In the Fishbowl

Visiting the Twisted Oak.

Visiting the Twisted Oak.

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, so if you’re here for your daily wine review/vineyard review, it’ll be back to fairly normal tomorrow. For now, I want to offer just a few thoughts on my last 5 days in California.  As you may know, I headed out last Wednesday to attend the second annual Wine Blogger Conference (WBC) in Santa Rosa.  I also attended last year, so in my mind, a compare and contrast of the two years seems appropriate.

Have you ever felt like a goldfish? It’s quite interesting really. I think the focus of the conference this years seemed to skew more towards wineries, PR folks, and other industry types.  And I felt like people were there to figure out what wine bloggers are, what their motivations might be, and how best to market (I think that’s what I want to call it…) to them.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I understand the need and the desire, seeing as how I fully believe that blogs represent a bigger force than many give them credit for.

Old friend Shana and new friend Rob at Conn Creek.

Old friend Shana and new friend Rob at Conn Creek.

However, having attended both years, it really stuck out to me that the wind had changed.  Last year, the breakdown of industry and “citizen” blogger types seemed skewed a bit more to the blogger side.  The PR, winery, and industry people that attended last year seemed to be many of those already heavily involved in social media.  This year, a ton were just sticking toes into the water, learning about twitter, figuring out what to do with their Facebook fan pages, and seeing how the bloggers worked.

What I missed from last year: the larger gatherings. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous day visiting the wineries in Napa, and the dinner at Conn Creek rocked, but I felt disconnected from the vast majority of participants since we pretty much just saw the 25 people on our bus for the whole day.  I liked that last year we spent more time together as a whole. Many folks that attended last year, who I really enjoyed talking to, and were there again this year, simply seemed like ships passing in the night to me.

Grapes at C. Donatiello!

Grapes at C. Donatiello!

I really look like my picture. Hilarious. I would say no less than 100 folks came up to me this weekend and said some variation of the phrase “You look just like your picture!” Which I guess worked out well since everyone seemed to know me and when I poured at the speed tasting, I got to meet a little over half the people.  Fun times.  I’m sorry if I didn’t recognize you…it’s hard when you don’t have a picture of yourself up around the web…I certainly know all your names/twitter handles, but I may have stared blankly at you on first glance because I didn’t recognize many faces!

I wish I had been able to meet and talk with everyone this year.  The smaller size last year certainly lent itself better to actually having personal conversations with more folks.  As did the fact that we had our anti-conference out at the pool on Saturday afternoon.  This year, we spent a good 4 hours on a bus on Saturday.  And our anti-conference got canceled due to a scheduling snafu with the speed tasting.

My favorite part of the conference this year? Sitting up to nearly 3 with some old and new friends in the lobby of the hotel, chilling, enjoying some fabulous wines, and just shooting the shit for hours.  Unstructured, unscripted, spontaneous gatherings always make for the best times.  Before and after the conference? I couldn’t pick a favorite if I wanted to…I had a blast blending wine, walking in the vineyards, and enjoying a leisurely meal or 4 with some really great folks.  Over the next few weeks, I have lots of wines, vineyards, and events to tell you about. Stay tuned for some excellent discoveries and revisiting of old friends!

All the winos!

All the winos!

The same as last year? The ease of meeting people and the free-flowing discussion.  Even if we’d never met in person before, the common love of wine seems to bring folks together and conversation is easy and natural.  I love putting real faces with the names behind the computer.  In general, I don’t know that you’ll ever meet a more congenial group of folks overall.  It’s been nearly 8 months since I had seen some people, yet we picked up our conversations as if it were just yesterday.

All in all, I had a blast.  Pouring at the speed tasting rocked, I loved being on the other side of the table. Literally.  Meeting new and old friends made the weekend what it is meant to be.  Even being disconnected from the internet at a blogger conference made it more likely that I’d strike up a conversation with my neighbor.  Next year, we’ll be meeting in Walla Walla, Washington. I don’t yet know if I will be able to pull that trip off, but I’ll try my best. The wine people are my type of folks.  We click well and I enjoy the company of all of them.

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