In two weeks, the city of Penticton, BC will be flooded with intrepid wine bloggers swarming the area with glasses in one hand and iphones in the other, tweeting and instagraming the Okanagan Valley into Internet fame.
In case you haven’t heard of it, the Wine Bloggers Conference is a combination press junket, wine expo, and MacWorld, with shades of Meetup in between.
After five years in the States, the Wine Bloggers Conference will finally cross the Canadian border, and Penticton organizers are working in overdrive to make sure the blogger’s impressions are favorable.
There is still time to register for #WBC13, as it is hashtagged on Twitter, and rooms available at either the Lakeside Resort or any of the motels along the beachfront strip.
Here’s the deal: for $95, citizen bloggers receive two lunches, two, dinners, several receptions, numerous parties, transportation to local wineries, as well as the famous Live Blogging event (better known as speed tasting.) Essentially, it provides all the wine one can possibly taste in a weekend and enough material for six months of posts.
It’s not all about tasting, though. There are valuable wine and tech-related symposia to sample. The only assumption is that bloggers will blog, tweet, pin, instagram, and You Tube their experiences in the Okanagan Valley.
Past speakers have included author Janice Robinson, journalist Eric Asimov, Bonnie Doon’s Randall Graham, Sideways author Rex Pickett, writer Steve Heimoff, journalist Lettie Teague, AOL’s Barry Schuler, as well as Gary Vaynerchuk when he was still into wine. Only Rex Pickett drank through his presentation, which was an interview instead of speech.
This year’s keynote speaker is James Conaway, author of Napa: the Story of an American Eden and the recent Nose. I’ll be bringing my yellowed copy of Napa to get an autograph.
These breakout sessions are about either wine or science – or both – and can be very interesting.
One session in Charlottesville, gave us packaged food items to sniff while tasting wines that embodied those flavors. In the Neuroscience of Wine session in Portland, we learned how our brains respond to wine aromas, and we performed tasting experiments on each other.
The 2009 Wine Blogger Conference was where I first learned how to tweet, and every conference has featured the latest social media.
The conference rooms are literally enveloped in social media. During the main events, screens project our #WBC13 hash-tagged tweets on the proceedings and everyone tries to outdo each other with one liners. It’s Twittertainment.
One afternoon or evening is spent on a luxury coach driving to local wineries for tasting and a meal. Each bus goes on a different trail of wineries and when you board you have no idea where you are going.
In 2009, the tour culminated at the remote, super-premium Antica winery in the shadow of Atlas Peak in Napa where we were treated to a fantastic, barbeque feast. In 2011 we toured the property where Thomas Jefferson attempted and failed to grow wine grapes, at a winery that carries his name. Last year, our tour was comically interrupted by an Oregon cop who forced us off our bus and into the nearest winery.
You just never know what will happen on the winery tours.
This even is like speed dating, where the bloggers sit and take notes and the wineries float from table to table, pouring and pitching their wines for five minutes each. You have to think and drink fast to keep up.
Before 2010, Live Blogging was a one-shot, drink-all event. Then, organizers decided to split the event into a white tasting one day and a red tasting the next. Speed tasting is the closest thing to a sporting event at WBC.
Dinners are usually preceded by blog awards from Mutineer Magazine or by comedic shtick from a local sommelier. But as far as the meal itself, last year’s dinner in Portland will forever be a hard act to follow. King Estates brought its own local food, its own chef, and its own team of servers to lay out a dinner of epic proportions. We knew their wines were excellent, having visited the estate twice, but this meal was an amazing showcase of culinary excellence.
The most bizarre dinner occurred at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, where 300 wine maniacs gathered for a garden tasting in 95 degree heat. We almost melted. The mansion was air conditioned, but no wine was allowed inside. It was still fun.
Receptions and Parties
In response to bloggers habit of bringing our own bottles to pour around, organizers have arranged an official BYOB event, which last year amounted to a lake of wine.
In addition to the sponsored receptions, Wine bloggers are known to roam the host city in search of wine. In Walla Walla, named for its wall-to-wall tasting rooms, attendees formed a downtown wine crawl. In Charlottesville, no restaurant on West Main was left unexplored by Rioja seekers. I hope Penticton is ready for us.
Then, hotel room parties carry on after the post-dinner events. It may be a private gathering or a sponsored soiree, but you can always count on tasting something interesting, if not a flight of six vintages of Jordan Cabernet.
It all makes you crave a frosty ale. Cindy Molchany at WBC Headquarters says that both pre-conference excursions are full, but registration to the general conference is open until June 7th.
Moreover, she says, even if someone isn’t specifically a wine blogger, but are interested in social media, learning about blogging or if they enjoy wine, great food and good company, they are welcome.
Register: 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference
Again, it’s only $95 for two days of wine, food and technology. What a bargain!
Here’s the agenda: 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, BC
Thursday, June 6
4:30 – 7:00 PM Registration and Tradeshow 7:00 – 11:00 PM Opening Reception with Great Estates of the Okanagan
Friday, June 7
9:00 – 10:00 AM Registration
10:00 – 10:15 AM Conference Opening
10:15 – 11:15 AM Keynote speaker – James Conaway
11:15 – 12:00 PM Current State of Wine Blogging – Survey Results
12:00 – 1:30 PM Lunch with Wine Country Ontario
1:45 – 2:45 PM Breakout Sessions
– Session 1: Google Plus Workshop
– Session 2: Creating Compelling Content
– Session 3: Wine-related content with Wines of South Africa
3:00 – 4:00 PM British Columbia Live Wine Blogging – white wines
4:00 – 8:00 PM Excursions to Penticton-area wineries
9:00 – 11:00 PM Evening Reception with the Oliver-Osoyoos Wineries Association
Saturday, June 8
7:30 – 9:15 AM Breakfast in the Park with Downtown Penticton Association
9:30 – 12:00 PM Block Sessions
– Session 1: Wine Country Videography, Photography, & Podcasting Workshop
– Session 2: Learn to be a Wine Judge via an In-Depth Look at BC Wine
12:00 – 1:30 PM Lunch with Wines of Uruguay
1:45 – 2:45 PM Breakout Sessions
– Session 1: Positioning Your Blog
– Session 2: Search Engine Optimization
– Session 3: Drink Them Before They’re Famous
3:00 – 4:00 Liquid Gold: Inniskillin Icewine Tasting
4:15 – 5:15 PM British Columbia Live Wine Blogging – red wines
5:30 – 7:00 PM Pre-Dinner Reception with New Wines of Greece
7:00 – 7:30 PM Wine Blog Awards Presented by Mutineer Magazine
7:30 – 9:00 PM Banquet Dinner with Destination British Columbia
9:00 – 11:00 PM The World of Wines Evening Party
Mari Kane is a wine writer and blogger from Sonoma County, now living in Vancouver. Her wine blog is Tasting Room Confidential and you can follow her on Twitter.