights on the latest tech and marketing developments, and explore in greater depth the wine culture of the conference wine region.
See you next year in Santa Barbara, site of the 2014 conference!