Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (#WBC14), Day 2

Yet another ambitious project hitting the dust. I was determined to write blog post updates in the morning of the very next day of the Wine Bloggers Conference – and as you can see, it didn’t happened – I’m back home in Connecticut (nope, not even that – I’ actually on vacation in Cape Cod, and Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 is fading in the metaphorical rear view mirror. Nevertheless, I will finish this the way I initially envisioned – as a series of the blog post about WBC14. Let’s get to it…

WBC14 sponsor logosFriday was the first full day of Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (WBC). My impressions in a few words? Overwhelmed. Is there a word for “more than overwhelmed”? The pace of learning, connecting, tasting, analyzing, networking, mingling and tasting more, more and more was incredible. Here is what was happening throughout the day  – brunch (yep, a 10 AM brunch) with Portuguese wines and dishes from Brazil, India, Japan and Portugal – 11 wines and 12 different dishes. Then the opening of the conference and a keynote by Corbett Barr. A panel session with Santa Barbara County winemakers (rather founding fathers of the winemaking in Santa Barbara). Speed tasting of the 10 white wines in 50 minutes (very intense). A breakout session called “How The Pros Taste”, which included both the Pros and the wines. An excursion to the mystery destination (yes, with more wines). The Wine Tourism in North America Expo (yep, with more wines to taste), an unofficial before-party in one of the hotel suites before the actual official after-party, and then finally (oh yes, the  best for last!), an official after-party, hosted by Jordan and J Wineries. So, how is that for a day for you? Pretty full schedule, huh? I will leave speed tasting and our mystery excursion for the separate posts, but for the rest of the program, here are my quick impressions.

Brunch with Portuguese food and wine was the very first in our day’s program. As I wrote a few times about Portuguese food and wines before, I would definitely agree that both Portuguese wines and cuisine are well worth the attention. At the brunch, we had an opportunity to experience 11 different wines (both white and red), as well as 12 different dishes. If you take a historic perspective on Portugal, hundreds of years ago, Portuguese influence was spread all over the world. To show that world-wide influence, the dishes in the brunch we coming from the different regions which came into a close encounter with Portuguese culture – namely, the dishes from Brasil, India, Japan and Portugal itself (of course!) were part of our brunch. I will not inundate you with all the details of the dishes and wines (despite taking the detailed notes) – I just want to mention two of my favorite wines. For the whites, 2012 Julia Kemper Branco Dão DOP  was delicious, with touch of grass and flowers, very interesting nose, light and simple on the palate. As an added bonus, this wine also added one more rare grape to my collection, Encruzado. From the reds, 2010 Quinta do Romeu Colheita Douro Tinto was my favorite, with very nice dark fruit, medium body, open and round, and good balance. And for the rest of it – here are the pictures of the wines and dishes.

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Next up – the conference officially opened with the keynote from Corbett Barr. Listening to Corbett Barr, an entrepreneur whose business, Fizzle,  was built starting from the blog, was very relevant at the wine bloggers conference – if not as a role model, definitely as a success model his talk was reaching to the heart and soul of all the attendees (and if someone would tell me that it was not, I would question your premise of being at the bloggers conference). Corbett BarrAfter telling his personal story, Corbett offered a number of do’s and dont’s for building the successful blog and converting it to the business. In short, here are the main ideas:

  1. Character Trumps Credentials – your passion is more important than many technical accolades and certifications you can achieve. Yes, the certifications are important, but it is passion, will and tenacity which will be a foundation of your success.
  2. Be different. Stand out. Don’t blend in. Yes, you have to find your own way, don’t be “one of many”.
  3. Find what works. Don’t repeat exact same thing over and over again, expecting that magically what was not working 100 times, will work on 101st. If something doesn’t work, looks for what will – but keep going.
  4. Hope is not a marketing strategy. Find where your readers are and figure out how to get in front of them.
  5. Your blog is not your business. Understand what your business is. The blog is just a tool to help your business, but not the business by itself.
  6. Keep going, constantly evolving. If you will continue looking for what works and improve all the time, you will [almost magically] leapfrog at some point to your success.
  7. Mastermind 101 – “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn. Talk to the people who “get it”. If you will talk to “achievers”, you will [at some point] becoe one yourself.

This is a very lose approximation of what Corbett Barr had to say, but I hope I was able to give you at least the basic idea. And for more information, head over to his web site and read, read, read.

Our day continued with the panel session of Santa Barbara winemakers. Session was moderated by Larry Shafer, the winemaker behind the Tercero label, and it brought together the people who were instrumental in starting and growing Santa Barbara wine industry – Richard Sanford, Ken Brown, Rick Longoria and Bob Lindquist. We learned about the Santa Barbara wine region which started in 1968 with the Santa Barbara Winery, and had grown into the prominent producer of Pinot Noir and Rhone-style wines. 40 different grape varieties are growing today in Santa Barbara area, and a lot of Santa Barbara grapes are shipped to Paso Robles and Napa and used in the coastal blends. Passion, friendship and love to the beautiful Santa Barbara wine region is something which was clearly showing through the words of all the winemakers.

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Our next session was the speed tasting of white wines and Rose, which I will be talking about separately – I can only tell you that it was a fun exercise.

You know what else is great about the wine bloggers conference? You get to taste the wines which are not necessarily are even yet available to the general public. Case in point – a unique Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane blend from … Argentina – 2012 Hand of God Fingerprint Series Sobremesa Vineyard VRM White Blend. The wine is in the process of being brought to the United States, and nevertheless we had an opportunity to taste this aromatic, big and well structured white wine, which was simply poured by the winemaker while we were walking from one session to another.

The last session of the day was a so called breakout session, where we had to chose between three different sessions running in parallel in the different rooms. I decided to go and learn “How the Pros Taste”. This session was a panel discussion led by Steve Heimoff, the wine writer who is now the Director of PR for Jackson Family wines, Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1 Wine Dude, and Patrick Comiskey, senior editor for Wine & Spirits magazine. The idea of the panel was to discuss the ways of the professionals tasting tens of thousands of wines every year, and issues they are facing – and I think the panel did the fine job with issues and challenges. Talking about the “ways” was a bit less successful – I would expect the panelists to explain more of a “how to”, their methods for assessing the wines in the mass quantities – which didn’t take place. And then we tasted 4 wines, 3 of which we selected by the panelists, and one “double blind”, unknown even to the panelists. The selected wines were supposed to represent the unique view point of each panelist, the wines which are “best of the breed” and emotionally engaging. Considering that, I would highly question the rationale of including very obscure wines in this “representative” tasting, but this is mostly what happened. The 2012 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc, a Vermentino wine from Corsica, had nothing but the acidity and didn’t speak to me at all. It didn’t create nor demonstrated any emotional connection. 2013 Poet’s Leap Riesling Washington, while might be typical for Washington, didn’t deliver much pleasure either, and it didn’t connect with the Washington Rieslings as I know them from the Chateau St. Michelle or Snoqualme. Again, I would highly question inclusion of such a wine as “exemplary”. The red wines fared a lot better. 2011 Cambria Clone 4 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley was quintessentially Californian, with beautiful nose of smoked cherries, exemplary palate full of forest floor, gentle fruit and perfect balance. Our double-blind wine surprised everybody, including the esteemed panel – clean cherries and acidity were pointing in the direction of Montepulciano from Italy, and the wine happened to be an Yangarra Grenache McLaren Vale from Australia – but it was a very tasty wine. All in all, this was an interesting session, but I would like to see it done differently, more focused on classic methods and classic wines (definitely for the whites).

And then we had a mystery bus excursion. I will keep it a mystery until the next post (trust me, it was good enough for the separate post). When we came back in the evening, we still faced … yes, you guessed it – more wine! The Wine Tourism Throughout North America expo was focused mostly on California wines (or may be I was too tired to notice anything else). I tried a few wines, out of which 2010 Mad Hatter Napa Valley was clearly a stand out – dense and concentrated, with layered fruit, it had a lot of dark power (similar to its color), very drinkable now, but holding also a great promise to evolve. This wine was made by the famed Andy Ericsson (Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Favia and many others). Few other interesting wines were 2007 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, very clean and classic. 2011 Steven Kent Vinery Cabernet Franc Livermore Valley was perfectly on the mark with beautiful cassis undertones, and 2012 Vasco Urbano “Norm” Grenache Livermore Valley was luscious and delicate, with nice fresh fruit on the nose and the palate.

The “before-Party” for after party was generously hosted by Banfi folks in one of the hotel suites, and the highlights were mostly Italian wines with the few of the wines from Washington state. The 2013 Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc Yakima Valley was perfectly balanced and had an excellent fresh white fruit, a bit of mineral notes and rounding acidity. The Sartori di Verona Ferdi Bianco Veronese IGT was very unique and unusual, an Amarone-style wine (100% Garganega grapes, dried for 40 days on straw mats), with big fruit notes, full body and somewhat sharp acidity. 

And last, but not least – an offical after-party, hosted by J Vineyards and Jordan! Both J and Jordan are some of my favorite wines in general, and what a treat it was! Probably unsurprisingly, I was a bit tired after such a day, so I didn’t take too many pictures. But the wines were outstanding. J were pouring both of their sparklers, the White and Rose, as well as the Pinot Noir. And Jordan… How about a full vertical of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley from 2002 until the 2008, including 2005 and 2006 in both 750 and magnum sizes! All the wines, including 2002, tasted fresh and delicious – again, no detailed notes (if you want to blame me for the luck of attention, be my guest). I was especially happy to see that 2002 showing absolutely no signs of age, and 2005 being delicious with still powerful tannins – I have a few bottles of 2005 in the fridge and it seems that I have no reason to touch the for a good while. Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon For what it worth, this was an attempt to give you an idea of the happenings in the first day of Wine Bloggers Conference (two more posts will be coming). Hope you are still reading this, and if you are, I want to thank you for your patience. Just one question, if I may – after reading this post, did it make you want to come to the #WBC15, or stay away from it as far as possible? Let me know! Cheers!

P.S. For some reason, this was one of the most difficult posts I ever wrote for this blog… But I’m glad I finished it. 

  1. July 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

    I imagine you sitting on your beach chaise the water lapping at your feet and the sea gulls flying overhead. Lucky you in Cape Cod. I don’t know how you remembered all of that you must have an amazing memory. It sounds amazing and I can’t imagine a more enjoyable and great learning experience than to attend this conference. I just can’t wait for the bus excursion.

    • talkavino
      July 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne! I just took some notes and some pictures, my usual ways to remember 🙂 The bus excursion was fun (mostly wine fun, of course), and the post will be coming soon.

  2. July 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    And breathe! Great stuff; sounds intense, educational and fun

    • talkavino
      July 22, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      thanks! Breathing with relief 🙂

  3. July 22, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Sounds like such a great time! The food and wine looked delish!

    • talkavino
      July 22, 2014 at 10:20 pm

      Thanks! It was a great time!

  4. Antisocial Patty
    July 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Enjoy your vacation, it sounds like you need one after all of that!

    • talkavino
      July 22, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks, Patty – no, that was all fun! It was just lots of new impressions, but it was a labor of love…

  5. July 23, 2014 at 12:10 am

    I understand the constant pressure of posting in time and I’m very good at it. I’m usually behind others. This wine bloggers conference sounds very interesting and I wonder if I’m eligible to attend some time, though I’m not a wine blogger. Thanks for sharing the tips for blogging.

    • July 23, 2014 at 12:11 am

      I’m NOT very good I meant to say…

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2014 at 6:40 am

      You can definitely attend the wine bloggers conference, as you write enough about the wines, and wine and food go hand in hand. You might look at the wine bloggers conference in Europe, which is called now Digital Wine Communication Conference Also, there are food bloggers conferences – just search for them. And of course if you plan to be in US next August, the WBC15 might be just the thing for you 🙂

      • July 23, 2014 at 9:12 am

        Oh, superb! I’ve come across the name a few times but I dismissed it thinking what digital has to do with wines. Excuse me, I am a bit behind. I’m now following the event and the next one is in Switzerland in Oct. Let’s see if I can make it. Thank you so much for the reminder. Sometimes people don’t see what is right under their nose. 🙂

        • talkavino
          July 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm

          Yes, it used to be an EWBC, European Wine Bloggers Conference, but then it was renamed. If you can, you should definitely go – networking is priceless.

  6. July 23, 2014 at 5:53 am

    Good description, Anatoli, felt like I was there with you. I can totally see why it was difficult to write. That is a whole lot digest and then put into a post. Well done!

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2014 at 6:41 am

      Thanks, Oliver! Hopefully your travel plans next summer will allow for the 3 days in Finger Lakes next year 🙂 But then again, with your trip this year, I’m sure you can challenge our whole WBC content in regards to the depth of wine learning…

  7. July 23, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experience. As a new member of the wine blogging scene I struggled with whether or not to attend WBC14. Based on your article I made the right choice to wait to attend my first WB conference at WBC15. I will focus this year on becoming a “power taster.” It all sounds a bit intimidating. So glad you had fun.

    • talkavino
      July 23, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Michelle, it is not about power tasting – it is about self control. If you are into the blogging, don’t wait for any special moment when you are “ready” – just jump forward when you have an opportunity to learn.

  8. July 24, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I am amazed that you were able to retain such detail on the day’s events. As you said, I was overwhelmed and didn’t take anywhere near the notes/photos you were able to. Thanks for being my memory!

    • talkavino
      July 24, 2014 at 8:30 am

      Took some notes in some of the sessions. Also, I always try to take as many pictures as possible, as this is the best way to remember. Glad you find it useful!

  9. July 25, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Yeah, those recap posts are typically so hard to write, especially when you go to a conference like that…man, so much going on. Must have been awesome!

    • talkavino
      July 25, 2014 at 8:19 am

      It was awesome! 🙂

  10. July 25, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Great recap of what sounds like a fun and informational conference! I can not imagine tasting wine all day! Bet you were in wine paradise!

    • talkavino
      July 26, 2014 at 5:33 am

      Thanks, Bonnie! This is definitely a very interesting event – both wines and conversations are hard to top off.

  11. July 26, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    Sounds overwhelming, tiring, and most of all fabulous!! I nearly made it, but couldn’t quite pull it off this year. I can definitely say that your account of the first day has me knowing I’ll be making it a priority to be in the Finger Lakes for next year’s conference 🙂

    • talkavino
      July 26, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      The WBC is definitely fun and a great experience. You should definitely attend!

  1. July 26, 2014 at 6:20 am
  2. August 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm
  3. August 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

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