Whine Blogging from #WBC11W

At some point after it concluded, the Wine Bloggers Conference transmogrified into the Whine Bloggers Conference.

And we were hot? How do you think he felt in that getup?

Okay, let’s stipulate that it was damn hot that weekend in Charlottesville, and it is absolutely brutal to taste wines from several dozen wineries under a tent in sweltering heat and humidity that was well into the triple digits. No wines will taste their best under such circumstances, no matter how much ice is available. (It was strange seeing winemakers pull carafes of red wine from the ice buckets.) But the blog posts complaining about the heat – I’m sorry, folks, suck it up and deal with it. You were at Monticello, for crying out loud, and Mr. Jefferson himself greeted you. (Or at least, someone looking damn like him did – I could have been hallucinating with heat stroke.)

And let’s acknowledge that not all of Virginia’s best wineries participated in the WBC, while some of its worst did. So under any weather conditions, the out-of-state guests would have received a mixed impression of Virginia wine. Which, in fairness, reflects where Virginia is right now in its effort to be recognized among the “wine regions” of the USofA. Joe Roberts at 1WineDude wrote a balanced, open-minded and thoughtful post about the Virginia wines he tasted, concluding that “Virginia brought its B game.”

But reading through the various reports from the conference (Frank Morgan is helpfully maintaining a list of WBC11-related blog posts) one can glean several insights into the state of wine blogging, as well as the mindsets and prejudices of the writers. Here’s some of what you’ll find:

The slugfest

Wish I

  1. Most bloggers write about themselves more than the wine. This may be a feature of the medium, since blogs are more or less a public diary. It’s a big part of the difference between wine blogging and (most) wine writing.
  2. Most of the posts by far have been positive. Lorrie Perrone of Wining Ways arrived from New England with an open mind and an adventurous palate. Note that she does not write about very many wines, just a few of her favorites and the winemakers she met. She also has a very optimistic view of her fellow bloggers.
  3. Many bloggers have an oversized sense of entitlement. Most of these seem to have come from the Wine’s Promised Land in California. They arrived after a lengthy trip (not many direct flights to C’ville from the West Coast, one assumes) in a bad mood that they stubbornly hung onto as if it was a key part of their identity. And they don’t handle heat and humidity very well. There were complaints that sponsor organizations fronting cash for the fete actually expected their wines to be tasted. One even dismissed Virginia as more suitable for growing tomatoes than wine, while bragging that he skipped the Saturday vineyard tours that would have given him a better (and air-conditioned) look at what Virginia is doing. Another issued a challenge to other bloggers to write negative wine reviews, calling his colleagues bottom-feeding “catfish” for sucking up to wineries in hopes of receiving samples. (Not all the wines poured were from Virginia, of course, and this blogger did tweet some compliments to Old Dominion wines.) Which brings us to point number
  4. Bloggers have a herd mentality. Once the catfish challenge was posted, other bloggers began discovering that their initial enthusiasm for Virginia wines waned once they returned home. There was lots of hearsay (“my buddy heard someone say …”) used to disparage the entire Virginia wine industry and generalizations such as “LOTS of them had some really good sulfur stank. Most others were just sloppy… lazy….boring with a HINT of sulphur (sic).” (I already linked to this post in point 3.) Hey dude – liberally spraying words like sulfur around your blog does not make you an expert. That said, Joe Herrig at Suburban Wino relates a first-hand discussion with a winemaker (not identified, unfortunately) about sulfur use and other techniques that serves as a question rather than a blanket condemnation. Much more useful and credible, though by no means applicable only to Virginia.

The Virginia blogging community has reacted to this brouhaha with some bemusement and a little bit of defensive snark and good humor, as in the graphic above. That last post has some great comments by Tarara Vineyards winemaker Jordan Harris. Frank Morgan has more of the winemakers’ perspective on all this frivolity.

I could go on, but it’s Sunday noon and there’s work to do. More thoughts on the current state of wine blogging in a future post, perhaps.


About Dave McIntyre

Wine columnist for The Washington Post, co-founder of DrinkLocalWine.com, and blogger at Dave McIntyre's WineLine (dmwineline.com).
This entry was posted in Eastern US, Local Wine, Virginia, Weblogs, Wine, Wine Humor, writers and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

67 Responses to Whine Blogging from #WBC11W

  1. Good to see this perspective. The challenging conditions of WBC11 brought out some less than flattering characteristics of some bloggers. I will admit to a fair amount of whining about the heat (I spent the last 12 summers in SF, where July is winter coat weather.) But like you, I was appalled at the number of bloggers who skipped the chance to visit wineries on Saturday. On balance, I think you are correct that people arrived grouchy from traveling and faced disappointments once they arrived. And the way wines were presented, I don’t think any of us had a really fair shot at Virginia’s best. That’s why I left impressed but unconvinced. There is more for me to learn about Virginia wine before I am going to pass judgment on all of it.

  2. Joe Roberts says:

    I appreciate the kind words and the call to some balanced discussion about the Conference. Hey, “balanced, open-minded and thoughtful” is my middle name – which is a total lie, my middle name is Anthony, but i might now have it legally changed to “balanced, open-minded and thoughtful” or start using BOMAT after my name (as in Roberts, BOMAT – the “, you beeeeaches!” is implied and therefore unnecessary :).

    On a more serious note, I have found myself wondering why some of the reactions to WBC11 were so full of vitriol, but I did make it quite clear to the organizers that I thought there were significant issues and Im working with them on a sort of committee to improve the next conf. (and to improve the WBAs as well). Cheers!

  3. Dave, as always you are right on, and especially about Wine’s Promised Land. All wine does not taste like it came from California, and it’s not supposed to. That so many self-professed experts assume that — and are insulted that it doesn’t — does not speak well of their value as critics. A book reviewer does not make up his or her mind about the book before he or she reads it; why should wine be any different?

    We run into this problem all the time with DrinkLocalWine.com, as you well know, but I always assumed it was because we were dealing with a smaller sample size. It’s truly disappointing to see that so many people, who insist that they know more about wine than the rest of us, don’t see that their closed minds aren’t all that different from the old lady who only drinks white zinfandel. Wine is a wonderful, glorious, thing. What’s so awful about trying as much of it as you can in the hopes you’ll find something else that’s wonderful and glorious?

    • Jeff,
      I have had a difficult time liking a lot of TX wine. Russ Kane had a Llano Estacado Viviana 2009 that really changed my mind about what a TX wine could be. So what you say in your last sentence is true.

      • That Viviano is great. The Viognier (Becker, I believe?) was also good. Ohio’s table had the nice Riesling and Cab Franc from Ferrante. And the Montelle Dry Vidal 2010 at the Missouri table was fantastic. Unfortunately I didn’t have the stamina to make it through the long line of Traminettes from Indiana, but from the couple I tasted I can understand their enthusiasm with it.

      • We need to get you down here, Michael, and taste some Texas wine. Just say when. Dave had the same epiphany when we did DrinkLocalWine in Dallas. Yes, we have a lot of tasting room wine, but we also have plenty of everything else.

  4. Pingback: WBC11 Stats and Recap Aggregation « Drink What YOU Like

  5. G.E. Guy says:

    Dave – I’m so amused that you used our cartoon! I’ll say this much: While you linked to Jason’s blog (Ancient Fire Wine) in point 4, his post was a good wakeup call for me and part of what inspired my slapfight post.Having hung out together at the conference I can say that not only did Jason come in with an open mind, but he was energized by what much of what VA wineries and bloggers have going. My initial reaction to his post was defensiveness, but again – he pointed to what he liked, what he didn’t, and backed it up. You can’t ask for much more than that, and that’s what we try to accomplish.

    Luckily, for every sneering “I’m too cool for this scene and these wines” poser there were 3-4 open minded wine lovers who were excited to be there, gobbling up knowledge like warm yeast gobbles sugar. The conference made all of us think really hard about our blogs and what we can do better, which I think is great.

    • I agree – Jason’s post was balanced and honest, and therefore fair. Though he did seem to be goaded by the Catfish Challenge, and he may have made up his mind about one of the dinner wines before trying it based on comments from his table mates – at least he’s open about that.

  6. Dave,
    First, I should thank you for writing this post — it saves me having do so (I hate writing posts about bloggers/blogging on NYCR, but was going to on the same topic you’ve addressed here).

    As someone who has been blogging for more than 7 years now, I have to admit that I was embarrassed not only at some of the writing done after the event, but also some of the actions (or inaction) during. From the Twitter-whining about not having wine in front of them for half na hour during the pre-dinner speeches Saturday night to the pathetic attendance at the Saturday morning sessions about history, geography and business climate in VA wine country, it was just poor form and completely unprofessional.

    I say this fully acknowledging that I didn’t attend portion of the program either — most notably the speed tastings. Most of the other bloggers were there for those of course — there was free wine involved.

    You raise a very important point about the swelling feeling “entitlement” amongst many bloggers. It’s easy to understand why of course — by now, bloggers are used to getting regular freebies. Wines, accessories and even trips to Europe, South America, etc. abound these days. Look at the sponsorship page for WBC — so many non-VA sponsors who were there only to get their wares in front of bloggers — many of whom are more than willing to offer good press (or Twitter buzz) in exchange for anything free.

    On the topic of heat and humidity on Friday night — obviously it’s just stupid to complain about heat. BUT, I will say that I’ve heard from several people (including some of the winery reps pouring that night) that there WAS an inside location that could have been used and would have it had been raining. It was probably a poor decision not to use that space. I can’t imagine that many of the wineries feel good about how their wines were showcased that night.

    Joe is right that VA brought it’s “B” game — but when has WBC been anything but? Just the way that it’s structured means that you’re not going to get all of the best wines and are likely to get lots of less-than-good stuff there. It’s organized by non-locals and those running local promo organizations — groups that don’t know the wines and have to give everyone equal opportunity regardless of quality, respectively. I wasn’t wowed by any of the wines I tasted, but there were a great many VERY good wines.

    Let’s also keep in mind that this is only the 4th WBC. It’s still a work-in-progress and I’m on that same pseudo-committee that Joe is on. We’re offering feedback to improve every year.

    • Lenn –

      Nice to see you last weekend as always.

      Wanted to respond to a statement you made that was incorrect. You were ill-informed about the inside location that the event could have been moved to. I’ll give you the honest answer to that since we actually planned all the logistics for the event. We had planned for inclement weather in the terms of rain – not heat. Lesson definitely learned. The alternative location was the “Welcome Center” @ Monticello – which also was outdoors. The tenting for the welcome center would have provided for more overhead coverage (from rain) but not from the heat. It still would have been outdoors.

      It does frustrate me to hear bloggers disparage the Monticello wine reception. Our office, along with the participating wineries put an enormous amount of resources into trying to make that an exceptional experience for guests. Having Monticello – Thomas Jefferson’s home / one of the founding fathers of our country – as the back drop for the event was unprecedented. An opportunity rarely afforded to others…

  7. Dave,
    While it is true that the weather did make tasting wine rather difficult last Friday (the reds really could not show through in such weather) I am surprised by some of the comments that have come about after last weekend’s conference. It really is a shame that so many opted out of the winery visit on Saturday. That would have been a good opportunity for them to really taste some local wine. Everyone on our bus seemed to really be impressed with both Horton and Barboursville. The variety presented at Horton was impressive and the library wines at Barboursville were great.

    Getting people to recognize the quality of domestic wine from states not on the West Coast is still a struggle. I think Virginia really has developed because they are growing the grapes and making wine that does well in the climate here. Not every state is doing that quite yet.

    I hope that the bloggers who had negative reactions to the local VA wine give it another chance. It was about twenty to even thirty degrees hotter than it should have been, but that is no reason to dismiss the wine.

  8. Indeed, the “after parties” tended to go until the wee hours, which helps explain why Saturday morning’s discussion of Virginia’s viticulture history was so poorly attended, and perhaps why some skipped the thoroughly enjoyable (and air conditioned) bus tours. I hung on as late as I could at the Saturday evening parties, as the hotel folks rousted us out of the pool area into the lobby atrium, and then into a conference room off the restaurant. I felt for any guests of the hotel that were not there for the WBC.

    • So, the good, bad, and ugly of the WBC are one and the same? The good: different angles for different folks (I’m an education-minded girl and went to every session, and I’m also small-fry and wasn’t in on the vast majority of the after-parties.) The bad: some folk (like the aforementioned small-fry and lots of first-time attendees) feel left out of “the good stuff” (i.e. I keep hearing about excellent wines poured at private parties.) The ugly: can’t help wondering what sort of impression all of us “professionals” make on those who have to accomodate us. I’m not sure what the solution is, or even if we need a solution — what’s wrong with different folk doing different things depending on their different (educational, social, partying) objectives — but there’s enough talk about it all that it’s clear that this is an evolving dynamic

    • winebratsf says:

      Sorry but I call BS> you don’t HAVE to go to an after party. After attending 4 conferences, I choose which events to attend, but I am always keen to attend the morning sessions because I want to get the most out of my experience.

      Those that were too hungover or still drunk to participate are an unfortunate crowd, and probably some of the loudest detractors. There are always immature party people who want to party more than conference – happens at every tech conference I attend as well, but that’s a personal choice.

      As for guests that weren’t attendees, unless we sell out a hotel, that is the risk they take (the hotel not the guests)

      and apologies but if you didn’t find an after party, you weren’t’ staying at the OMNI. I didn’t get pre-invited to anything, but they were rampantly talked about on Twitter,r and in the lobby. If you engage, you could throw a stone and find one should you choose.

  9. Joe Roberts says:

    To further Lenn’s point on WBC improvements, I’m working with the WBC organizers to help improve future events (this is volunteer work, as was the effort that I put into the Millennial panel and the work I did in panels at previous incarnations of the WBC). My list of concerns / improvements mirrors those of many who have chimed in so far:

    – Actually convene some of the WBC and WBA improvement committee members in a call to discuss this stuff, for starters!
    – Provide more help to those pouring at speed tastings so there is consistency to how they are presented, etc.
    – Provide more social/networking opportunities (and downtime/breaks), including an event specifically designed to get 1st timers acclimated and to help get people introducing themselves to one another.
    – Less overt sponsorship (the dinner movie was a disaster, even some of the VA winemakers told me they thought that was way too much).
    – Make the WBAs the focus of the wine blogging world for one night, sans overt sponsorship if possible.

    I haven’t suggested anything by way of reducing industry attendance, because I don’t think it needs to be reduced. It’s about 30%, and industry peeps do, in fact, blog, so I think once they reduce the overt sponsorship footprint the perception that too many industry people are attending WBC will probably go away.

    As for the wines: Bad wine is made everywhere – I think the situation is more acute in emerging wine regions, especially on the Right Coast where the production is smaller, the producers often are much smaller, the terroir is still being sussed out, etc. The posts dismissing all VA wine as being sh*t are starting to piss me off, actually. I have no feedback to the WBC organizers about that other than keep pushing the envelope, because I’d rather go to an area that I know little/nothing about and get a chance to taste their wines – I don’t think many of the WBC attendees realize what a great opportunity it was to taste the wines of VA, even the bad ones. I mean, many of the big mags don’t bother with the area and so there’s a real opportunity there to critically assess the good and bad and report on it, and provide value to wine lovers looking for info. and assessment on those wines, value they won’t get from many of the traditional sources of info. on wine. It’s just shortsighted in so many ways to ignore that.

    Thanks for providing such a balanced article… Like Lenn, I’m currently not interested in writing about this on my own blog, and I’d thought about chiming in on comments on several others but didn’t want to extend the conversations on those subjects for the posts that were too negative (even RJ’s turned me off too much to comment). So it’s great to have a more level-headed discussion here!

  10. winingways says:

    Thanks Dave for the nod about my positive post. First, we couldn’t do anything about the heat. Could there have been a Plan B for the extreme heat during the Monticello Reception? Sure. Even so, I did feel very positive about everything to do with Virginia wine country and the blog conference. People with negative attitudes sometimes wrongly think that makes them appear to be more expert than others. Perhaps some of those west coasters should realize that not all wine lovers want to drink high alcohol, over-oaked wines all the time. I came with an open mind. I live in a state that aspires to a better reputation for their own wines (Massachusetts) and I left encouraged that if Virginia can find themselves a seat at the table (and they did have to find the seat for themselves – no one gave it to them) then there is the promise of a brighter future for my region. I saw all of the necessary elements (agriculture, tourism, state government) conspire together to create success in Virginia, and success under challenging conditions. I recall a winemaker in the Silverthorne Film, Vintage: The Winemakers Year saying “Anyone can grown wine in California” and calling them wimps. I enjoy my west coast wines as much as anyone but I choose to celebrate the great diversity of offerings that abound all over our country, produced and presented by people with heart and soul, and a desire to share what they have wrought from their little piece of heaven. I drink many wines from my region that aren’t particularly good yet but the winemakers are working on improving and learning from every year. We do make some damn fine chardonnays, pinot gris, riesling, and Cabernet Franc. One of the problems with us as Americans is that our expectations for everything are so high we demand perfection right out of the gate and have no appreciation for the process. I never want to be that “Ugly American”, especially in America. It’s a big wine world out there. I never want to narrow my focus so much that I can’t appreciate wines from just about anywhere.

  11. ECoastWines says:

    Completely agree with your points here. And the thing I was honestly surprised at the most was that growing sense of entitlement of some of the bloggers. It’s something I just don’t get why, but I guess thats because I don’t really get many free things as my blog is still small and fairly unknown. But still it was slightly off putting with some of the people I met who complained about something the swag they got or going a half hour without a glass of wine.

    And of course being a blogger in Virginia, and one who blogs about East Coast wines, I was very off put by the many bloggers who dismissed our wines here so quickly. And I completely agree about the saturday wine outings, why so many people skipped is beyond me. there where some wonderful wineries on the various mystery buses and if people didn’t take advantage of that then they really missed out on an opportunity to learn more. Which to me is quite sad as how can you make an accurate assessment of a regions wine if you don’t taste a wide selection.

    • I can, sadly, answer about the sense of entitlement. The culture that has grown up about wine writing, and not just wine blogging, is that people who write about wine know more and are smarter and just more terrific than everyone else. And if they have any doubts about whether this is true, all they have to is ask another wine blogger and they’ll tell them that it is true.

      Those of us who blog about unfashionable wines or who are in the middle of the country or who do what we do because we see it as a profession and not a chance for free trips are held in the same regard as regional wine. Which may be why I like regional wine so much.

  12. Jeff says:

    Personally speaking, while I acknowledge there seems to be a lot of herd mentality AND whining in blog posts the past week, I can’t, for the life of me, imagine why there have been dozens and dozens of posts about a wine bloggers conference. Unless you went to the conference, nobody — not a single person — cares. I’ve been to the conference every year (including VA) and I barely care.

    It’s all so boring, so entitled, so offensively pedantic.

    Every single post about the Wine Bloggers Conference should be blown up and the information gathered, the context learned at the conference by the attendees should be channeled into a blogger’s post that is actually interesting and demonstrates a shred of originality based on the assumption that somebody actually reads what they write for an interesting take-away.

    I’m disappointed — not with the conference, but with the limited talent and intellectual creativity of the attendees.

    As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people…”

    There are a lot of very average wine bloggers.

    • I admit – the group omphaloskepsis gets a tad tiring … 🙂

      • G.E. Guy says:

        Omphaloskepsis? Having looked that up, I can now say that I’ve learned something new today. Daily goal accomplished, headed back to bed.

        Jeff – I will say two things about post-conference discussion. First of all, bloggers discuss things on their blogs. It’s sort of what the medium is about. One of my fav social media marketing bloggers will occasionally post about taking his kids to the beach. We’re friends in real life but I honestly don’t care to click through his travelogues. His space, though. And, surprisingly enough, we’ve had feedback from our non-blogging “civilians” who clearly also are interested in the goings on that they missed.

        My second point is that holy Stanford prison experiment, what a fascinating glance at interpersonal dynamics this post-conference kerfuffle has been! I’m sorry, lambast me for omphaloskepsis all you want (I’ll be using that word every chance I get!) but watching everyone else’s reactions has been a fascinating way for me to sort through mine. That has, by its nature, resulted in some observations that I thought were worth sharing. Even if the only people who give a crap about those reactions are other bloggers, everyone else can decide “not for me” and pass it by. I’m semi-okay with the fact that the Real Housewives franchise exists, even if I won’t watch it.

        That said, I’m somewhat relieved that our blog has resumed its regular programming. I worry that too much introspection and self-examination will result in us getting flipped inside-out as if we were in a scene from Treehouse of Horror.

        • Evan Dawson says:

          I think Jeff’s very good point is that, sure, bloggers discuss things on their blogs. Like conferences and events.

          And that goes a long way toward explaining why most blogs have almost no consistent readership outside of other bloggers.

          I did not attend this year’s WBC, and wished I could have. Jeff, I think to some degree bloggers feel required to post on WBC; after all, they’re getting a lot of free stuff. Some might think, without even realizing it, that it’s the least they can do. But that does not provide a service to their readers.

          All of which is to say that TasteCamp was created as a kind of useful offshoot. I’ve heard wine competition judges defend the practice of judging by saying, “Sure, medals are kind of random, but at least that whole process gets a bunch of writers together, and often we see new wine regions.” TasteCamp was created to do exactly that, sans medals. WBC seems to have evolved into a kind of amalgum, which I can understand. I’d have wanted to taste as many VA wines as possible. But it becomes sort of confusing for bloggers who think they’re supposed to post on all of this stuff.

  13. Amy: Always great to see you as well…

    I stand corrected, then, but several winemakers seemed to be under the impression that there was an inside option (you might want to clear that up).

    Ultimately, you and I can’t control the weather, and all of the whining about it has gone way too far. But, it certainly didn’t allow the wines to show well at all. I was probably one of the more engaged and interested people there — and I just couldn’t force myself into tasting any red wines.

    Completely out of your control? Yes. But also disappointing? Absolutely.

    Monticello was a beautiful backdrop — and was air conditioned 🙂

  14. Thank you, Dave. I appreciate you taking the time to write this piece. If nothing else, this year’s WBC rattled some cages and has resulted in robust discussion, debate, and ranting that I can’t recall from past WBCs. I think it’s great to get us out of our comfort zones and I applaud Zephyr and the gang for having the stones to step out of the big 3 (and to the VA wine folks for making it happen).

    Although I disagree with some of the view points presented, and have taken a few snarky jabs at the ranters myself, I appreciate the contribution they’ve made to the collective ‘conversation.’

    Like everyone who attended WBC11, I too have a list of things that I simply did not like (i.e. – Exhibit A – the Rieslings poured at the Saturday dinner, …), but what most disappointed me were the (prejudged) ‘attitudes’ that a few of the conference attendees brought with them. I believe no matter how hot/cool/mild the weather was, or how good/bad/indifferent the wine were, there are a certain few who would have complained/whined/ranted simply because the conference was not about ‘them.’ One or two of my blogging peers may take themselves (and their place in the wine world) a little too seriously, and as a result have come to expect a certain amount of ‘swooning’ (herding) around them.

    It’s sad that some of the folks you’ve mentioned (linked to) above skipped parts of the conference. I feel the winery visits are where the true connections are made, and the real learning occurs. The small groups provide the perfect environment for bloggers to connect with each other, and bloggers to connect with winemakers and taste older vintages that they will not taste any other time. Just my opinion.

    I appreciate the specific point you make about Monticello “I’m sorry, folks, suck it up and deal with it. You were at Monticello, for crying out loud…”. I keep reading/seeing tweets about the need for a Plan B due to the heat on Friday evening. I agree it was hot and conditions were less than ideal… but…it’s Monticello! Holding a WBC11 event, or any event, at Monticello is a HUGE deal. Monticello was the Plan A/B/C/D… I only hope I am misinterpreting some of the tweets/posts about how the Friday night event should have been held elsewhere. I suspect some may need an American history lesson to fully understand the significance of spending time at Monticello (even if it’s hot outside).

    I sincerely appreciate the time that each winemaker/cidermaker devoted to WBC11 and the wines/cider they each poured (I am a big fan of many of them), but I will note that several of my favorite wineries did not participate in the conference – namely, Linden, Glen Manor, Chester Gap, and North Gate. I’m sure each of these wineries have their own reasons for not participating, but really wish they would have stepped it up to join their colleagues in participating and supporting Virginia wine. (Note – Each of the aforementioned wineries does a great deal to support Virginia wine to be sure, but your humble corespondent believes each should have participated in WBC11 given the huge effort put in to the conference by the Va Wine Board, VTC and other local and state government groups.)

    • Joe Roberts says:

      I have zero sympathy for local wineries that don’t participate in WBC.
      It’s expensive, for sure, but what exposure / tasting event isn’t?

    • And there were some wineries I wish hadn’t bothered …

    • winebratsf says:

      I take issue with the fact that we’re supposed to bow down and cower to the fact it’s Monteicello. YES it’s a great historical lesson, but is it appropriate for a wine conference in summer? Sorry, but no.

      Granted, the weather was beyond ANYone’s control; however to a certain point – you know what the weather will be. You need to plan for it. Showcasing wines in an outdoor setting in a notoriously hot environment, is just a poor choice. We would have been better served having a tour of Monticello and then being seated somewhere where we could focus on the wine.

      I personally made the choice NOT to go to dinner becasue 1) i had been to Monticello and had the time to explore previously and 2) I didn’t feel that I would enjoy myself and would rather put my time and effort in to something I would.

      The little VA wine that I got to taste before I was felled, was indeed – better than my poorly preconceived notions, so for that I am grateful.

      I am also sorry that you see TasteCamp as a “better” or somehow superior event. For those of us who are not really allowed to participate in that event, it’s frustrating to have these comparisons. WBC is about learning from each other primarily, and also and just as importantly learning about the AREA. That’s why we can’t and shouldn’t host it in an urban setting away from the wine producing regions.

      Having been to all 4 WBCs, there are pieces that should be learned from every one and used as a guide to improve the conference. As any conference, every session is optional. People will do what they want to.

      I disagree with the assumption that blogging about WBC will limit our readership; it’s all about WHAT and HOW you are blogging about. Talking about the meat at dinner, not so smart. Talking about how you interpret Jancis or Eric’s speeches, useful and interesting, as were some of the breakouts.

      Some better planning and forethought to why we were there, and how to make it more effective is needed to improve for WBC12.

      • Evan Dawson says:

        I’m confused. Assuming we want to write for “average consumers,” (whatever that nebulous term means), why would anyone care what we take from Eric or Jancis’ presentations? That’s exactly the kind of stuff that is killing blog writers who don’t understand why they have no readership. That’s inside baseball. From what I’ve seen of the presentations, they were (as expected) truly outstanding. But they weren’t made for blog posts; they were made to spur blog writers to improve their regular posting. Right?

  15. Russ Kane says:

    I can relate to your comment…There was lots of hearsay (“my buddy heard someone say …”) used to disparage the entire Virginia wine industry and generalizations such as “LOTS of them had some really good sulfur stank. Most others were just sloppy… lazy….boring with a HINT of sulphur (sic).”

    We see a lot of this in Texas….hearsay and generalization particularly from some bloggers. I think that this is because many bloggers do not come from a journalistic or technical background where facts needs to be checked, sometimes double checked, and background knowledge are also the norm. But, it;s all part of the game for an up and coming wine producing region, and being number 5 in the wine states game, we just have to take it in stride (don’t give it or take it personally) and continue to try harder.

    Good post….


  16. Joe: I’m not going to turn this thread into a TasteCamp advertisement, but it’s not expensive for wineries. We focus on local wines only, offer writers and wineries a real chance to connect and understand one another — and it’s not a junket, so the writers who attend are much more invested (literally and figuratively) in the trip.

    And, rumor has it that we’re going to Northern Virginia for 2012 🙂

  17. Given the bang-for-the-buck…I’m surprised more don’t ignore it. Aren’t you?

    • Joe Roberts says:

      Depends on the measuring stick, Lenn. If I made good wine, I’d want to get it in front of hundreds of people where there is a half-decent chance that they might talk about it. If I sold out in the tasting room every vintage, though, I might not have enough of a fire under my butt about it to care. But I might regret that stance someday, if I grow production, or if my clientele gets younger and/or I can’t count on the same amount of foot traffic, etc.

  18. Stay tuned, Dave. 🙂

  19. Mary Orlin says:

    Thanks for posting about WBC11. I was surprised by the negativity at Monticello. It wasn’t the winemakers’ fault it was above 100 degrees. Sure, they could have brought more ice, but given the heat, any ice was going to melt quickly. I managed to taste all whites, and the very refreshing cider. I was just so delighted to be at Monticello that I overlooked the heat and humidity (and I live in California). Just think if plan B, C or D meant moving away from Monticello. That was one of the main reasons for me going to the conference.

    I went on the pre-conference excursion, which took us to four wineries in Loudon Co. A great introduction to Virginia wine country and wines. It’s a very different experience visiting the wineries and meeting and talking to the winemakers. I was surprised more bloggers didn’t join in (perhaps they couldn’t get the time off etc. because the additional fee was only $100 for four winery visits and hotel, dinner and lunch). The Saturday visits were great too, especially by then when I had more context on Virginia wines. Folks that sat this out missed a great experience.

    My takeaway is that Virginia is a player in the wine world and is doing some interesting things (read my blog post at WineFashionista.com). They deserve our attention and fair analysis – not all wines tasted were good, but boy there were some nice wines!


    • Hi Mary – Thanks for chiming in. I enjoyed your post, and I hope you have the opportunity to explore these wines further. And you definitely should read Todd Kliman’s The Wild Vine.


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  21. Tammy Colson says:

    Dave, thanks for a well balanced article about the conference (and the ensuing comments, I just spent about 45 minutes reading through all of them)

    Having spent 10 years in VA, and 98% of my life in the south, even my southern genetics had trouble with the heat – but that didn’t stop me from totally enjoying the entire conference, the Monticello event – seeing some winemakers I haven’t talked to in over a year, reconnecting with wine blogger pals and making new friendships that will certainly sustain post-conference. I’m also having some critical thoughts about suggestions for changes, and rethinking the idea of sponsorship. With the poorly attended Other 46 tasting, I’m not sure my money was well spent on that event, in spite of the fact that i’ve received feedback that is incredibly helpful to the winery for which I poured. (thanks for the OH mention!)

    I don’t think there is any way to stop criticism of events – we are writers, we love to see ourselves in print. But perhaps the lesson is that well reasoned arguments further conversation – vitriol furthers separation, and is not helpful to readers. We get enough of that in the news. The vitriolic can stay separated as far as I’m concerned.

    Perhaps the next conferences/unconferences – I’ll just be showing up as a blogger – after all, that’s what I am at heart. I just also happen to make some money in the trade.

  22. Thea, you seem to be over-simplifying the comments I’ve made.
    TasteCamp is no ‘better’ that WBC if we’re talking in generalities. TasteCamp was inspired by my experiences at the first WBC. I took what I considered to be the best parts — local wines, time with fellow bloggers and winemakers/owners — and made TasteCamp JUST about that. I also felt that some of the non-local sponsorships were distracting, so I eliminated those from TasteCamp as well.

    The two events have very different goals. TasteCamp doesn’t pretend to be a place for bloggers to learn how to be better bloggers. Never has. Never will.

    I take issue with your comment that you fall into some group that is “not really allowed to participate in that event.” Any wine writer is more than welcome to attend any TasteCamp event. When we announce every year, it is an open invite until we fill up. Sure, it’s true that we are a much smaller event (usually maxing out at around 40 total people) we do not exclude anyone who has a blog or other writing outlet that is not tied to a business/winery/PR agency/importer/etc. We do focus on citizen bloggers and writers to keep our time together as free from pitches as possible 🙂

    • winebratsf says:

      well no, I actually wasn’t responding just to you Lenn.
      There is a perception – however wrong – on the left coast – that TasteCamp is for the East Coasters, in protest of WBC West or some such nonsense. I have never felt welcomed by that crowd, and if that’s wrong, than I certainly stand corrected and appreciate it.

      I agree that some of the best parts of WBC are the tasting experiences of the region we are in, and that is why I don’t think we can ever take WBC to Vegas or another urban locale that is not within an hour of wine country.

      I agree with you on the over commercialization – but – they have to have some way of paying for it. I’d be perfectly happy to pay $150 for less advertisement, more meat but I’m not sure how many other bloggers would.

      So – i’ll hold you to it. Hold Taste Camp 12 in Columbia Gorge or Missouri! East Coasters are vocal about thier distaste of the west coast WBC. Take your own advice, and spread it around.

  23. Joe says:

    First off: Dave, it was very nice to meet you in person. One of the big perks of these events.

    Secondly, I need to work on my Google alerts. I really have to stumble upon any mention that may garner further explanation.

    To answer your question, the winemaker in question was Stephen Barnard from Keswick Vineyards. Stephen was amazing; a terrific mouthpiece for the Virginia wine industry. He was honest and open and a wonderful person with whom to discuss local wine.

    I’ve seen it a couple times where I fear my comment was taken out of context a bit. If you had read the post (and honestly, who has time to read them all?), I went on to mention that manipulation of wine is not- at all- a Virginia phenomenon. And I think some of the vitriol over the wines poured had more to do with everything else (and lots of it from California). Seeing that Virginia was the host state, seems that it’s wines got thrown under the bus with the rest. However, most of the commentary (again, lots from Californians) praised the quality of the wines coming out of Virginia. Were they all great? Of course not. But that could be said for anywhere in the world where vines grow.

    Hope this clears the air (at least a bit). Cheers!

  24. Joe says:

    and, after reading your post more carefully, I think you did not take my comments out of context at all. Sorry; I’m a self-absorbed blogger who jumped to quickly defend my turf 🙂

    • Indeed – I was holding you up as a positive example of someone reporting a conversation in which you participated, instead of relaying hearsay without checking it out. Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting.

  25. Sorry, but I think that nearly everyone can agree on why neither TasteCamp nor a WBC is being proposed for Missouri. Missouri wines simply aren’t as good — nor as varied, nor as numerous — as those from CA, OR, WA, or NY. Not only is the industry nowhere near as well developed at this point but, c’mon folks, not every location is ideal for growing wine grapes nor should anyone expect it to be otherwise. Does anyone care to disagree with me?

    • winebratsf says:

      Sorry Erika, I think you missed my point. I was pointing out that keeping TasteCamp an east coast exclusive is the same as the point many east coast bloggers made about WBC being in the west.

      As for Missouri wines, I don’t know what they are like, and I’m not planning on going out of my way to find out. NOt because there is no hope of them being good, but because I am not going to Missouri, if I can at all help it, and they don’t distribute.

    • ECoastWines says:

      I would a bit yes. Now I’m not entirely coming to the defense of Missouri wines exactly, but I have had some decent ones from that state. They do native varietals quite nicely, such as Cynthiana, as well as a few hybrids, like Frontenac. The problem they have though is just like a lot of states in that they try and grow vitis vinifera when they just simply don’t have the climate.

      Now I’ve only had a few wines from Missouri, but that has been what I have gathered so far from my own tastings as well as those of some friends.

    • Dave McIntyre says:

      Well, DrinkLocalWine.com held its third annual conference in Missouri this year and we didn’t hear any complaints. It’s a much smaller affair than Taste Camp or WBC.

      Erika, I know you blogged your disdain for Missouri Nortons but did you try anything else before you dismiss the entire state’s industry? That’s what the regional wine movement is all about – diversity.

      Sent from my iPhone

  26. TasteCamp is definitely not for East Coasters. We’ve even ALMOST had some West Coast folks join us — both in the Finger Lakes and this year in Ontario. Yes, it started in my head as an East Coast reunion for all the great people who met up at the first WBC, but it’s well beyond that now.

    I’ve even had some discussions about doing TasteCamp West in various spots along the West Coast. Hasn’t happened yet, but I think it will.

    TasteCamp locale is determined largely by the writers or bloggers willing to act as the local organizer. The TasteCamp team is heavily involved, but we need at least one person on the ground in the region to help make arrangements, help decide on the agenda, etc.

    I agree that it’s fine if the WBC organizers need to pay their bills, so be it. But, I’m not sure it’s so much that as it is them making as much money as possible. I’m not accusing anyone (and hey, why not make some money?) but I think most attendees would like to see the sponsorships toned down a touch.

    I’m not against TasteCamp in ANY region in North America. There is even talk of doing one overseas.

    • winebratsf says:

      well if you need a west coast ambassador, let me know. More than willing to support a TasteCamp WEST.

      I don’t know how much is making money vs paying the bills, but I do agree with the sponsorship issues. I really don’t need another chatchi bag. The first year’s swag bag – was just that. The BAG was swag and it was WBC branded.

      So note to WBC steering committee (which I am a member of): Find balance. Can we get bloggers to pay a bit more and tone down the non-locale based sponsorships? I’ll certainly bring it up. (hint Joe: pay attention ;-p )

  27. Erika,
    I’d happily take TasteCamp to Missouri if we had the support of some local bloggers willing to step up and help coordinate it.


  28. Maybe I didn’t state my own point very clearly. I am not summarily dismissing all Missouri wines, nor am I saying that all of them are either good or bad. In fact, I’m saying nothing in particular about any of them specifically. All that I’m saying is that, as a whole, they aren’t as good, nor is the industry as well-developed, as CA, OR, WA, or even NY (which you might note isn’t part of the West coast.) If anyone chose to hold a major event in Missouri, I think that the range of available wines (from what I’ve read about their industry on their own websites) — and their tendancy towards hybrids, which often aren’t as popular with wine consumers accustomed to viniferas — would create serious issues. My apologies if I offended anyone.

  29. Erika: I think you’re wrong about one thing…hybrids not being as popular with consumers.

    I don’t love hybrids…at all. I’m on record repeatedly saying that. BUT, consumers are clearly buying these wines. Writers may not like them, but consumers must — or else these hybrid-focused industries wouldn’t exist.

    • Again, not what I said, Lenn. I completely agree that there is a huge and loyal customer base for hybrids. What I said is that those of us more accustomed to viniferas — and, truthfully, I was trying to avoid saying “with better wine educations” because I figured that would make me sound like a snob, which isn’t the point — generally don’t like hybrids much. I’m not trying to be prejudiced; I’m expressing what I think are pretty well-known wine consumer trends. We’ve gone on about this far too long already and it isn’t really related to Dave’s post, so I’m going to stop here.

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