Here we are, four days after the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference has ended and I’m still in a bit of a daze, and recovering from sensory overload. This was my first time attending WBC, organized by Zephyr Adventures and brought to Penticton in large part due to the huge efforts of Allison M Markin (All She Wrote Consulting). If this conference was any indication of what they’re normally like, please sign me up again and again; it was AMAZING! I met so many interesting people throughout the three days of activities and we all had wine and blogging as common interests, so conversation was never difficult, not to mention the fact that there were generally several bottles available for pouring within arms’ reach. I will be writing a bit more in depth about various parts of the conference over upcoming blog posts but I just wanted to give a bit of an overview of the activities that I took part in throughout the conference.
The 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference was based at the lovely Lakeside Resort & Casino. Since I’m a local gal, I was very proud to be able to help show off this beautiful region to all those who were attending from all over North America and even a couple from overseas!
Thursday afternoon, the conference kicked off with a Trade Show & Wine Tasting featuring many of the sponsors, including Penticton and Wine Country Tourism, Downtown Penticton Association, Wines of South Africa, Wines of Uruguay, New Wines of Greece, Nomacorc, Cornerstone Cellars, Gone Crackers & D.O. Rueda. Then everybody was whisked off in school buses to the top of Hawthorne Mountain. See Ya Later Ranch was the spectacular venue for the Opening Night Celebration that was put on by the Great Estates of the Okanagan (Constellation). If anybody had been unsure before about why they would trek great distances across the continent for a conference in a small winegrowing region that many people had never learned much about, I think this event proved a fabulous showcase of the Okanagan’s scenery, local food industry talent, and of course our wonderful wines.
Friday was a long day; chock full of different speakers, tastings and events. James Conaway, author of Napa: The Story of an American Eden among other books, was the keynote speaker; he was eloquent and entertaining. Cindy Molchany of Zephyr Adventures presented the results of the Current State of Wine Blogging, which had some interesting points. Wines of Ontario sponsored Friday’s lunch and each table was treated to five different wines from Ontario (two whites, two reds and an Icewine) to taste and pair with our meal. After lunch, the breakout session that I chose was ‘Creating Compelling Content’, which was a fireside chat format with Marcy Gordon (Come for the Wine), Jeanette Montgomery (The Third Glass) and Michael Wangbickler (Through the Bunghole). I found it very interesting and hope to incorporate much of what I learned into my future blog writing. Next up was The BC Live Wine Blogging: Whites Rosés and Sparklings. This completely overwhelmed me for a few reasons – it was very loud in the room so it was difficult to hear what the winemakers were saying about their wines. Also, I was having technical difficulties with the iPad and with Wi-Fi. In the end, I just tweeted about the tasting. Everyone who wanted to be assured a seat on their excursion of choice practically ran from the tasting session, out to the front of the hotel and found the appropriate bus. I chose ‘Vineyards and Geology’, where Kim Lawton led us on an incredible journey of history, geology, food and wine in the Similkameen Valley, featuring wines from all 9 member wineries of the Similkameen Winery Association. After dinner was done, we boarded the bus again and headed southeast to Spirit Ridge Resort in Osoyoos, where the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association spoiled us with more delicious wines during a sunset rooftop party, surrounded by vineyard and lake views. I was very tired by the end of the evening and actually requested that the bus driver just drop me off near my home on the way back to Penticton. For any of you that were on my bus: no, I wasn’t just abandoned on the side of the dark highway – my partner was actually waiting in the car to pick me up.
Saturday started early and ran late. The Downtown Penticton Association was offering all conference attendees Breakfast in the Park, located across the street from the Lakeside Resort in Gyro Park. Several downtown restaurants or bakeries were on hand with delicious food, including Burger 55, Theos, White Apron Pastry, Brodo Kitchen and the Cupcake Lady Café. The food was fabulous and the weather was bright and sunny. Many of us ventured over to Main Street and Front Street after eating, to check out the Penticton Farmers’ Market before heading back to the hotel to the morning sessions. I attended ‘Learn to be a Wine Judge via and In-Depth Look at BC Wine, with the panellists being Kristof Gillese (The Chef and the Grape), Sandra Oldfield (Tinhorn Creek Vineyards), Harry Hertscheg (Vancouver Wine Festival), John Clerides (Marquis Wine Cellars), and Eric von Krosigk (Summerhill Pyramid Winery). I found it interesting to hear how each of them interpreted the wines poured and what points they would allocate. Saturday’s lunch was sponsored by Wines of Uruguay and we all enjoyed some crisp whites such as Albariño and Sauvignon Blanc and some big tannic reds featuring the Tannat grape, either blended or as a single varietal – tasty! I chose to attend the ‘Positioning Your Blog’ session in the afternoon, featuring Kathleen Rake (Between the Vines), Megan Kenney (Wannabe Wino) and Thea Dwelle (Luscious Lushes). Some of the advice was what I would consider to be common sense (although that does seem to be an oxymoron these days) but I came away with lots of valuable information from the session. I sat out of the next session (Liquid Gold: Inniskillin Icewine Tasting) for a couple of reasons – one, I was exhausted and suffering some wine overload and two, I needed some time to assimilate some of the information that I had received over the previous few hours and get some time in on WordPress and Twitter. A little break with coffee on the patio was all I needed to recharge my batteries and I was ready to go for the second part of Live Wine Blogging – Reds. Again, it was pretty chaotic but I managed to keep it together a bit more and actually produced a blog post from it, albeit pretty rough. Next up was the Pre-Dinner Reception, sponsored by New Wines of Greece. There were plenty of wines on offer for tasting, featuring many varietals that are not found outside of Greece and that were very interesting. It was also nice that this reception spilled out onto the patio so that people could enjoy the lovely warm sunshine. Many people ended up heading to the lakefront patio at the Barking Parrot (lounge at the Lakeside Resort) to cleanse their palates of wine, with some beer or nice cold gin & tonics! It was perfect patio weather and a nice was to relax before dinner. The Wine Blog Awards Ceremony, presented by Alan Kropf of Mutineer Magazine was great fun. Congratulations to all the winners! Destination British Columbia gave us dinner and a show for the Banquet dinner. Each delicious course, and its wine, was creatively introduced by a couple of very funny performers, getting some of the bloggers up on stage with them too! The long-awaited announcement of the 2014 Conference date and location was finally made…and the conference goes to…… Santa Barbara County July 11-13, 2014! The conference wrapped up with the World of Wines Evening Party, featuring some wines from next year’s host, Santa Barbara County, as well as Wines of Uruguay, New Wines of Greece, Peter Lehmann Wines, Wines of South Africa and D.O. Rueda. I sampled a few wines that I had not yet tried during the weekend and then headed upstairs to a Pinot Noir comparison between Oregon (Hawks View Cellars) and BC (Cedar Creek, Averill Creek, Haywire), graciously hosted by April Yap-Hennig of Hawks View Cellars. I called it a night around midnight and got picked up head home and get some long-overdue sleep.