Archive for July 30th, 2009

So where were we?

Ahhh yes. I was about to tell you about my experience at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference in the last post … but then I stopped. Because I’m a little tease.

wench wbcIf I could sum up the events on WBC 2009 into one picture …

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Joel Vincent, The Wench & Don Quixote

… ahhh yes. That says it all.

Let’s start at the very beginning…

A very good place to start. When you you read you begin with A B C, when you sing you begin with Doh Rae Me. Ahhh what am I doing, this is not the time or place to start singing the infamous Bus #4 Beer Song (yet).

‘FOCUS WENCH, focus. Let us start with DAY ONE of the Wine Bloggers Conference.

The entire first day of the conference took place at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, CA.


Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa

WBC Day One Itinerary was as follows —

11:00 AM Registration – Flamingo Hotel Lobby
11:00 AM Meet the Sponsors (ahem … drink wine from the sponsors)

meet the sponsors

12:00 AM Lunch with Sonoma Vintners and Sonoma Winegrape Commission (mmm fried rubber chicken anyone?)

Jeff Stai & Shana Ray

Jeff Stai & Shana Ray

1:30 PM Lunch ends (and the real fun begins!)

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Eric Hwang & The Wench

2:00 PM Welcome and Conference Overview (hmmm must have missed this part since I was obviously preoccupied with sticking my tongue out …)

The Wench & Michael Wangbickler

The Wench & Michael Wangbickler

2:30 PM Live Wine Blogging (Rumor has it that our table — NC17 — caused quite a bit of confusion and chaos for the event organizers. Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil !!)

1WineDude, Michael Wangbickler & The Wench

1WineDude, Michael Wangbickler & The Wench

This event was similar to speed dating. Roughly 17 wineries participated. They were each given 5 minutes to “spiel” and taste each table on their wines. (Even I had to spit during this …) My personal highlights included TWISTED OAK River of Skulls, Shramsburg Blanc de Blancs, Snows Lake ONE (100% Cab) and Snows Lake TWO (Cab & Cab Franc blend).

4:00 PM 2009 American Wine Blog Awards – presentation and Q&A with winners. (Once again, the tongue was out of control and I blame it all on Don Quixote — the infamous rubber chicken)

The Wench & Pinot Blogger

The Wench & Pinot Blogger

Shana Ray and I took an intermission from tasting wine to chow down on some cupcakes from Cupcake Winery made with their cabarnet frosting (mmmm good marketing gimic!)

Shana Ray & The Wench

Shana Ray & The Wench

5:45 PM Grand Tasting of Sonoma Wines — This event was held outside on the pool deck. Unfortunately, I ended up getting distracted during the Grand Tasting of Sonoma wines by a impromtu scavenger hunt for the “Andrew Jackson Dollarhide Ranch Medallion.” Naturally, my partner in crime (Oenoblog) and I found it (even if it did force us to miss out on some harcore wine tasting).


Ryan Reichert & The Wench

7:15 PM Dinner at the Flamingo with Sonoma County Tourism & Sonoma Valley Vintners; Keynote Address by Chris Alden of Six Apart. (I got the steak … mmmm beef)

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9:00 PM After-hours party hosted by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers (what happens in the after hours — stays after hours. And despite the 50 degree weather outside, I did honor my promise to jump into the pool — which was rapidly followed by a dip in the hot-tub)

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Thea The Wine Brat & Wenchie

And that brings us to … drum roll please …

WBC Day Two Itinerary was as follows —

9:00 AM Depart for The Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley

cia napa

Collage of CIA Greystone

10:15 AM Welcome followed with Keynote Address by Barry Schuler on “The Future of Blogging and Social Media”


Internet 3.0?

11:15 AM Keynote Address by Jim Gordon on “The Future of Blogging and Wine Writing” (<– This speech I think I missed out on because a few of us delinquent bloggers snuck out the back door, down the stairs, outside, around the building, up the hill … and into the Greystone Restaurant for some kickass Bloody Marys. There is video evidence of such escapades, however, I will refrain from posting it on the blog do to its nausea inducing nature resulting from my inability to hold the camera still.)

12:15 PM Board Conference Buses and Depart for lunches at Napa Wineries (A group of us crazy kids decided to board the infamous Bus #4. Fortunately, what happens on Bus #4 DOES NOT STAY on bus #4.)

bus #4

The Wench, Rob Bralow, Shana Ray

I was lucky enough to sit next to the founder of the Open Wine Consortium, Joel Vincent. The OpenWine Consortium (OWC) is a global wine industry association, featuring the world’s premier online wine business network, on a mission to improve the world of wine. OWC is also one of the major organizers of the WBC. I would love to say that I picked his brilliant mind for ideas and inspiration but, alas, Joel was afflicted with the pain of listening to me talk … and talk … and talk.

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Joel Vincent & Wenchie

After a slight “detour” and passing around a bottle of wine, Bus #4 arrived at Couvaison Estate Winery for lunch.We were served a delicious assortment sandwiches, cold salads & cookies — which mostly came from local purveyors.

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Couvaison poured us samples of their Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Cabarnet. My favorite of the entire lot was the Pinot Noir. They were kind enough to gift us all with a bottle — naturally, I chose the Pinot Noir … and naturally, we drank it on the bus.

1:45 PM Napa Green presentation –We were informed all about Cuvaison’s green initiatives and dedication to sustainability and environmentally conscientious practices.

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Cuvaison Carneros Vineyard Shot

At Cuvaison there is a shared concern from the staff about climate change and we feel compelled to do what we can to reduce Cuvaison’s impact on our environment. Going solar and being certified Napa Green creates the most visual and obvious initiatives but they are only a few elements of what we are trying to achieve. We continue to look into the little ways of creating change within our own organization and through grassroots networks with our staff, their family and friends.” – President, Jay Schuppert


Bus #4 Group Shot at Cuvaison

And then it was back to Bus #4, which shipped us off to Staglin Family Vineyard which hosted our …

3:00 PM Vintner Discussion Panels. There were 3 wineries on the panel. Unfortunately, the names escape me. They did not provide any marketing collateral, either. So I am at a loss. Luckily, Don Quixote (the infamous rubber chicken) did take notes on some napkins…


After a very sobering discussion panel and what seemed like an eternity, we finally found ourselves back on BUS #4 in route to …

4:30 PM Grand Tasting of Napa Wines at Quintessa. There was a red carpet at this event and somehow I got a “red carpet interview” with StarkSilverCreek on Wine Tube TV. Check out the full coverage here.

Unfortunately, the folks from Bus #4 arrived slighty later than everyone else — which meant we had less time to absorb the event and taste all the wines. The highlight for me was tasting Garguilo Vineyards Cabarnet. Vintage? Oh riiiiiighhht … about that … don’t remember 🙂

6:00 PM Depart for dinner at host wineries from Quintessa

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Bus #4 had the absolute pleasure of being hosted by Con Creek Winery in Napa Valley for dinner. Among many of their great wines, I had the honor of drinking the 2005 Anthology — a earthy, bold and juicy Bordeaux style blend. The food was fresh, healthy and tasty.

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But the ALL TIME HIGHLIGHT of the entire dinner was the barrel blending experience. Conn Creek’s AVA Room Barrel Blending Experience” provided us with a rare opportunity to learn about, taste and blend Cabernet from 14 of the distinctive sub-appellations of Napa Valley. They also had barrels of the 4 other Bordeaux varietals with which we were encouraged to experiment. ava-table-glasses

It was at that moment I became a wine blending mad scientist 🙂 And now I will never be the same.

8:00 PM Buses depart and  return to Napa Valley Vintners parking and the Flamingo Resort. This is when Bus #4 really let loose. No, really. The boys from Mutineer Magazine whipped out Absinthe … and the rest is history. LUCKILY, I’m one to record history … on video.

So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado … allow me to present the ever infamous Bus #4 Beer Song.

9:00 PM After-hours party hosted by ViniPortugal and the European Wine Bloggers Conference

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It was obvious by this point that our little Mr. Don Quixote had had a wee bit much to drink. Yet, we could not resist tasting at least a bit of the wines and ports being poured by our new good friends from CataVino and Quevedo. There must be something in the water in Portugal — cause these kids were damn good looking. (Maybe I need to drink some more Port …)

WBC DAY THREE — Unfortunately, it ended at noon. And I did not take any pictures. BUT, I did learn A LOT about video blogging from THE ONE, THE ONLY … Miss Wine Diver Girl.

Here was the agenda, anyways —

9:00 AM Legalities of Blogging with David Honig – sponsored by Wine Business Monthly
9:00 AM Facebook, Twitter, & Other Social Media for Wine Businesses w/ Janet Fouts – sponsored by Bouchaine Vineyards
9:45 AM Monetization of your Blog with Tim Lemke – sponsored by Wines & Vines
9:45 AMCreating Social Networking for Your Winery with Cheryl Wolhar – sponsored by D.O. Rueda
10:30 AM Beyond Words: How Video Content is Changing the Wine World w/ Bob Asher, Lisa M. deBruin, Hardy Wallace, and John McWeeny – sponsored by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley
10:30 AM Search Engine Optimization, Traffic Building, and Blogs with Doug Cook – sponsored by Mutineer Magazine
11:20 AM Discussion about 2010 Conference with the Washington Wine Commission
12  noon Conference Ends

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Well, I hope you all had fun reading my interpretation  and experience of the Wine Bloggers Conference!!!



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This weekend I traveled out to the heart of California’s wine country to attend The Wine Bloggers Conference.


Sounds weird, right — since “technically“, I’m not a wine blogger (details, details).

Last year, I missed the first ever Wine Bloggers Conference. This turned out to be extremely tragic and I vowed never again to miss such an event.

Although I am not a wine blogger, a significant portion of my “professional” experience has been wine-related. Wine is one of my greatest passions as well as subject in which I have devoted a SIGNIFICANT amount of time to studying.

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I love wine AND I am a total wine geek. (OKAY THERE, I said it. I’m out of the “wino closet”)

I have a pretty decent collection of wine books and for some time now I have been studying for sommelier and CSW certification. BUT, although I love me some geeky textbooks — when it comes to wine reviews, I trust wine bloggers more than wine writers from traditional media platforms.


The wine blogging community is a commnity of wine evagelists, wine geeks, wine enthusiasts and winemakers.

Some blogs are more relevant and interesting than others. Some blogs I follow purely for educational purposes. Some I follow purely for entertainment purposes. And some I follow for both educational and entertainment purposes.

My love for food, beer, wine and social media has given me a community of friends like none other I have ever known.

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Shana Ray, The Wench, Wannabe Wino & Wine Brat (SF)

So naturally, when I heard that a signifcantly large percentage of my Twitter friends were going to attend a conference centered around social media, food & wine — I could not resist attending the event.

Yeah yeah, it was the “Wine” Bloggers Conference … and I write about beer.

Blah blah. All I heard was “BIG PARTY out in California — where the wine flows like water.”

And except for one minor incident (which has been noted and need not be named), the wine did flow … and flow … and flow … and flow …

bus #4

The Wench, Rob Bralow, Shana Ray

No, seriously. We are talking breakfast, lunch and dinner — heck, even on the bus.

But aside from all the drinking, all the food, all the great people, great laughs and great memories — the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference was, in fact, a very serious event.

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Shana Ray (@sharayray) & The Wench

Okay, maybe not THAT serious But, it was extremely educational, informative and valuable — REALLY.

Personally, I tasted over 200 wines. I’m sure that many of the hardcore wine bloggers (aka people who actually spit) tasted nearly twice as many. In addition to drinking and eating our way through wine country — we went on vineyard walks, winery tours and attended several wine & web themed seminars and keynotes.

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The overall experience was entirely too extensive to capture in merely one post. I was impressed by several wine bloggers, winemakers, wineries, wine something-or-others … and well WINES themselves. Lots of hits, lots of misses — but nonetheless, lots of laughs, lots of memories & lots of fun.

Lots of fun.

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Ward (Dr. Xeno) & The Wench

But, ahhhh screw it. As much as I would love to illustrate my experience through the use of witty metaphors and uber creative writing, I would rather just flaunt it through the use of a select series of photos … and one oh so memorable video (which I will make you anxiously wait to see until the end …)

I arrived in California one day before the start of WBC. Instead of twiddling my thumbs or mindlessly walking throughout the city of San Fransisco, I lived “dangerously” and hitch-hiked a ride to Murphys. And by hitch-hiked, I mean I was picked up from the SFO airport by a good friend from Twitter — Russ Beebe, the infamous Wine Hiker.

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The Winehiker & The Wench

Russ kidnapped me and forced me to eat a picnic of prosciutto, cheese, fresh peaches & fresh sourdough bread on the way to visit Twisted Oak Winery. The experience was utterly unbearable …

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The Wench & El Jefe

My visit to Twisted Oak was rather inspiring — and may deserve its own post (re: beer epiphanies). I met some AMAZING people (my long lost soul-mates from Twitter), toured the Twisted Oak Winery, visited several tasting rooms in downtown Murphys, tasted many great wines (especially from Twisted Oak and Newsom-Harlow), drank some “epiphany” beers, enjoyed a nice swim in Murphys Creek, chowed down on some ridiculous good BBQ (mmm steak …) and played master winemaker in a blending competition.

Bur for me, the real “epiphany moment” came after I woke up from a remarkable nights sleep in the great outdoors underneath the infamous Twisted Oak tree …

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The Twisted Oak Tree

Russ (Winehiker) was kind enough to provide me a modest & ultra satisfying breakfast … served straight off the trailer of his truck.

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An amazing nights sleep under the stars — in combination with great company, a tasty breakfast and a beautiful crack-of-dawn view of Twisted Oak Winery — equated to absolute bliss.

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After what seemed like the perfect wine country experience in Murphys, we all headed on up to the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa for Day One of the WBC.

BUT …. this post is already entirely WAY too long. Which means, I am forced to reveal the photographic evidence (with some video footage) of the WBC in a series of consequetive posts.

Have no fear, kids. I will provide you with one little (but ultra compelling) sneak pea k …


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