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.


9 Responses

  1. Interesting to note that last year, my purpose for attending the conference was as PR person and to meet everyone, this year I came more as a wine blogger AND a marketing person.

    What makes the difference between PR people like me and Rob and those there to “observe” is that extra connection you create when at events like these. Though, I cannot speak for the rest of the buses, we had a mix of PR people, winery owners, Joel, magazine people and top wine bloggers such as yourself, the Huston Winos, Catie, Ward and Thea (and The Beerwench in a category of her own) all intermingling and getting to know each other better, not just to observe that which might be unknown.

  2. Hi, your post captures a couple things that I felt too. 1) The population was less citizen blogger than last year, and, to my mind, that made it a bit more stodgy and less fun and 2) I wanted more unscripted time for mingling. That being said, I had a great time and hope I can make it next year.

  3. Nice round-up of the action. As a PR person, I think it was good to get a grip (though I had a loose one before) on the nature of bloggers and what they are like in person… admittedly something I’ve developed with mag writers as a way of becoming more comfortable and at ease in working with them (with the reverse being true too, I suspect). I also think that the community would like the personal connection with the industry. It furthers the growth of wine blogging. And, we PR and industry people know how to party too. Re-measure that next year in Walla Walla!

  4. Megan, I appreciate your observations; I felt some of what you felt, too. Indeed I was elated to see the proportion of industry/PR folks in attendance not only because they have come to recognize the power of blogging but because they recognize the value of establishing relationships with the wine blogging community. And we, them! In fact, I think “they” is actually becoming “we” – and that’s good.

    I rather like that you wrote this observational/introspective post. I wannabe reading more posts like these! 🙂

    And thank you once again from the bottom of my left ventricle for your outstanding and continuing generosity to me. Last week was truly memorable in your company.

  5. Wow, a lot of great points made in this post and in the comments.

    My own thoughts echo what Shana said. There is a difference between observing and participating. And I think we all felt it.

    I think Robert says exactly the reason why all of the PR folks were there.

    I think I want to delve deeper into this…

  6. Also, how can I thank you enough for posting the most horrible photo of me from the weekend… 😉

  7. I wished I could have been able to meet and/or talk to more folks as well. But I don’t see it as much a result of too many PR people, or them wanting to “observe us.” I see it rather a result of trying to do way too many things in one day (Saturday) and not leaving room for informal networking (like your lobby shoot the shit session)

    For my money we could dump the whole “Wine Blogger Awards” event and have more time for small group interaction. Have it as part of one of the dinners, at the end, so if people don’t care, they aren’t wasting an entire hour.

    I very much enjoyed hanging with my buddies on the bus, but I’d rather had some activities that I could self-select (not on Sunday) so that I could interact with different people or be able to meet some of the people I have been tweeting with.

    I really enjoyed our pre- and post WBC events the most. That might be the best time to “hang with your peeps” and have many more opportunities to move in and out of other groups during the rest of the conference.

    The 9 am to 9 pm with basically the same 25 people to me, created a missed opportunity for the newer bloggers to learn from the veterans.

    That said, I already miss you and the rest of the Thea posse, and wish we could all meet for a glass of wine more often 🙂

  8. Hey All-

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    I didn’t mean at all to suggest that having the PR/industry folks hindered interaction. In fact, I quite like many industry/PR folks very much! I still stand by the statement that I felt a little like a goldfish, and wish I had more time to spend with everyone, as much as I love all the people on my bus! The set up this year made me feel disconnected from everyone who wasn’t on my bus….I didn’t feel as if I got to develop relationships as much since the one full day was mainly spent with the 25 folks on the bus.

    I also truly missed the ability to choose whether or not to attend certain activities and to have at least a bit of during the day downtime. The unscheduled pool party last year was my favorite time of the whole conference.

    That said, I loved reconnecting with my old friends and meeting/connecting with at least some new ones! I advocate for more large (or larger) group events for next year.

    Would love to grab a glass with any of you any time….let me know next time you make your way to the DC area!

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