Monday, July 11, 2011

What you REALLY need to know if attending the Wine Bloggers' Conference

As the countdown to the 2011 North American Wine Bloggers' Conference has hit single digits, I've noticed a measure of lists and tips spring up from WBC warhorses like Ed Thralls and Thea Dwelle; nuggets of wisdom passed down from the grizzled vets on the ropes, the decorum, the trade-secrets...

Now, with all due respect to two folks whom I consider friends, there were some glaring omissions in their posts. Any first-timer should seriously entertain the following in order to maximize the experience:

1) Never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected.

2) Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it's absolutely necessary.

3) Be nice.



...hmm. Er, I actually think that was Dalton from Road House. The excessive combination of pop-culture references and 10-15% ABV alcoholic beverages is taking a handsome toll. Not quite Patrick-Swayze-doing-Tai-Chi-handsome, but in the ballpark.

Alas, I digress (yet again). Sure, I can certainly see some value in a laundry list of rules and tips and guidelines for new participants. However, I don't agree with a "one size fits all" code of conduct for such an event. I'm certain that was not the intention of other bloggers and their lists, but I can also see how a first-timer's perception of what to expect could be skewed by the words of a highly-respected and tenured member of the wine blog community. "If you don't take the event seriously; if you don't kiss up to the sponsors, then you'll become the pariah of a tight-knit fraternity." Again, I'm not paraphrasing what others said, but I can certainly see how some of the advice could be misconstrued that way. Plus a little hyperbole. That's how I roll.

Here are my two cents, taken at face-value, and nothing more: there will be 300 wine lovers descending upon Charlottesville, Virginia in less than two weeks. Some will be there to network, some to write, some to taste and spit and take notes, some to sell, some to buy, some to get off on drinking booze at 10 AM (7 AM PDT). Folks will gravitate to others with similar interests and objectives, and even those with polarized motives will still share one significant common-thread: an absolutely infectious love of all-things wine. I don't know about y'all, but- as a family man in suburban Atlanta- I realize painfully few chances to uninhibitedly geek out with 300 other wine nerds.

Charlottesville is stunning. The people are friendly. This will be a visit to a new, relatively obscure American wine region for many. And corks will be popping left and right. So soak it in. If you want to blog, then blog. If you don't, don't. But I see an opportunity to get away from the gadgets and tweets and tasting notes - that all can be done at any time, from anywhere. But for most of us, there's only one time a year when we can come face-to-face with the people who have shared with us so many laughs and conversations via social networks. Give 'em a handshake. Hell, a hug. And pour a couple glasses, reveling in the fact that wine has done what it has for generations; like an intimate dinner table for 300, wine has brought us all together.

But seriously, Thea was right. Do spit out some of that wine. Passed-out by 11 AM is a silly business.

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