Back from my 5th Wine Blogger Conference, held this year in Pentiction, BC, I find myself again inclined to ruminate on what I learned, saw, drank, ate, etc., while spending 4 days in a new-to-me wine region. Simply because I am tired of repeating myself, please see, in particular, #s 4, 8, and 10 from last’s year’s retrospective on the conference. Those items still stand for me as takeaways from this conference. And every other WBC I’ve attended. Despite some of those complaints (and positives), I will be back to attend the 7th annual WBC in Santa Barbara next July.
1.) I no longer look like my picture. After 6 years, this is the first time not a soul made that comment to me. So either I’ve changed quite a bit (possible since I have brown curly hair now…) and I need to update my photo or I’m simply not as present on social media as I used to be. My best guess is a combination of the two. I vow to be better about both things, updating the photo and being more active on Twitter.
2.) We could not have asked for a more picturesque place to hold the conference. The Okanagan Valley is simply stunning. Not to mention, the weather cooperated beautifully and the days were sunny, breezy and delightful. I stayed in two locations while in the area, Kelowna and Pentiction. While I can’t choose a favorite, each had its strengths. I’d highly recommend the Manteo Resort in Kelowna for families. I stayed in a “villa” on the property (basically a townhouse) that had a full living area, separate full kitchen, laundry facilities, 2.5 baths, and 2 bedrooms. The resort offered water sports, pools, playgrounds, a fantastic restaurant, and proximity to many vineyards. At Penticton Lake Resort, I’d think singles or couples would find it more appealing. While still offering water sports, a pool, and proximity to vineyards, it had multiple restaurants, bars, a club, a casino, and more typical hotel style rooms. Both beautiful properties, I’d happily return to either.
3.) That said, a major bummer of the conference turned out to be the inability to bring wine home and being unable to get the wines in the States. You pretty much have to go to BC to taste and drink BC wines. I took home the legal number of bottles (without having to pay extra duty, that’s 2) so I’m pleased to have two (plus 2 others I paid duty on) of my favorites to taste with Mr. Wannabe Wino, I’m disappointed to not be able to get anything else I tasted.
4.) If you make it to the area, check out Tantalus Vineyards. Hands down my favorite stop of the trip, both for the food, the wine, and the experience. I have a nifty video of the bee keeping demonstration we were treated to ready to post when I figure out how to do so. Two of the wines I brought home, I purchased at Tantalus, including an interesting sparkling brut riesling.
5.) The smaller nature of this year’s conference truly appealed to me. It reminded me more of the first 2 years of the conference. I had time to talk to people. We had many events together. It was more intimate. I made new friends this year. I fully understand the conference is a business, however, at the end of the day, it needs to remain appealing and useful to those who attend. When attendance is almost double what it was this year, that gets lost.
6.) Wines of Uruguay! Wines of Uruguay! Wines of Uruguay! Get them any way you can. Even if you have to mud wrestle an Uruguayan for them since they drink most of the wine they produce. Especially the Albariño from Bouza. Stunning wine.
7.) The conference was over-scheduled. Again, I understand that this is a money-making venture. I also understand that I am in no way obligated to attend every event. However, having scheduled events running until 11 pm every night is just too much. Some people actually want to go to bed earlier than that and may miss out on something they’d really like to attend simply by virtue of the fact that they don’t want to be exhausted for the next day of the conference. This particularly struck me on Friday, when we went on our excursion and then were bused immediately to an event over an hour from the hotel with no option to return to the hotel without attending, then had to await buses to take us back. I was wet (more on this later), exhausted, and wanted to leave, but didn’t end up being able to get on a bus home until 10:30 and didn’t arrive back to the hotel until almost midnight. The event the next morning started at 7:15. That’s not enough sleep.
8.) Since I’m recommending wines, here’s one from another region that caught my attention: the 2010 Kacaba Reserve Cabernet Franc. If you ever get to the Niagra wine region, you should most definitely look Kacaba up. Worth it alone for the Cabernet Franc.
9.) A small list of places to eat for sure if you make it to either Kelowna or Penticton: Waterfront Wines (holy cow can that man make a gourmet waffle and poach an egg), Smack Dab (the focus on local beers, with at least 15 on tap, totally won me over), Brodo Kitchen (in Penticton, no website, but they had fresh strawberry juice that rocked my socks), The Cupcake Lady Cafe (don’t be fooled by the name, the breakfast crepes were drool-worthy), The White Apron (fresh made ham and cheese croissants, think pain au chocolat but with ham and cheese), and Hooded Merganser (duck breast poutine, need I say more?).
10.) Go visit Craig Camp at Cornerstone Cellars. I know I’ve said it before, but he’s sincerely one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of associating with, and his wines are damn good.