Wine Reviews Tasting Notes and Education for the Non-Snob, by Vino Joe, a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW)

Key Learnings from Wine Bloggers Conference 2012 (WBC12)

It’s been a full week of recuperation for me from the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference, held in Portland, Oregon. Here are a few key points gleaned from the conference:

1. Sleep is nowhere on the agenda.
In addition to days and evenings filled with scheduled, sanctioned events, the WBC includes countless, “unofficial” after-parties hosted by wine producers and organizations that run through the wee hours of the night and into the early morning hours of the next day. Sleep simply is not an option when stand-up comedians like Joe Herrig (Suburban Wino) are throwing one-liners over a glass of Brunello at 3:00 a.m., or my team is just three points behind in a game of cornhole as the sun is coming up. (What, you didn’t play cornhole at WBC12? Then you must not have visited the Banfi suite!)

2. Coffee is clutch.
This goes along with #1, obviously. Normally, I stay clear of coffee when I’m tasting wine. However, caffeine is needed when one is sleeping only a handful of hours. Luckily, Portland offers some of the tastiest, boldest, freshest coffee I’ve ever enjoyed. And by the way, “clutching coffee” is different from “coffee klatsch.”

3. There is a large number of people blogging about wine.
The number of conference attendees exceeded 400. Not everyone was a wine blogger, but at least half wrote about wine on a regular or not-so-regular basis. When you consider that not everyone who blogs about wine was able to make it to Portland, trying to count the number of wine bloggers — just in the USA — becomes mind-boggling. Or is it “mind-blogging”? Either way, my takeaway is that the wine blogging community, when considered as a whole, has much more power than most wine marketers acknowledge (or understand). People who take the time to write about wine are the same people who take the time to learn about wine — in particular, “hand-sell” wines that are unknown to the casual / mainstream consumer and can be difficult to sell because they don’t have a 90-point rating, a critter on the label, or called “Malbec,” “Moscato,” or “Pinot Noir.”

4. Portland is a beautiful city.
I had the chance to walk around for several hours, and found Portland to be very accessible, safe, clean, hip, vibrant, interesting, friendly, and full of energy. Without question, I’d like to return for another visit.

5. Oregon wines are enjoyable.
As they should, Oregon wineries are pushing Pinot Noir as their staple grape — much like Malbec is to Argentina. Because I cut my teeth on Burgundy, I always made the mistake of comparing Oregon Pinot Noirs to those from the Cote d’Or and Cote de Beaune. What I’ve learned is that’s unfair to both Oregon and France, and instead, it makes sense to appreciate the regions separately, rather than focus on the varietal — in the same way I treat New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as a completely different wine from Sancerre. That said, the wines from Oregon are very good — particularly the Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

6. I’m lucky to be in the wine industry.
Not (only) because I get to talk about wine all day, but because nearly all the people involved in wine are genuinely nice people. Most winemakers and winery owners are humble. Most marketers and sales reps are happy and not cutthroat-competitive. Most bloggers and journalists write without polarizing agendas. The major stress surrounds the quality of a vintage, which is far from a life-or-death situation. At WBC12, I was able to meet and spend time with dozens of truly kind, warm, engaging people — people I am quick to count as friends.

Did you attend the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference? If so, what were your takeaways? Have you attended in the past, and/or do you plan to attend in the future? Post your thoughts in the comments.


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