bloggie comes a'courtin'...

Friday, July 02, 2010

The blog dust has settled, and the next big wine events to hit the Northwest – Riesling Rendezvous, IPNC, a couple of charity auctions – are claiming the spotlight. But I wondered how the whole blogger frenzy – an inscrutable tangle of tastings, field trips, seminars, walkabouts, offline parties, midnight rambles, and constant tweeting – actually felt from a winery point of view.

So I asked. I posted this on my Facebook page: “WA Wineries – did you host or participate in the Blogger Conference at any stage of the game? Please send me a note with your uncensored feedback. How were they? Interested? Knowledgeable? Spoiled? Clueless? You tell me. I will be happy to keep things anonymous if you wish. But I would like to assess the whole statewide tour from a winery perspective. Thanks!”

And the responses have come flooding in, a mix of (mostly positive) comments, thoughtful suggestions, and a few gripes. Here’s a cross-section.

One group of bloggers, who participated in a tasting of Woodinville boutiques, got high marks from wineries.

“Everyone seemed very knowledgeable and professional. Handed out a lot of cards and tasting notes. Have already seen our wines pop up on a few blogs. What little part we had in it was great from our perspective.”

Another event took place in Prosser, at the Milbrandt tasting room.

“I personally felt they were a educated bunch,” wrote one winery participant. “There were people from New York, Illinois, Virginia, Colorado and California and more. A total of 80 bloggers, I did not get a chance to meet all. But my overall opinion was they were very happy to be here in Washington. I met someone from Chicago that carries our wine in their restaurant. That was very exciting for me. I shared information with a man from California about selling wine within each others’ state. The pros and cons of each state, I found that to be valuable info.”

But at least one Walla Walla tasting didn’t go so well. “I have to say they were kind of dead. Didn't ask very many questions and did not seem that interested. What they were most excited about was when I broke out the rosé for them to taste. We kind of had to ask each other some questions and keep it going."

Another Walla Walla winery owner, who hosted what by all accounts was an exceptional tasting event, was unhappy with the ban on publicizing it. Apparently the Conference organizers were concerned that certain events would be over-subscribed if promoted. I have to agree with the winery owner – that seems self-defeating from the get-go.

A couple of more general observations, also from winery owners. “One thing I have noticed since then is that the majority of the blog posts to date have dealt more with the events that were part of the conference and not so much about Washington wine in depth. Some say they like this one or that one but few have provided any comprehensive view of what they thought of Washington wines in general.”

“I attended the Bloggers conference in Seattle earlier this year. I was not very impressed with that group they were non-wine drinkers. That was disappointing to me. And the handful that I met, I tracked afterwards and found all they wanted was the cheapest price they could get for wine. I am hoping that they attended this conference and were able to get a glimpse of what blogging about wine is really about. Or maybe they still believe bartering for wine is their #1 goal.”

“Because of the wine range of backgrounds of the bloggers and wide range of home towns, their awareness was all over the map; but their enthusiasm was widespread and genuine. Made quite a few new friends."

“I was excited but apprehensive beforehand, but came away with BIG kudos all the way around – organizers, Marcus Whitman staff, wineries, and attendees! There was a mix of knowledge levels both relative to wine in general and Washington wines in particular, but everyone was very, very interested. I don't think anyone can argue this wasn't a great opportunity for Walla Walla/WA!"

One last comment captures, for me, the mix of good and bad, serious and sophomoric, giddy and overwhelmed that seemed (from my point of view) to sum things up:

“I had done my homework by contacting each blogger ahead and knew their background. I’m watching their sites to see what happens. There seemed to be lots of interest and good questions. When they came in the room about half of them just sat down and got connected to the Internet. I’m not sure if they ever got around to tasting. Looking at the tweets from these events reminds me of the ‘popular’ kids in high school. The way they stay popular is to always be looking for the newest and coolest clothes, sayings, or social events. Sometimes the tweets remind me of that – who can tweet the coolest thing from the most sought after location. It seemed like a tweeting frenzy when I did watch the tweets…that is the opposite of enjoying a glass of wine. Maybe we just all want to belong to someone or something and this is just the latest ‘gang.’ Sometimes the tweets seem sad and lonely to me. I’m all for this social media but I do wish there were more with substance and not just the next pick up line. Jeez am I sounding like an old fuddy duddy?”

No, I don't think so. It's a brave new world, and too soon to gauge. More to come I’m sure...

32 comments:

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Paul,

This was a great idea. Because not only does Walla Walla get the chance to open the eyes of the Poodles to their world-class wines, but the wineries of Washington get to deal with the reality of Poodles and their self-obsession. It made me laugh that after having the Poodle-proofed red carpet rolled out for them, most of the Poodles went home and wrote about, what else, themselves--their Top 10 list of self-obsessed learning.

The last comment is insightful and inspired. Twitter is for the sad and lonely. Though I say that Twitter is just vuvuzelas, only played with your anus. Can I say anus here?

Must be nice on the streets of Walla Walla once again. Hope to meet you there one day.

Bean said...

Paul, I am really glad that you did that this to give the wineries a chance to share their experiences. I know that many wineries were quite skeptical about this event, and as such we did not see the scope and representation of Washington wines that I had hoped for. The feedback here seems mostly positive and that eases my mind.
Much like we drink wine for different reasons and in different ways, bloggers approach their craft in different ways. Some take it very seriously an some treat it as a means to party. Some are very inquisitive about the process behind that glass and others just care about the finished product.
From a participant viewpoint, I was surprised the luncheon winery on our bus trip, did nothing to interact with us. The wine maker simply introduced by name, told us there was menu on the table that listed the wines and pointed us to sandwiches on the side table. The wine maker sat on a dais separate from the bloggers. There was no tour, no offering of information about the winery. After lunch, we tried repeatedly to engage but it was like pulling teeth to get any information from the wine maker. It is much easier to write about a winery when the wine maker shares their enthusiasm with us.
I also encourage wineries to continue looking for blog posts about their wines. Most wine bloggers have full time day jobs and many bloggers are still working on their WBC posts. I agree that there is more to come.

1WineDude said...

An interesting mix of feedback, Paul.

I'm probably not gonna make any friends with this comment, but I have some question / points for the WA wineries:

1) It's been one week; if they want to see more coverage of WA wine from the event, they need to be a *bit* more patient than that (I have a piece scheduled to post next week, for example). There are *dozens* of blog posts about WA winery visits and WA wine in general already out there, by the way.

2) My understanding (from 4 different sources but not yet confirmed with the WBC organizers) is that several smaller Walla Walla producers balked at the price to participate and instead of banding together somehow, decided to leave town for the weekend (seriously). If that's true, it's a bit sad, I think. The strange fact is that sponsors from OTHER COUNTRIES ended up pouring their wines for 200+ wine bloggers/writers when they were in WA. Something feels wrong about that and if it's the result of WA wineries failing to step up then they have some thinking and self-reflection to perform.

3) Some WA winemaking areas were under-represented. My understanding is that there was exactly ONE winery from Spokane at the WBC. I was told by one local WA blogger that Spokane wineries shrugged this off and said "well, maybe we'll participate next year" which is crazy (if true) since WA is unlikely to host another WBC for many years.

4) During the speed tasting (which I've done four times now), I can tell you that the level of discourse at the table reduces when a) the wine sucks, b) the presenter speaks too softly to be heard above the din of the event, and/or c) the presenter hands out several pages of printed marketing material and facsimiles of magazine articles with text in very small font while pouring their wines (yes, that actually happened at an event where those folks had less than 5 mins. to present their wines to 7 or more people at each table).

5) Regarding this quote "It seemed like a tweeting frenzy when I did watch the tweets…that is the opposite of enjoying a glass of wine... Sometimes the tweets seem sad and lonely to me." - That's making a lot of assumptions about what people are doing between tweets on their phone or keyboards. I'd argue that bloggers came to learn, taste, interact and network, and yes to have fun but really to enjoy wine in the same sense that you would at home with friends, for eample. There's an aspect of "work" involved in this and the tweets by-and-large probably reflect that ethos (at least for the more serious wine bloggers).

Cheers!

PaulG said...

Ron - you and you alone have earned the right to say "anus" here. You have a place to stay anytime you venture to this poodle-forsaken corner of the world.
Bean - I was surprised (and heard many similar remarks) at the number of non-wine tastings that were included. I would have thought WA had enough to offer to fill 3 or 4 days.
Joe – A pleasure to meet, however briefly, and thanks for stopping by my "unauthorized" tasting event. As for your #2, I also heard that there were control issues (and plenty of politics) that kept some wineries disengaged.
More comments are coming in so we'll continue this discussion on Monday.

PaulG said...

OOPS - I meant to write the number of non-WASHINGTON-wine tastings...

Anonymous said...

As A winery that participated, I must say how dissappointed I was in the respectfullness of some of the bloggers. It was a pay to play event, and to have 1/3 of the expected people show up for a morning vineyard tour and tasting on a saturday because they were nursing hangovers was quite disturbing. Vintners have lives and families too - so to pay to give up a weekend and then have the majority of bloggers no-show was a slap in the face. The ones that did show up were enthusiastic, insightful, and asked great questions. Cheers to them.

Chris said...

Great set of feedback from the winery side. It does appear to be all over the map. I wonder if the same holds true for the pre- and post conference tours. The one response from Prosser was positive, I'd be interested to hear from the Cave B, Woodinville, and DuBrul groups. Maybe I'll ask a few I know privately.

I think the WBC and serious bloggers should be concerned when the group in general is taken less than seriously at it's biggest event of the year.

I tweeted (only during the live tasting) about the lack of WA wines, but resigned myself that plenty WA representation was happending at the receptions, vineyards tours, seminars, pre-post tours. etc... I hit maybe 30-40 new Washington wineries and I live here.

To Anonymous winery. It was pay to play for most of the attendees too, plus hotel and travel. I think it's a shame some missed that opportunity to visit the vineyards, but if they travelled across the country and chose to sleep in, it's their loss more than yours.

Jo Diaz said...

Thanks for the insight. I attended WBC08 in Santa Rosa, and the (European) EWBC09.

This year, you just brought me up-to-date for WBC10.

Great read...

Kevin Pogue said...

Personally, I was very impressed with the bloggers. I presented a talk at 8 AM on Saturday and did not expect a big turnout. The venue was packed - thanks in part I'm sure to plugs from Gregutt and Sullivan. The bloggers were attentive, appreciative, and asked great questions. I also enjoyed my interactions with them on the saturday morning bus excursion.

Bean said...

Chiming in on Joe's #2, I talked to a lot of Washington wineries about participating in the conference and heard several reasons over and over again for not joining in, especially in the speed tasting.
#1 was lack of confidence that their wines would stand out in the crowd. I heard this even from wine makers who make some really good wines.

#2 Or some smart aleck would trash talk them. They thought the chance of bad press/tweets was too high for the gamble

#3 Speed tasting was too fast to connect with bloggers in a meaningful way. They didn't want to be "part of the machine"

#4 Too expensive to pay entry fee, wine cost, lodging and travel costs when they didn't know what the ROI would be from blogger interaction

Throw in some wine politics on top of that and...

In response to the anonymous winery, I am surprised about the low attendance they experienced. I can tell you I was bounced from bus to bus finding one that could accommodate my service dog and walker and not put the bus over the magic number of 15 participants. I finally got on the 2nd to last bus and I know there were some people on the last bus. Maybe it was the last bus that was sent to anonymous winery.

Catie said...

Joe (Winedude) is correct that many of the bloggers have had to deal with travel time besides going back to work. After all, many bloggers do not get paid to do this.

There is a lot to say about this experience. However, I have been reading about six blog posts an evening since Monday night and I know there are more blog posts about WBC than what I am being notified of through Google subscription or through syndicated wine sites that are automatically posted via Twitter. Also, myself and other bloggers often "store" info and use the info at another time.

It's unfortunate that some of the winery panel discussions felt they weren't lively enough, but it is a panel discussion after all and as someone who sat on a panel last weekend, it's a two-way street. If our panel had a quiet audience, I would have to wonder what I could have said to make it more interactive.

Who cares about substance in Tweets? If Tweets were meant to have "substance" then we would have more than a 140 characters to use. There are plenty of wine labels out in the world that do not have any "substance" either, but consumers are buying them. And that is the point of using social media in the wine industry: to give information and sell wine. Without blogging and social media, we might as well step back a few years to that limited group of wine consumers.

But I have to ask - is there a hidden agenda of sour grapes behind this discussion? Paul, you said it yourself, you had an "unauthorized tasting" and you weren't around much at WBC.

Scott said...

It seems to me that the feedback was primarily positive here. I think it is interesting that the words from Woodinville and Prosser were all positive as those events were smaller groups of all bloggers who had expressly chosen to participate in pre-conference WA focused wine events. Once to Walla Walla it was a large group of yes primarily bloggers, but also wineries, marketing folks, importers, etc. It is very difficult to guage and respond to every interested parties' expectations in something like this but the general sense that I got from my fellow participants was an extreme sense of gratitude for the WA wine industry and their hospitality. Additionally, there was a very positive response to the wine that is coming out of Washington. Knowing wine bloggers, and their patterns, I think it is inevitable that stories about the specific wine, vineyards, and people of Washington will roll out over the next 3-6 months with a frequency that is inflated due to the WBC being located in Washington. Honest feedback and scrutiny will only serve to make things better so it is very important, but expectations aren't able to be adjusted retroactively. The feeling on the ground was truly overwhelmingly positive.

Grace Hoffman--The Cellarmistress said...

This was my first trip ever to Washington and I believe I was the only attendee from the state of Iowa, I started out last year wanting to know more about Washington and it's wines and terroir. I bought your book and could not put it down. I am now reading it again so I can solidify what I saw and learned on my trip to WBCorBust and WBC10. I was thrilled to be there, had a positive attitude and was amazed at the togetherness and organization of all the events. I've never met so many enthusiastic and genuine people in my entire life! Every producer I spoke with was happy to be a part of this. Washington is an amazing state and right now, I am more interested in delving further into learning more about it than ever! I asked a lot of questions, took the time to try and get to know the producers there and was happy to be there. I have a whole new appreciation for Washington wines and have to admit I've never tasted so much good stuff in one place ever. This trip has taught me a valuable lesson: never under estimate a wine region until you see it for yourself. I'll never think that way again. I went out this week seeking wines from Washington and didn't have much luck finding any here. I'm hoping that this will change as I plan to really talk up my visit to anyone here who will listen. They're missing out if they don't try the wines!

Susan Guerra said...

Hi Paul: I cannot recall if we met but thanks for this post. Very interesting to get the other side's POV. Here's mine:

I traveled from New Jersey and though the conference registration cost is very affordable, the cost of hotels and air travel adds up. I do get paid a very small fee to write the wine blog for New Jersey Monthly Magazine but the travel expenses are not reimbursed. I came because I was introduced to WA wines while working in a retail wine store for 2 years and wanted to know more.

In general I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the wineries and other sponsors but honestly--I was hoping it would be ALL Washington wines ALL the time, which is perhaps an unrealistic wish, given the considerable expense of pulling off an event of this size. I opted out of the 2nd round of speed tasting because the 1st session had many non WA wines and I wanted to save my palate.

Since it is a "Wine Blogging and Social Media" conference, there is a lot to cover. Whoever wrote the comment/loose psychological study about lonely tweeting obviously didn't get the social media memo! :-) I opted out of the after hours parties for the same reason of wanting to save my palate and strength. I think that it's everyone's option to pick and choose If they have paid to be there.

I can see how showing up hungover to the Walla Walla day trip could be construed as disrespectful and I did see some drunken behavior that was rather unattractive, but it was not the norm.

I must say that disrespect was present on both sides. Some of the people pouring wines ignored us and chatted with colleagues. During Lettie Teague's dinner speech, I had to respectfully ask the winemaker at our table to please stop talking (loudly) about his wines so that I could hear Lettie speak. He ignored me and kept right on talking for the duration, albeit in a lower voice. Lastly, the dude at Hedges (I forget his name) on the post conference trip to Red Mountain was borderline hostile in his opening and very condescending remarks to us. Still, the wines were amazing and that's what I will write about.

To Joe Roberts' point that posts need time to write, I agree. I have been slowly publishing my experiences but like others I have a day gig that pays the bills and I can't get it all out quickly.

I hope to talk about individual wines but my main focus will be to give New Jersey readers an overview of WA wines and hopefully entice them to look for WA wines in their local wine retailers. Unfortunately very few of the wines I tasted have distribution in NJ (I always ask) and you cannot ship wines here legally.

I was impressed with many of the wines I tasted and was blown away by the landscape in the wine regions and afterwards when I spent time with friends on Bainbridge Island.

I will be back. Thanks again to all who opened up their wallets, cellars and bottles to make this event happen.

Sean P. Sullivan said...

Personally, I was surprised at the amount of non-Washington wine poured at the conference. Especially for an area trying to increase its brand recognition, this seemed like a real shame. Would people know which wines were and which wines weren't from Washington? Were they paying enough attention? Would they try enough Washington wines to get a real sense of the state or a particular area?

I kept thinking back to the Napa Valley grand tasting at last year's conference. Fifty Napa wineries pouring for two hours with some of these wines, obviously, extremely expensive. Everyone was brought there by bus after lunch so everyone pretty much had to go. That experience alone was worth the trip. I was hoping to get a similar experience here, more for others than myself obviously. However, the Washington tasting Saturday late afternoon - which was quite good I must say - was at an awkward time. It was after the bus tour, after several seminars, after a speed tasting. Many went to their rooms for some down time before dinner. The timing was a bit of a shame.

I will be interested to hear more about the behind the scenes politics of it all. Was there more non-Washington wine poured because other wineries signed up to participate first? Was it because of a lack of interest on the part of some Washington wineries? Was it because of the cost in a bad economy? Was it because there was the opportunity to pour at pre and post events as well? There is an interesting story to tell there.

Personally, I thought the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference presented the Washington wine industry with a unique - as it once every decade or more - opportunity to capture the lightning in the bottle. The Washington wine industry is at an incredible turning point. Having several hundred wine bloggers as a captive audience for three days is an opportunity many areas would pay a lot of money for. Many of these bloggers have a fairly wide audience of extremely devoted wine drinkers. Additionally, some of the print industry's biggest names were there for the conference.

Did Washington's wineries sufficiently take advantage of it? Were they allowed to sufficiently take advantage of it? Time will tell as the story gets told and more posts on the conference get written.

Sip with Me! said...

Interesting article Paul. I was wondering how the Washington wineries felt about hosting us ratty bunch of bloggers. As for the event, I was very surprised and somewhat annoyed and disturbed by the number of non-Washington wines showed. In fact, the wine which seems to be the talk of the event was an Australian Shiraz by Mollydooker. Fascinating. WIth respect to the remark about wineries being concerned that the blog posts were more about the event than about the wines, I have to say, duh. While Washington was there to show their wines, this really wasn't a Washington Wine Conference. It was a Wine Bloggers Conference that took place in Washington.

Amanda Maynard said...

Very interesting post and I'm glad to hear what some wineries had to say. With the risk of repeating some of what Joe (1 Wine Dude) commented on above, I feel there are good points to be echoed and stated.

If wineries were expecting tons of coverage immediately and are disappointed with the amount of coverage thus far, please remember that it is *less than a week* from the end of the conference (I, for one, didn't get home until late Monday night). Most of the bloggers in attendance are hobbyists. We do this out of a joy, love, passion for wine.

That being said, everyone I talked to that was a hobbyist has a full time job outside if being a blogger. If I was a blogger full time, yes, you would have more coverage by now. The fact, though, is that's not true for most of us. If there are unrealistic expectations of how quickly we will write about our experiences, then wineries will continue to be disappointed. Give it time. Posts will materialize more and more over the next month or so. We need to reflect on our experiences before putting them out to our readers.

In reference to Twitter: I'm a little disappointed that there was a negative connotation associated with it. It was made clear before the conference that we were encouraged to tweet and blog as much as possible during the events to give information to our readers. I did just that when it was necessary. Between tweeting, I was interacting with other attendees, going to the seminars, and experiencing the wines available. There is nothing negative about that to me.

While the goal for many local WA wineries was likely to get exposure for their brands and how WA wine tastes, I think it speaks a lot to the actual layout of the conference that many, many people were talking about Mollydooker. Frankly, I was surprised at how many international wines were available at the conference. It muddied the waters of being able to get to know Washington better and that's a shame for the wineries that were there that had to win out affection over Mollydooker's Velvet Glove (which, like it or not, was a hot topic).

To the anonymous winery's comment: I think there was likely a miscommunication to you about the number of people to expect at your tasting room on Saturday. When we were boarding busses that morning (I was on one of the first 4-5 busses to board) they strictly would not let more than 13 people on our bus. If you expected more than 13, it was likely not due to hangovers but more due to the limits they set for the number of people on each bus.

Marcy Gordon said...

I love Ron he always cracks me up. But Ron should know that wine bloggers write about themselves because who else are the wine bloggers supposed to write about? Plus in every seminar from here to Timbuktu, bloggers are told to tell their story, be themselves, tell their point of view, speak and write in their voice. Bloggers are told it’s all about THEM. (BTW do they have wine in Timbuktu? I’m sure if they do the CVB will be getting a letter soon from the EWBC)

I think wine bloggers are the most maligned of all bloggers. I don’t see this type of contention going on with food bloggers or travel bloggers or mommy bloggers. Why is that? I think it may be because the wine bloggers are mainly just enthusiasts who have been given a slight opening in the door due to the disruption of traditional media/publishing and it gives some bloggers a glimmer of hope to reach for more. So the traditional wine writers defend themselves, and the upstart bloggers purse them, and in caught in the middle like deer in the headlights are the PR folks who dare not miss out on what may be the next big thing all the while not really understanding it’s core. The people who really serve to make money out of it are conference organizers and convention bureaus. Most wine bloggers are not reviewers they are recommenders and there is a big difference. If wineries are disappointed in the “return” they should become more acquainted with the process before getting involved. The participants of WBC may be pitched as the next wave of influencers, and some may be, but a savvy winery should look at the bloggers as their potential next customer and possible fan, that is all and that in it’s self is worth a lot.

I think many wineries are sold a bill of goods that if they don’t get with the twitter- facebook- blogger program they will be left in the dark. I don’t believe that for a minute. People will continue to drink wine and seek it out no matter what anyone says about it. But the interesting thing is who are the people being sought? Well for most wineries its people who can afford to buy the wine. Wine making is not gratis. After all the proclamations of “love of the land’ and “sweeping story of seven generations of farmers” and humble family history – it’s a money making proposition. These elaborate “creation myths” that fill the pages of slick websites are for marketing and branding purposes. And the purpose of marketing is to create awareness and reach your customers and relate to them in a meaningful way. The best marketing is keyed to your customer’s interests and needs. You have to know who your customers are before you can talk/market to them. Courting wine bloggers is not target marketing. It’s shotgun scatter.

So if the bloggers are maligned as monsters it’s most likely because the wineries have created the beast in their desperate attempt to stay current and relevant. As far as I know nobody holds a gun to the heads of wineries to participate in the pay-to-play game at WBC. (Well maybe they do, but what do I know.) But honestly, if the WBC is a self indulgent, award rigged, pat-self-on-back love-fest of people and wine… what’s wrong with that? It a great way to learn about new wine regions and taste some wonderful wines. Will the new guard usurp the old guard? Probably not immediately, but I believe they will continue to have a series of smack downs on the way to equalization.

If you take yourself too seriously you are already setting yourself up. I say, do what you want, write what you like, and have fun.

Seattle Wine Gal said...

After reading this post, I asked a representative of the wineries present at #WBC10, Jay Soloff of Delille Cellars to have tea and discuss the topic. Here is what he had to say, as well as my voiced frustration on the distraction and tasting 'demands' at the conference. http://bit.ly/acVZgV

PaulG said...

I'm very much enjoying this discussion, and I thank you all for such long and thoughtful posts. Catie - to answer your question ("is there a hidden agenda of sour grapes behind this discussion?") – I don't see how you can find a hidden agenda when all I've done is ask a simple question and provide a forum for people to answer. I have not edited nor weeded out responses in order to further some "hidden agenda." I did not participate in the official events it is true - I had house guests, a full plate of work, and was about to host four of my dearest friends for the week. A few things on my plate. I was happy to be on an excellent panel with Sean and Co and spent my own time and money to host a tasting of older WA wines at my home. That's sour grapes? Seems to me it's more like a generous gift.

Catie said...

Paul, I never said you in particular had an agenda of sour grapes, however ...

Thank you Paul for your generous gifts. And thanks to everyone for their generosity who also shared their time, knowledge and even donations. As we know it takes a lot of people to make an event like the WBC to be the success that it was.

Catie said...

FWIW: Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures, one of the organizers of the WBC10, addressed some of the above concerns here in the comment section: http://tinyurl.com/2fl5bw6

Cat said...

Even though I have a wine blog here in Washington, I'm a little behind in networking and missed the conference in Walla Walla. I have never been a fan of tweeting; am I really missing something?

Sean P. Sullivan said...

I think it's interesting that some of the immediate reaction I have heard from wineries mirrors general misunderstandings about Social Media. Many think there will be some type of immediate payoff/bounce from participating in the fray. Generally not so, although this can sometimes be the case. For example, I've been noting a lot of buzz about Buty Winery on blogs and Twitter based on their participation on the speed tastings and Saturday events. Clearly they made an impression on many that I believe will have a last effect for the winery. Buty has created a group of evangelists. However, for most wineries the effects will be more of a slow burn and brand building. There will be many additional posts, although as others have noted, this takes time. Additionally, people will be discussing the wines on Twitter, bulletin boards, and the like in the days and weeks to come. Often I see people ask questions or mention a wine on Twitter or bulletin boards and others weigh in with their opinions. Unfortunately these effects are harder to measure or for wineries to get excited about but, I believe, are important all the same. Equally important is the long-term brand building for Washington State in general. It will be interesting to look back in a year's time and see what perspective everyone has.

Allan Wright said...

Hi everyone,

I can give a little insight into the process. Not all wineries participated at the same level. The wineries whom we consider "sponsors" were those pouring on Friday during registration, at dinners, at the After Hours events, and during Live Wine Blogging. We interact with these folks in advance, give them tips on working with bloggers, talk to them at the conference, and ask their opinions afterward. For three years now, these winery sponsors have told us it is worth their time and effort. We get good feedback and make changes to improve future conferences.

The pre-conference excursion and post-conference excursion were also "sponsored" but in a group sense. The Yakima and Red Mountain wine areas brought groups of bloggers to those areas and we consulted with them to make sure the experience was excellent. I think you will find those wineries to be happy too.

The vast majority of Walla Walla wineries participated in the Saturday morning visits and didn't pay anything to the conference organizers. They might have contributed to the transportation costs funded by the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance. We arrange these visits because seeing the local wine area is a crucial part of the wine bloggers conference. My feedback from bloggers from this morning is probably similar to that from wineries: some lunches were amazing experiences while others were lame; some vintner panels were incredible discussions while others didn't take off. Each success or failure is somewhat a function of the mix of personalities of bloggers and vintners at any one site.

We as organizers tried hard to get Washington wineries more involved, giving them first crack at sponsorships. Some (like Ste. Michelle Wine Estates) stepped up from the very beginning. Others never signed up at all. Still others tried to create "out of conference experiences" that we of course did not promote. In general, I am happy with the participation of Washington wineries - we never limit involvement to only local wineries so didn't really expect Washington wineries to have a monopoly.

I have a parting thought for local Walla Walla wineries who participated, even if only on a small level. Walla Walla itself got an incredible name among 300 blogging, Tweeting wine drinkers, so your involvement, however large or small, certainly helped contribute to your overarching brand.

Allan Wright
Conference Co-Organizer

Ed Thralls said...

A conference is for learning, so there shouldn't be a problem of bloggers writing about what they learned at a conference. However, if that is all that is talked about on these blogs and there ends up being very little said about WA wineries, wines, vineyards, and the AVAs visited, etc. then Washington didn't do a good enough job of making a lasting impression. I, for one, am impressed with Jay Soloff, Delille Cellars, Jim Holmes, Dick Boushey and Red Mountain. I will be writing about these in the coming weeks.

The fact that these questions, accusations, generalizations continue to surface is not because wine bloggers and social media marketers don't know what they are doing or are a bunch of hacks. There are some very bright folks that can be found amongst this crowd that are bringing some great experience with technical and leadership skills acheived from other (often more advanced) industries and are wanting to apply their skill in the wine industry after having developed a base of knowledge there as well. Yet, no one seems to think of that or seek them out. The wine industry is behind the times and here is a pool of talent just waiting to be cherry-picked. Yet, all anyone can do is bitch and complain because its easier for those who do not understand something to blast away first, rather than take the time to learn. We are here to help and all we get is flack. Truly disheartening, really.

PaulG said...

Ed, calm down. A run thru the comments would reveal far more positives than negatives, and the negatives could be viewed as constructive criticism, not flack, not "blasting away." I'm starting to think that bloggers have mighty thin skins. Let me assure you, a career of any sort in any public writing medium, whether old school or Social Media, is not for the thin-skinned!

Palate Press said...

Ron's petulance is getting old. When do we get to stop pretending being a prick is the same thing as being clever?

As for Walla Walla and WBC, a lot of the wineries did a great job of showing their wines. Some of them were terrific. Some, however, were not. No big surprise, there, the same can be said of every wine region in the world.

Have any of the wineries offended by the underwhelming response to their pours considered the possibility that people were being kind, nodding politely and moving along, rather than voicing their opinions? Additionally, given the speed of the pours, the tremendous numbers of wines tasted, and the frantic speed of the whole event, I suspect a lot of people are hesitant to write negative reviews. They do that to be fair to the wines, knowing they might be suffering palate fatigue, or just from exhaustion (yes, time zone changes combined with a sun in Washington that thinks its on Eastern Time can be disconcerting).

It seem that most of the wineries had a positive experience. That's great, because I think most of the bloggers did, too. It is fair to note that the conference was HOSTED in Walla Walla, but was not entirely about Washington wine. It was about meeting people you only knew in cyberspace, about learning how to be a better writer, to reach consumers rather than other bloggers, to effectively use video, and much more. It was a Wine Bloggers Conference, not a Washington Wine Tasting Conference. Based upon this post and the comments, I wonder if the wineries participating were given a different impression. If they were, and I hope they were not, that responsibility would go to the conference organizers, not the bloggers themselves.

Ed Thralls said...

It's all good, Paul. Critism is part of the deal, and the best feedback is 360 degrees and goes both directions. It's from within these discussions and continued learning that true innovative opportunities arise. It is also the only way we can all get better at what we do and grow.

PaulG said...

I'm posting this for Dennis and Julie Grimes because for reasons unknown it did not come thru:

Paul:

I posted below (sincere comment) to your blog using our wordpress address in hope that it would help stem some of the negatism that is cropping up re WBC10 participants.

I don't know if it posted correctly to your blog as there was no feedback - you are like myself moderating posts to eliminate spam auto posts.

Hope this helps, and great post on your part.

Dennis Grimes
Eagles Nest Winery, Ramona CA


"Any time a good number of people are involved in any event, there will be varying and dissenting opinions.

As a participating blogging (California) winery, and admitted somewhat old-timer (we/re not twenty/thirty-somethings) We approach each participating wine, winery, and presentation with great respect because my family understands the effort, and yes, passion behind the wine. BTW, we participated in every event - and were on time for each ;-)

Quality blog posts take time to develop so please give the bloggers time to mull over their notes, sort their digital photos/videos and compose detailed posts.

Since we wrote our early-on post at a overview/takeaway level stated concisely, "Washington Wineries and wine growers are a serious and passionate bunch of folks producing great wines - please visit them" We was able to post more quickly because we tend to take concise, 30/40K foot perspectives.

To each and every participating Washington Winery, my wife Julie and I sincerely thank you for your personal passion, dedication, and sharing of your valuable time and resources.

In the end, we believe the wine bloggers will come through for you, their collective thousands of followers will take their comments to heart. Many of those will buy your wines and better yet - we hope visit your wineries/wine regions.

Dennis & Julie Grimes
Twitter @eaglesnestwine

Marcy Gordon said...

For some reason my last post did not go through, But just wanted to add that most of my original post was in reply to Ron. The take away of Walla Walla for me was that via the WBC I became acquainted with wines and a region I knew nothing about before. All the wine makers I met were extremely generous with their time and enthusiastic about the conference. I discovered some wonderful wines in Walla Walla and I will be seeking them out again in the near future. Will my comments help sell those wines I liked? I doubt it. But one never knows how word-of-mouth really plays out.

winepredator said...

I put up as much material as I could during the conference because I knew when I got home it would be difficult between working full-time and taking care of my family. So yes, I wrote posts about the conference itself. I have notes and photos and I hope to write more about the wineries I went to and wines that impressed me over 5 days of wine tasting in Washington, but I don't have a chance to meet the expectations of all those wineries looking for press on my blog.

I don't know who made the last comment (excerpted below), but I bet it was someone at the Cave B tasting on Thursday which featured 15 or so wineries from the Columbia Valley. I know I talked to someone who said she contacted everyone on the WBC or Bust bus; she and I exchanged several emails and she recognized me from my blog.

I wouldn't be surprised if the wineries at Cave B on Thursday were disappointed. On Wednesday, the WBC or Bust folks were overwhelmed: we had 3 meals paired with wines, plus a tasting of Woodinville wines, plus a beer tasting (not to complain!). Many of us realized too late that when you sit down to eat a meal paired with fine wines, you forget to spit (and spittoons weren't provided). Many of us had little sleep the previous night and some of us flew in that morning. We had no time to write, no wireless in our hotel or on our bus. When we arrived at Cave B, we'd just driven for several hours and were hungry and several of us were feeling car sick. We were promised brunch but there was only coffee and muffins.

So I wasn't surprised at 11am to see most of the people on the bus walking the beautiful grounds taking images and notes as well as catching up online.

There is a lot going on at a conference like this. There are so many expectations that it's impossible to meet them all.

Here's the original comment:

“I had done my homework by contacting each blogger ahead and knew their background. I’m watching their sites to see what happens. There seemed to be lots of interest and good questions. When they came in the room about half of them just sat down and got connected to the Internet. I’m not sure if they ever got around to tasting."

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