It Happened at the Wine Bloggers Conference
I suffer from the old Groucho Marx adage, "I refuse to join any club that would have me for a member." Could my parents have already recognized this when they sent 9-year old me out on Halloween night with my father's Mallard decoy in a noose and a plastic cigar in my mouth? Truth, I'm not one for conferences or crowds or activities with a group larger than two. But when Pig&Vine was nominated for a Best Writing Award by the Wine Blog Awards, and then shortlisted by those good folks, I gotta admit I was pretty jazzed about attending the conference in Lodi this August.
Here's a tip for all you readers out there, tell a writer "I like your writing" and you can just about get her to do anything you want. And off to the conference I went, to my benefit, as it turns out.
About a month before the conference, the organizers posted a call for bloggers to report on their current happenings in the vinous blogosphere and, in theory, provide some value to fellow bloggers. I pitched a five-minute talk on "Using Your Blog as Platform to Build Personal Community." Stop worrying about followers and monetization, I boasted, just make friends! That was the plan, though I sorta forgot to mention the part about how we should think of blogging as a personal education, spiritual, confidence building exercise and not a path to financial greatness. Of course that needn't be said as every blogger knows, we ain't in this for the Benjamins. Or the Washingtons.
Through my tail of finding wine fame in a tiny corner of Manhattan and later in the tiny town of Florence, Alabama, only to throw myself into the New Orleans abyss where no one knows who the hell I am, I managed to entertain a zin-weary crowd on Sunday morning. "Do you speak at conferences professionally?" someone asked. Umm, no, but where do I sign up?! Meanwhile, a handful of other bloggers shared their stories, a few of which are new friends and among my favorites to follow. (see blogroll below)
Meeting other bloggers like myself was hands down the greatest benefit to this trip. Also a boon to the weekend was the insightful and eloquent key note address from Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson, with whom it turns out I share a long list of NY wine friends and acquaintances. Making it pay was something she touched on, underscoring ways we can benefit from our blogging endeavors outside monetary gain, or the dream thereof. Like tromping through the hot, flat vineyards of Lodi to peep a 100-year old own-rooted vine while the winemaker explains its importance. Who doesn't love sweating with friends and zin?
p&v's wine blogs to follow
Nearly 300 wine bloggers attended the Wine Bloggers Conference August 11 through 14 in Lodi, California this year, and of course I didn't meet them all, not even everyone on this list. But I met quite a few inspiring bloggers doing some awesome things and, let's not be too surprised, a lot of badass women doing some kickass wine stuff. Holla!
In lieu of tasting notes, I share with you my taste in wine blogs.
Andrea Robinson MS, Andrea Wine Blog
Besides being one of the foremost female Master Somms in the U.S., Andrea's creativity and personality set a high bar for diversifying one's wine income portfolio. A blog, video series, four books, a wine glass, consultant for Delta, TV host, dynamic speaker, and genuine encourager. A chat and a glass of wine with Andrea sent me back to Nola ready to launch my own little empire.
Amanda Barnes, Around the World in 80 Harvests
I met Amanda at a dinner at m2 winery that Friday evening and I liked her instantly. U.K. born, living in Mendoza, Argentina and currently traveling the U.S. and beyond collecting video interviews with winemakers, somms and the like to learn what makes their respective corner of the wine world unique. She's one of three women I count among my "summer camp" crew and our blog critique group "Constructive Cruelty." Her project is way cool.
Holly Shaw, Wine Not Whine
Holly sat next to me at lunch the first day. "I hate sandwiches," she said. Naturally that lead to a discussion about WSET, blogging, her three kids, where we live, photography and wine. She snapped the lovely photos of me leading this post and writes a sharp wine mom blog about "pairing and parenting, with a heavier pour on the wine portion." She's super fun, one of my summer camp/constructive cruelty cohorts and a wine lady to watch.
Sophie Thorpe, Berry Bros & Rudd
Another English-born badass lady, Sophie is PR and Content Editor for London's 300-year plus retailer Berry Bros & Rudd. She attended the conference to receive the Best Wine Industry Blog Award, for the second time. She's the fourth in our summer camp/constructive cruelty circle with a dry sense of humor and judgmental wit to rival my own. Her recent interview with the immanent Rhône producer Eric Texier for BBR is an excellent read.
Rachel F. Russell, Three Strings Wine
State Department by day, wine blogger by night, Rachel's Three String tier simplifies wine recommendations by occasion. A three-string wine is for the special ones. I love the clean visual design of the blog with solid writing and a modest, informed perspective.
Rebecca Gomez Farrell, The Gourmez
Rebecca is killing it. Her blog has an old school feel with loads of content. She covers food, booze, travel and related products, and sat on a panel at the conference on wine samples and blogger-winery relationships. Her recent post on creating media kits is savvy and helpful.
Rachel von Sturmer, Wine Fox
Rachel led our troop of blogger reports Sunday morning with tips on moving from blog to book. She was on the Lodi Native excursion afterward, where I learned that Rachel is up to a lot more than blogging and booking. Her site is gorgeous with great content and, having recently earned the WSET Diploma, created an online prep course for students pursuing the same. Plus she owns a vineyard in B.C. All the things.
Chris Kassel, Intoxicology Report
From the suburbs of Motor City, Chris Kassel's smooth, snarky wine writing is wholly its own. Sadly, I did not get to meet the cynic himself, though I heard he was in Lodi during the conference, but not at the conference. His book "Starstruck in Lodi Again" is proving to be an informative and entertaining read. Get yourself one.
Sam Ockman, 1,000 Corks
As I waited for Enterprise to collect at me at the Holiday Inn Express Monday after the conference, Sam assured me, "Come next year. It's always better in Sonoma." WBC returns to Santa Rosa in 2017. Quirky, smart and onto something awesome, Sam's wine and beer U.S. search engine, 1,000 corks, is definitely worth a try. The blog is tops, too.
Congratulations to those of you who read this entire post.
Here's your reward: