Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wining and whining with the #WBC14...

JD & The GoW at #WBC14 Opening
The Goddess of Wine and First Acolyte, JD, attended the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in fabulous downtown Buellton. The weather was perfect, the Marriott Santa Ynez and Zephyr Adventures did a good job accommodating the large group of winos...ahem...bloggers, and people were enthusiastic, outgoing, and cheerful. Mostly. This was my first WBC and will probably be my last. The $95 fee for "Citizen Bloggers" is quite reasonable for what was generously provided, but I'm still wondering if the time spent was worth it - which is why it's taken me so long to write anything about it.

There has been a spate of postings from many bloggers about the conference. The "unsanctioned" events were better than the scheduled events. Or not. There wasn't enough diversity in the presenters. Some bloggers had the best time ever; some not so much. Some were unhappy about "not enough swag". So many opinions, so little discussion. I'm still torn about my experience.

JD and I were happy to meet folks whom we previously knew only online. We also love the region and spend a lot of time there, which may have been both good and bad in terms of what was being offered. A couple of the breakout groups we attended were excellent, especially those dealing with Ballard Canyon and local Syrahs. There were many other events which I found out about after they had occurred. How were some people in the know and others not?

My main carp about the conference is that there wasn't anything new presented. The advice from the experts: Do what you love, the money will follow. Use your own voice. Try something different. Buy our product. Focus on SEO. Don't worry about SEO. These are not groundbreaking ideas.

The keynote speech was presented by Corbett Barr of A charming young man who got into blogging after a successful tech career, he has found a niche helping entrepreneurs and other self-directed individuals find their business bliss. He had good, common sense advice for bloggers; not new, just sensible, and well-presented.

L-R: Lindquist, Sanford, Longoria, Brown
The winemaker panel moderated by my friend and everyone's favorite of the weekend, Larry Shaffer of tercero, included local legends Richard Sanford, Richard Longoria, Bob Lindquist, and Ken Brown. Is there anything better than listening to the guys who were, and still are, at the forefront of Santa Barbara County wines, tell their stories? Wonderful.

Saturday's Terroir of Santa Barbara County session with Michael Larner was terrifically geeky; just the kind of program I was hoping for. I wish there had been more of these presentations. I want to know about the history and geology and topography and climates and microclimates. Oh, right. I'm a geek.

The best panel presentation was the Ballard Canyon Grower Producer Wineries moderated by Patrick Comiskey. Patrick's opening homage to Syrah, punctuated by old chestnuts (What's the difference between pneumonia and a case of Syrah? You can get rid of the pneumonia.), was poetic and moving, setting the stage perfectly for local growers and winemakers to present their Syrahs. Wonderful to listen to winemakers talk about their wines while you taste them. And the wines were lovely.

There have been a lot of posts complaining about the Professional Print Wine Writers seminar moderated by Taylor Eason of J Winery. "Old white men" Steve Heimoff, Mike Dunne and James Conaway may not have been the most diverse choices for this topic, but they are all still writing for print - which may or may not be something to aim for. Would the message have been any different if the panelists were female or younger? I came away with these not-so-new points: 
  • Tell me a story. 
  • People, people, people. 
  • Look for the conflict. 
  • Behind every great fortune is a crime.
Saturday night's awards dinner was nice. The food was delicious and well-presented. We had some great wines at our table, including Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir - along with Garnet winemaker and award-winning blogger Alison Crowe. It was unfortunate that most of the award winners did not attend the conference.
The GoW & Xochitl at dinner

There was more. Tasting sessions galore, including "speed tasting" which I chose to avoid, and a tasting and discussion of Merlot with Rutherford Hill winemaker Marisa Taylor and Director of Estate Viticulture, PJ Alviso of Duckhorn Vineyards, which was delightful. Private tastings, late night parties. It was great to connect with new folks, hang out with friends, drink some tasty wines and eat some great food.

Finally for us, on Sunday there was a lunch excursion to Bridlewood Vineyards just outside of Los Olivos. In my opinion, the events at the winery could have been scheduled better. They fed us a great lunch catered by New West Catering (the owners and operators of Industrial EATS) down by the lake on the beautiful property, followed by a panel discussion of local farming and foods. There were wines and pairings that were barely explained and would have been better as aperitifs prior to lunch. I could barely stay awake through the discussion, and I saw other folks dozing, too.

Am I glad we went? Sure. Will I go to next year's #WBC15 in the Finger Lakes? Probably not. I do want to go that region, but I think I'll work out my own itinerary and avoid the crowds.


The photo of the Goddess and JD courtesy of George Rose. Thanks, George!

No comments: