2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: My Thoughts

Véraison at Sanford Winery
Véraison at Sanford Winery

Santa Barbara County was my third Wine Bloggers’ Conference. I attended for the first time in 2011 in Virginia, just shortly after I created Traveling Wine Chick. My second conference was 2013 in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia with a pre-conference excursion to Lake Chelan, Washington. I am not really a rabble rouser, but more of a polite Southern Belle type (with the accent to match), so I won’t be ranting in this post. I am happy to have been able to attend this conference. Below are some of my thoughts.

Dinner at Sanford Winery
Dinner at Sanford Winery

Thank You
Thank you so much to the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, Zephyr Adventures, Vincent Group Consulting, the Marriott Santa Ynez Valley, the conference sponsors and partners, the wine producers, and everyone else who was involved in this conference. From this participant’s point of view, it appeared to go off without a hitch.

How the Pros Taste
How the Pros Taste

Most Interesting Session Surprise
Wine Discovery Hosted by Jackson Family Wines – How the Pros Taste included a panel comprised of professional wine writers and reviewers Steve Heimoff, Joe Roberts, and Patrick Comiskey. At first, I was a bit star struck to be tasting a selection of wines with these guys as the helm. However, none of the panelists guessed correctly the mystery wine we tasted, which was a wonderful reminder that we are all human and that our palates can be swayed not only by taste, but by a seed of perception planted in our minds.

Dinner View at Sanford Winery
Dinner View at Sanford Winery

My Excursion
I was fortunate to have gotten on the bus to Sanford Winery, where we enjoyed the story and journey of Sanford, a grand tasting of Sta. Rita Hills and other Santa Barbara County wines in the cellar, and a wonderful chef-prepared dinner outside accompanied by a beautiful vineyard setting and sunset. This excursion rivaled my excursion last year which culminated at Tinhorn Creek Winery with paella. Sanford went above and beyond to give my group a wonderful lasting impression of the Sta. Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County and their wines.

The Jordan Wines
The Jordan Wines

My Favorite Official After Party
Jordan Winery and J Vineyards’ after party last year in Okanagan was so much fun, but this year it was better (translation: had space for more people) as they were able to secure a larger space at the hotel instead of a hotel room suite. There was something for everyone: sparkling, rosé, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a stellar vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres. The unexpected highlight was The Drunken Cyclist sabering a bottle of sparkling wine with a wine glass. True story.

Soléna Estate Pinots
Soléna Estate Pinots

Cool Rogue Events
There were a few off-the-schedule, unsanctioned (rogue) sessions in which I participated and was glad I made the choice to break the rules, so to speak. Soléna Estate outdid themselves hosting a hotel suite of Oregon Pinots to taste along with some wines from British Columbia. Shawn Burgert organized a wonderful, relaxed media meet and greet, Authentic Press, at Saarloos + Sons with some of Santa Barbara’s winemaker stars and small producers. These are the kinds of interactions that need to happen more often. Nothing beats establishing real-life connections among wine consumers, writers, and producers.

Evening at Saarloos + Sons
Evening at Saarloos + Sons

Suggestions for Next Year
I am already booked to attend the 2015 conference in New York’s Finger Lakes, one of my favorite wine destinations, so here are some suggestions for next year’s planners. I would love to see a track that runs throughout the conference for just the Finger Lakes, for those who want to delve in deeper into the region, its wines, its wineries, and its winemakers. Along that same theme, perhaps develop other tracks that might include tasting practice and evaluation, successful writing/blogging techniques, wine tourism, etc. I would also like to get out of the hotel more and see the Finger Lakes and its wineries. Perhaps we could have two excursions or enjoy a breakout session or two outside of a hotel conference room.


22 thoughts on “2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: My Thoughts

  1. Great post Beth! I agree on all of your points, especially about gratitude toward all the organizers, sponsors, partners, and of course the wineries. As one of the dissenters to whom you alluded, I just wanted to clarify one thing—I appreciated all the sessions, I just thought a couple of them could have been more focused on blogging and bloggers.

    Again, great wrap up!

    1. Hi Jeff!
      I thought all of the dissenters made great points. I should have attended the professional print writers’ session for more controversial content. Actually my real conference highlight was meeting you and Joe Roberts standing side by side in the Solena suite. 😉

    1. Thank you for commenting, Doug. I had a good time. You better attend in FLX. If I can fly all the way across the country to attend, you can drive 4-5 hours. 😉

  2. Beth! Nice recap. Good to see you at the conference. Appreciate that you are a ‘polite Southern Belle type’ and didn’t jump on the ranting bandwagon. See you in FLX. Cheers!

    1. Thank you, Frank. Good to see you, too. If it weren’t for you, I would have missed the Solena Estate and #BCWine tasting. I managed to remain unscathed because I missed a couple of the controversial sessions.

    1. Thank you, Steve. I just found out this week (after 11 weeks) that I passed my WSET Level 3 Advanced exam and still wonder how I really did on the blind tasting, besides enough to pass. 🙂

  3. I was so bummed that I couldn’t attend. I’ll be traveling out to the region next week and can’t wait. Brilliant ideas for next year. Off to check on getting tickets. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Kelly! You will have a great time! Hope you will consider attending WBC15 in the Finger Lakes. Cheers!

  4. Beth,
    Nicely said. I appreciate and agree with your suggestions to Zephyr for FLX. I believe they did a great job and know that they must appreciate constructive and respectful suggestions for future conferences. It was nice to meet you, even if for such a brief time (what 2 minutes! :-). See you at FLX! (Oh…and keep hearing about The Drunken Cyclist sabering a bottle of wine…Man, I missed it!)

    Miki “This is the Life” Winer

    1. The sabering was at the Jordan/J after party, as well as another party, I think. I saw the Jordan/J performance.

      My primary complaint is that I’ve been three times and nothing has really changed regarding the schedule. I’m willing to pay a little more so that more meals are included as well as more “out in the vineyard” experiences.

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