Wine Blogging & Content Creation: It’s all about engagement

Connections.  Networking.  Friendship.  Community.  These are some of the top reasons that people attend the Wine Bloggers Conference, year after year.  As we approach the 10th anniversary event in Sonoma next year, I have to reflect on how this event has grown and changed over the last 9 years.

Beginning in 2008, when there were a scant 100 of us gathered at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, we all knew each other (or at least knew of each other).   It was a tight knight community of online writers, and we were all learning about the new platform for sharing our stories.  There were, indeed, a few standout stars already emerging, however the playing field was level.  Twitter was in it’s infancy, and there was very little video out there specific to wine.

Moving through the years to this year’s conference in Lodi, a lot has changed.  And yet, very little has changed.  Building a strong network of influence is still about seeking connections.  The primary difference today, is that where you find these connections has changed.

In 2008, we found these connections at the conference, on Wine 2.0 (a now defunct social network for wine lovers and writers), at wine events, and on twitter.  Today, those networks have expanded to include video channels such as YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and more.  And yet, the process of searching, connecting, and engaging is still the same.

As a professional consultant, I network every day.  That is the key to building my brand and my business.  Translating those skills to my blog, I shift my connections from technology and potential clients to wineries, regional associations, and individuals that I would like to connect with.

When you are finding people to build connections with, ask yourself:  What can I offer them with my wine blogging (content creation)?  What problem can I help solve?  How am I benefiting them with my wine blogging?  How am I working on improving my wine blogging?   In terms of the Wine Bloggers Conference, I can offer 9 years of experience watching the conference and the blogging world grow and develop.  In the wine industry, what can you offer?  Do you have a unique angle?  Is your audience something they should target?

As a wine blogger, content creator, digital wine writer, however you want to describe it, I look for these connections.  As Andrea Robinson said during her keynote this year, how do you add personal value?  What are you doing to create value in yourself?  By seeking, building connections, and acting on these connections, you are building your personal value.

But how do you get to engagement?  You’ve done the hard part, you’ve built your connections by going to WBC.  You’ve met dozens of people in person that you only knew online, or didn’t know at all.  Now, you need to act on those connections.  Today, engagement means more than it did in 2008.  At the first WBC, we had interactive blogs and monthly wine blogging writing challenges.  In 2016, we have live video streaming, twitter tastings, and other collaborative platforms to share our wine blogs and create collaborative content.

Furthermore, engagement means sharing and spreading content that you like.  It’s not enough to like a post on Facebook or on Instagram.  Today’s challenging social media culture requires you to engage with these platforms and share other people’s content.  By building engagement with others’, you are attracting other people to your content.

The most successful people in business, and the most successful bloggers, have strong networks and connections.  As a community, wine bloggers and content creators are very open and engaged.  Expanding that engagement and practicing those skills will net you rewards that are unexpected, and enriching.connect

So what are the key takeaways from this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference?

  • Network, network, network.  This is how you build your connections.  This doesn’t mean acting entitled and expecting everything to be handed to you, this is the hard work part.  Attend a local wine festival, go wine tasting, buy wine.
  • Keep in mind, it takes time to build a network.  Don’t expect this to happen overnight.  Just like business, building a network of wineries, associations and PR professionals is driven by your content, longevity, and professionalism.
  • With dozens of social networks, choose the 2-3 that you can focus on and pay focus on.  It’s better to do more with less than to do less with more.  This goes hand in hand with knowing your audience.  Where do they hang out?
  • Know your audience.  Spend a little time finding out where they are, what they are reading, and how you can tailor your content for them.  That doesn’t mean sacrificing what you want to write about, but rather finding new and interesting things for your audience to read.
  • Keywords are your friends.  By doing a little research, you can get big rewards.  What are people looking for?  What value can you add?  What wines do you have in your rack that people want to know about?
  • Search, connect, engage.  Engage in your community.
  • Don’t focus on monetizing your blog.  Monetize yourself (more on this later).  What value can you add?
  • Educate yourself.  Are there classes or certifications you can pursue that will help you?
  • Content is king, both at the conference and on your blog.  Every year, there is some of the same content and a lot of new content at the conference.  But even old dogs can learn new tricks.
  • Don’t be stagnant.  What can you learn?  What can you change?

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  The platforms might have changed, but the core values have not.  Have fun, have wine, learn new things, and meet new people!

 

Tips from the Trenches: How to #WBC16

Two weeks from today, the 9th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference kicks off in downtown Lodi.  I can’t believe we’ve been running this show for nine years, and that some of us who were there in the beginning, what a long, strange, trip it’s been!

Like everything, the blogging and the career have changed a lot over that time period.  You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around here; things are working in the background, the the Wizard of Oz, changing, moving, growing.

One of those things is the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund.  This passion project takes up an inordinate amount of time, particularly the few months leading up to the conference, and tends to take over.  Add on top of the my day job (jobs really), and something suffers.  Sadly, it’s this blog.

That said, I’m very much looking forward to Lodi, and as you can see from my series on Lodi wines there is a lot to look forward to.  As I do every year, I write my advice column to both veteran attendees as well as newbies.  There is so much to do, see, and learn at the conference, as well as networking opportunities and camaraderie.

Each attendee has a unique perspective, but for me, as a 9 year attendees (one of only 5), Advisory Board Member, Scholarship co-founder and Director, and wine industry worker, this is mine.

Practical

  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  This is not a lawyers convention!  It can get chilly at night with fog coming in, so bring a sweater.  Wear layers.  It is HOT in Lodi during the day, however it can cool off significantly at night due to the Delta breezes, and hotel AC can be brutal.
  • Bring multiple devices.  There are often times when a laptop isn’t practical (in the vineyard) and your phone doesn’t have reception.  Brnig multiple devices.
  • Bring your own power source.  Power packs, instant chargers and mini power strips are all critical.  There is often a battle to get a slot in the power wall, so bringing a strip will allow you to share the love.  I love this one as it folds, has USB ports and 4 power slots.  I also love a great power squid.
  • If you have a MiFi bring it.  Wifi resources are taxed beyond belief and are not made for 350 people online all day, with multiple devices.   For extra points, give some karma and open your mifi up for others (your billing terms will dictate this, but if you have unlimited or the budget, be kind and share)
  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Hydrate.  Lodi is HOT!  There will be a lot of wine.  Water, water water.  If you have a metal / plastic water bottle, bring one.  They come in VERY handy!

Conference Etitquette

  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.  This is a business conference.  We want Lodi to LOVE us and invite us back!  Act like your grandmother is in the room.
  • Attend the keynote.  Andrea Robinson is incredibly knowledgeable, and is very open to meeting & talking to bloggers.  She spoke in Walla Walla, and is a great resource (and person to know).  She will have an amazing keynote!
  • Attend the breakouts that are important to you.  We are all adults, and we are all well aware that not every session will speak to you.  However, this is a conference, not a frat party.  We’re hear to learn and share, so get ye to the breakouts!
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Thursday at the Registration, Expo, Gift Suite, and Opening Wine Reception to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible.
  • Attend the Opening Reception and Expo – if you are arriving on Thursday, be sure to attend the opening reception.  This is your first chance to meet the Lodi locals, and meet your sponsors.  There is plenty of time to stop by and still go out and enjoy the evening.
  • Attend the Friday Expo & lunch.  Here, you and meet additional sponsors, mingle with your fellow attendees, and support the Scholarship.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • I repeat:  Hydrate.  Lodi is HOT!  There will be a lot of wine.  Water, water water.

Time Management

  • Don’t worry about blogging DURING the conference.  Time is precious and you will stress yourself out and miss content if you try to blog during the event.  Write your thoughts down and save the blogging for when you get home.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, please don’t be the person that doesn’t attend any of the sessions (that just makes us ALL look bad)
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.
  • Be prepared to want to do more than one thing at once – at the same time, there are often two sessions running at the same time that you might want to go to.  There is no wrong choice, and you can’t do it all so don’t try to.

 

Other Things

  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!
  • Find a WBC Scholarship committee member, and get your swag on!  Rodney Strong #wineloveragainstcancer bags are available at the scholarship table, and If you’re super cool, donate to the Scholarship or buy a souvenir stemless glass ($5 to buy one, 2 free with a $50 donation), capabungas, and other awesome swag.  All proceeds go to next year’s scholarship
  • Get some Blogger Bling (namebadge ribbons) at the WBC Scholarship table on Friday!  They are great icebreakers and support the Scholarship.
  • Say hi to the donors & scholarship winners!
  • There are many after hours parties.  These are not private hidden events, but you do need to keep your ears open.  Most are word of mouth.
  • Twitter is the tool of choice.  The #wbc16 hashtag trends every year.  Other platforms that are popular are Instagram and Twitter.
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Welcome Reception
  • Andrew Robinson Keynote.  
  • History of Grape Growing and Wine Making in Lodi – this is your best chance for an in depth look at the local area.
  • The Truth About Viticulture – a fascinating look at marketing fact and fiction in wine
  • Expo – come see me at the Scholarshp table and get some swag!
  • Wine Discovery Session:   Wine Educator Deborah Parker Wong, DWSET presents From Prosecco to Amarone: The varied and delicious wines of Italy’s Veneto, sponsored by Consorzio Italia di Vini & Sapori.
  • Live Blogging
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country
  • Saturday Breakout sessions:
    • Wine Samples – this is a hot topic amongst experienced media.  Come join the discussion!

And that’s as far as I’ve gotten.  As you can see, there are some sessions not on my personal agenda. It’s not that I don’t find them valuable; it’s just that I don’t think I will be personally interested in them.  In leaving them off my “must do” list, I create some free flow, where I can catch up with my blogger friends, experience some of the local restaurants, join an off the grid get together, or just chill.

I will see everyone in 2 weeks!

 

Annual Wine Bloggers Conference – Advice from the trenches

Yikes!  The 9th annual Wine Bloggers Conference is next week!  Somehow this year went by way too fast.

Harvest is in full swing here in Northern California, kids are going back to school, work is buzzing, and  – 250 wine writers, industry reps, PR plebes, and other will converge on Corning, NY next week.

As one of a handful of people that have been to every conference (shout out to Craig Camp, Janelle & Joe Becerra, Liza Swift and Jon Steinberg), I have learned a lot since the first conference in Santa Rosa in 2008.

What does this mean to you?  As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.

Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below.  Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.

  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard.
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  The Finger Lakes can be very warm and quite humid, but cools off at night.  Jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, something nice for dinner.  Currently the weather says mid 80s all week, but there is a high probability that there will be R A I N mid week, so bring an umbrella!  For us Californians, this wet stuff is exciting indeed.  Most of all,  be comfy!
  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday at lunch at the Expo to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible. Be sure to stop by the WBC Scholarship table and learn about what we do and how you can help.
  • Mix and mingle – the first mingling event is Thursday night, at Riverfront Park.  Wines from Keuka Lake will be featured along with nibbles if you’re hungry.
  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!  All of you introverts, use Twitter!  #wbc15 is your best friend.  Buy some badge bling from the Scholarship table and say hi to your fellow winos!
  • Attend the keynotes.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.  It’s important to take sanity breaks since these are three days of busy events.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • Don’t have any party invites?  Don’t worry!  Stay tuned to the #WBC15 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle.  You’ll get plenty!
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Keynote, of course!  I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.  This year, Karen McNeil will be opening the conference
  • Intro to the Finger Lakes – a great way to get an overview of the region before we start tasting!
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.  This year, all live blogging wines are from the Finger Lakes!
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country – this is one of the best experiences at WBC.  Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries.  The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there!  No cheating now 😉
  • Women in the Wine World – Several successful women in wine will talk about their success and struggles
  • The Spectrum of Dry Riesling – As the Finger Lakes is well known for this varietal, I’m looking forward to tasting a wide selection and learning more about each style.
  • Panel of Successful Wine Bloggers I am moderating this sessions which will dive in to conversations with several successful bloggers, and what success means to them.  Bring your questions and join the discussion!
  • After parties to be determined
  • who knows what else!

I will see you next week!

Kaena & Beckmen: One winemaker, two stories

_MG_2565 After #GoingRogue with Tercero, it was time to meander down the road a bit to Beckmen Vineyards, were the #QBP had a barrel tasting arranged with Keana and Beckman winemaker, Mikel Sigouin

I first met Mikel last year at Rhone Rangers in San Francisco, and when I mentioned that some wine bloggers were going to be in his neighborhood, he eagerly invited us to taste through his wines. Mikael, a native of Hawaii, makes wines for Beckmen Vineyards by day, and Kaena Wines by night, so I knew this would be a golden opportunity to taste some world class Grenache.

Little did I know that we would taste through more wines than I thought possible, each one more unique and delicious than the last!

But before we started this barrel adventure, we had to make our way out of Los Olivos, and down the road to Beckmen.  As I attempted to corral the #QPB out of the door of Tercero, what would appear to our wandering eyes but Frank Morgan – the erstwhile Drink What You Like Virginian.  If you are not familiar with this breed of wine blogger, it is a unique one; this breed mysteriously appears when least expected and is amiable to almost any activity.

_MG_2474

Kaena’s Mikhael Sigouin

Since we were a posse of all girls, Melanie and I shouted out the car window for Frank to get in the car.  A few hollers later, some coming from the mobile command center of Brix Chicks Liza, the unwitting Frank hopped in the car.  It was clear from the look on his face that he was wondering how the wine mafia had tracked him to tiny Los Olivos.  Was it an ex-girlfriend?  Someone who didn’t appreciate his reviews?  No, it was just the #QBP, wine-napping him for an afternoon of delights.

A few miles later, we met back up at the winery and began tasting our way through the barrels.  Here in the expansive barrel room, it’s hard to tell where Beckmen ends and Keana starts, a clear marker of how there is little separation in this extended family.

When the Kaena brand was launched in 2001, it was to express Mikael’s passion for Grenache.  The name itself, Kaena, shows his spirit, with it’s meaning of “potential for greatness” and brings back Mikael’s Hawaiian culture.  Honing in on his obsession with Grenache, he has made a name for himself as the Grenache King, but hasn’t limited his style and influence on the other wines of Keana.

While Grenache is certainly one of my favorites, I cannot slight the other wines that he had his hand in.  As we meandered the barrel room, tasting a bit of this and a bit of that, it was difficult to tell any favorites since they were all so good.  As they age in the barrels for the next year or two, I look forward to a return visit to see how they are developing.

On this trip, I was intoxicated at the vastness of the selection, and focused on the nuances of barrel toast and vineyard blocks.  Admittedly, I didn’t take as many detailed notes as I normally do, and that I regret.

Revisiting the bottled wines a few days later, there were certainly some that stood out to me.  Of coure, that didnt’ stop me from filling my case box up and takeing these and more home!

Beckmen Cuvee le Bec – a GSM with a dash of Counoise, a brilliant expression of Rhone style wines in California.

Beckmen Grenache Rose – a deep rose, rich and bold but still a bright expression of rose on a hot day.

Kaena Grenache Rosé – light, bright, rose petals and necterines.  The perfect thing to quench your thirst and quite the opposite of the Beckmen.

Kaena Larner Vineyard Grenache – highly aromatic and floral, with dried herbs and banking spices wrapped around bright cherries and raspberries.

Kaena Tiera Alta Syrah – Luscious blackberries, cassis and grilled meat, bacon fat and gingerbread

_MG_2574

Thank you for such a great visit!  If you find yourself in Los Olivos, be sure to stop in and taste both Beckmen and Kaena. You won’t be sorry!

Google

Advice from a Veteran Blogger: WBC do’s and don’t

Wine Bloggers Conference

It’s hard to believe that in 35 days, the 8th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference will be here.  Eight years?  Eight locations?  Eight conferences?  Almost eight years of blogging?  It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.  My blog, much like life in general, has gone through many changes in those 8 years, and so has the WBC.  As one of a very small handful of bloggers that have been in attendance at every conference since 2008, I’ve learned a lot, been a speaker, and helped to influence the shape and content of the conference as an advisory board member.

What does this mean to you?  As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.

Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below.  Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.

  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  This is not a lawyers convention!  It can get chilly at night with fog coming in, so bring a sweater.  Wear layers.
  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Thursday at the Registration, Expo, Gift Suite, and Opening Wine Reception to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible.
  • Mix and mingle – the first mingling event is the after hours tasting sponsored by the Santa Ynez Winery Association, right after the Expo hours.  This is your chance to walk up and say hi to someone you don’t know, meet new wineries, and meet other attendees.
  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!
  • Attend the keynotes.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.
  • Be prepared to want to do more than one thing at once – at the same time, there are often two sessions running at the same time that you might want to go to.  There is no wrong choice, and you can’t do it all so don’t try to.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • Don’t have any party invites?  Don’t worry!  Stay tuned to the #WBC14 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle.  You’ll get plenty!
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Don’t worry about blogging DURING the conference.  Time is precious and you will stress yourself out and miss content if you try to blog during the event.  Write your thoughts down and save the blogging for when you get home.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.
  • Find a WBC Scholarship committee member, and get your free Hello Vino GoVino souvenir glass!  If you’re super cool, donate to the Scholarship or buy a Rodney Strong souvenir stemless glass ($5 to buy one, 2 free with a $50 donation)!   It will serve you well for the event and beyond!
  • Get some Blogger Bling (namebadge ribbons) at the WBC Scholarship table on Thursday evening!  They are great icebreakers and support the Scholarship.
  • Say hi to the donors & Scholarship winners!

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Keynotes, of course!  I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.
  • Panel of Santa Barbara County Winemakers
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country – this is one of the best experiences at WBC.  Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries.  The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there!  No cheating now 😉
  • Saturday Breakout sessions:
    • Wine Discovery Breakout Sessions or maybe the Veteran Wine Bloggers Panel since I am one
  • Santa Barbara Vintners Association Lunch
  • Wine Discovery Breakout sessions – these are great, since they are opportunities for you to do a focal tasting for a specific region.
  • And more!  Details are still being sorted out, so I will update my plans as we find out more information about the schedule.

As you can see, there are some sessions not on my personal agenda. It’s not that I don’t find them valuable; it’s just that I don’t think I will be personally interested in them.  In leaving them off my “must do” list, I create some free flow, where I can catch up with my blogger friends, experience some of the local restaurants, join an off the grid get together, or just chill.

I will see you in 35 days and can’t wait to report this year’s news!

Google

 

Bloggers are irrellevant? Really?

How did we get here AGAIN.  I feel like we’ve had this conversation every year, since the year I began blogging.  Initially, it was a question of bloggers, online writers, whatever you want to call us, being irrelevant because we were the unknown factor.  Then it was an issue of credibility.  Now, it would appear, that a few people have taken it to the opposite extreme, and make a leap to the assumption that we are irrelevant because no one is reading us due to overload.

While it may be true that people don’t read wine blogs the way they “used to”, it’s also true that there are a lot more of them out there.  Many of those are noise, and not as impactful as the handful of those who have been writing for more than a year and are a known entity in the blogosphere.

According to a post by The Hosemaster of Wine (take this with a grain of salt people, regardless of where it was published), no one reads wine blogs.  No one?  That’s a curious statistic given my analytics and inquiries from interested parties who clearly read my content and ask questions, inquire about engagement, or ask me for ideas or speaking proposals.  The industry is interested and reading wine blogs, because they are seeking ways on how to engage with bloggers; the proof of this is all around us:  at the International Wine Toursim Conference in 2011, I discussed engaging bloggers, and this year at the Wine Tourism Conference, I will again be discussing who wine bloggers are, and how to work with them.

I think the key takeaways here are that you need to ensure that your blog and posts are relevant, engaging, and frankly – interesting.  Clearly, people are tuning out copy cat tasting notes, badly done videos, and the like.

However, the accusation that wine blogs have turned in to online diaries of what I ate this week is missing the mark.  Wine, in the context of a person’s life, is relevant when paired with life activities.   Which would you rather read?  This Cabernet was tasty.  I had it alone, while sitting at my desk.  Or, this cab went deliciously well with my steak Diane as it brought out the flavors of x, y, and z.

Clearly, people DO love a good story and are seeking that information on these blogs.  Which brings me to a great segway — this year at the Wine Bloggers Conference, one of the sessions will be focusing on creating compelling content.  This is a critical skill to have, and if you are finding yourself losing traffic, or not engaging your audience, then you need to be at this conference.

For me, I am all about engagement.  I speak at wine related conferences regarding engagement.  I tell people about engagement.  I will also be speaking at the Wine Bloggers Conference about Positioning Your Blog.  This is a great time to rethink what you are writing about and why, and think about how you might be tuning out your audience.  Do you even know who your audience is?

I engage with people every day as a part of my job.  They might be strangers, but I am required to network to be successful.  Blogging is no different.  I might not tell every winery that i visit that I am wine writer, but when I talk to people about wine, if the conversation comes up, yes I will mention it.  I am connecting with them, and they are engaging with me.  The vast majority of my readers are not wine bloggers.  Most of my readers are first time visitors, who were searching for specific information.

Yes, there is wine blog fatigue.  So don’t be boring!  Make the story take center stage.  Engage your audience in the story of the wine, and how you found the wine.  I say throw caution to the wind and talk about the weather that day, if you were in the Alps, or in Dry Creek Valley.  All of these factors contribute to the story, which is the central point of the blog.

Even those blogs that are purely tasting notes can still be engaging and interesting.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Search.  Connect.  Engage.  Search for content that is meaningful to you and your target audience, in keeping with your blog’s theme or goals.  Connect with your audience, whether that is on social media or directly from your blog.  Engage with that audience by being an interactive part of their wine world.

 

 

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The Wine'd ing up to the Wine Bloggers Conferene


As I unpack my bags from my adventures in Croatia & Italy at the International Wine Tourism Conference next week, I am often asked why do you do it? Why do you blog? And, more importantly, why do you go to this Wine Bloggers Conference, every year, in the odd locations and the cool, in less flush times and not?

Well, I’ll tell you. It started in 2008, at the “Flaming-O” (Flamingo) in Santa Rosa. That was the beginning of a core group of intensely dedicated and passionate wineaux that also loved to write. Back then, six years ago, (holy cripes!) it was a smaller group and the conference was just an experiment.

Who were these upstart wine bloggers? Why were we all getting together?  There were no end to the questions, but – we were overwhelmingly well received by the Sonoma County wine and tourism scene. So much so, that many connections I made that first year are now dear friends and colleagues. Several have gone on to more luminous careers in the wine industry.

The following year, I was so excited by my developing blog and writing style, and my blossoming friendships, that of course – I returned to the Flamingo or WBC09.  There, divided between Napa and Sonoma, we explored more wine, culture, and the being of a blogger.  Once again, despite Napkin-Gate (you know who you are), it was an educational, hilarious, convivial, liquid weekend of passion and education.

IMG_1759In 2010, we were invited to Walla Walla, Washington to explore the eastern Washington terroir. Of course I went, off with anticipation and gusto. What is this W2 wine? How will it taste? Mind you, I first stopped in Portalnd, for the most memorable experience at any WBC to date; The Double Decker Donut Decadence Wine Tour! A select group of blogger

beel back

brethren hopped on PDX Double Decker, a converted London City Bus, and hit the road to the Willamette, fueled on sugar and caffeine. I will never forget that trip, and we had Part Deux in Carlton this past year.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, before we meandered off to Virginia for WBC11, I had made fast friends with MaryDoug, Liza, Amy & Joe and more.  As a result, we created our own label of sparkling wine, an effort to embody the sparkling personality of ourselves, and our shared passions. I still have 4 bottles stashed away somehow. Can I smuggle one to Penticton?

In Virginia, I met East Coast  that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet, and tasted some…interesting…wine in impossibly hot weather. Yes, there were great Cab Francs and lovely Chards. And then I got food poisoning. The most memorable tweet from that event must have been “Where’s Thea? She’s not tweeting! Is she dead?” To which I replied “No, but I wish I was” as I prayed to the porcelain god for 3 days.

Fully recovered and squealing with glee, we headed up to Portland last August for what is probably the largest gathering of wine writers, wine industry professionals, wine amateurs who wanted to party, and a smattering of Quixicotals and maybe Shriners. You’re probably wondering what happens when you mix these people together: the answer – nothing good. Though the Quixicotal wives really did like wine and were happy to take spare samples off our hands as way of apology for the loud crew taking over.

So why do I travel around the country (and the world) to blog? Why do I spend a great deal of tiem and money travelling for wine, drinking wine, learning about wine ? Simple, it’s my passion. Discovering new regions and experiencing the people and wine culture are an eye in to their lives. Learning from other writers helps me writer better. Every year, every conference, every bottle, hones my skill and helps me determine my best self in my best voice. Yes, that voice changes year to year, month to month. Passions change. Directions shift.

But it’s still me. And it’s still about the story. The story of the friendships I have made over 6 years of blogging and WBC events; the story of every bottle of wine; the story of the new winery that happens to be owned by someone I lived next door to when I was 8; the story of how wine tourism has evolved; the story of my personal adventures in wine tourism.

So, it is with great anticipation, and Veteran status ribbons, that I look forward to Penticton in June. It’s my birthday weekend, and it’s another region for me to explore and think about.

Why do you blog? Why do you drink wine? I write about wine because it’s my passion, and I attend these conferences and network with other writers for community.

Thank you to MyWineConcierge.com at TheWinedUp.Net for reminding me about the passion and the reason I do this, and providing us with an opportunity to stay at the Penticton Lakeside Resort for free!  And in case you were wondering, The Wined Up is donating $5 for every entry to the contest to the WBC Scholarship for every entry, so get on it!

Cheers!

Are wine bloggers and writers influential? Should we be?

There is a lot of conversation going around the blogging world about how, if at all, bloggers and online wine writers influence the wine world.  Do we?  Do we have an impact?  Do we influence consumers?  Do we just read each other’s blogs?  Those are all valuable questions that spawned a lively debate at the Wine Bloggers Conference earlier this month.

One of the key questions that came up was was how do we, and online writers of content, move beyond having an audience made up solely of other online writers.  This naval gazing has been a sore point since the beginning of wine blogging, and while to a certain extent it is true, I think that that is a shortsighted view point.

Yes, many wine bloggers read wine blogs.  In fact, most wine bloggers read more wine blogs than the average consumer.  That said, as wine bloggers are wine consumers, and typically a more educated wine consumer, where is the problem with this?  One thing that is missing in the conversation about influence is that we, as bloggers, are wine consumer as well.  In fact, we are primarily a picky crowd of wine consumers.  So, if you audience is primary wine bloggers, you might actually be targeting the right crowd – typical wine bloggers have more disposable income and spend more of that on wine than most readers.

The counter argument to this is that the wine world is not just consumers and readers of the blogs.  The wine world is also producers, distributors, retailers, and the PR people that help them sell their products.

So, how much influence does blogging have on this collective audience?  Whether blogging as an individual or as a group (like Palate Press), how does the gestalt of wine blogging (online wine writing) impact the industry?  Blogs, and other e-media are, by their very nature, unique.  Blogs are a conversation starter, and the seed to a further discussion and further discovery by the reader.  When you write a post, or read a post, it’s often just the jumping off point for a longer conversation that may or may not occur on the blog post itself.

Case in point:  most of the conversations that happen as a result of my posts are on Facebook and Twitter.  Whether that is on my page on Facebook, in a group that I am a member of, or on twitter is somewhat immaterial.  The very nature of social media means that the comment as a means of feedback is not necessarily the most accurate measurement of the social impact of that writer – and by extension that bloggers’s audience.  Unfortunately, while comments appear to be on life support, they are an easy way of measuring value and interaction.  Until social media monitoring tools can read cross platform transactions and measure tools like Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, comments need to be taken with a grain of salt.  Likewise, measuring tools like Alexa are misleading as they only measure direct traffic to your blog and do not include RSS feed readers and other social media interaction.

E-media and social media specifically offers agility and speed, and the ability to be unique, whether you are a winery, wine business, or writer.  Bloggers can respond quickly and create follow up posts with an agility that no other media has.  You have the power to create direct and powerful collaborative relationships with your readers.  However the conversation gets started, as an online writer, you need to join a crowd that has them come to you so you can grow your wings & fly.  It’s up to you to go out and make that happen.

The under 30 crowd is becoming hugely influential in the wine world.  There is, however, an unfortunate tendency to hyper focus on the Millennial and their obsession with technology.  This obsession with tech toys and the internet is not limited to the Millennials, as the vast majority of Generation Xers grew up with technology and are now the young-middle aged crowd with the disposable income to spend on wine.  As one of these Gen Xers, I do get somewhat offended to be boxed in with the Baby Boomers who might not have grown up around technology.  Yes, I live in a bubble here in the Bay Area, however, the majority of my generation are smart phone carrying, educated consumers that are empowered to make decisions based on information that is more easily accessible.

Another important point to review is that wine is a long tail business.  If someone walks in to a winery or wine shop and buys a bottle of wine, you have a sale.  If you build a relationship with that person, you have a customer.  I think this gets lost in a lot of the conversation about how we influence buying habits; my primary goal is not to have a reader buy a bottle of wine I recommended, however that is often a side effect.  My goal in writing about wine is to expose my readers to new producers and wines they might not already know.  Hopefully, they influences them to seek out these wines, and quite possibly try other wines from these producers.

Wine bloggers are as much publishers as they are writers.  This has been a steady message for several years, and Tom Wark continues to drive the point home.  As such, finding topics of interest that last over the long haul, that gather steam and have direction, will increase our influence.  Examples of this as the noiw somewhat defunct Wine Blogging Wednesday.  The collective posting of a general topic, say Malbec, or Pinot Noir from Oregon, or wines that go with football, not only inspire us to think in new ways, but they create a web ring of posts for readers to follow with a single wrap up post as a jumping off point.

While some find this to be “telling us what to write”, I believe the opposite.  Who doesn’t need inspiration sometimes?   Creating themes that are broad enough to allow us to maintain creative control is the key to a successful Wine Blogging Wednesday or any other themed group posting effort.  However, these efforts have to be regular and consistent or they will fail, as it the case of WBW.

So with all of that, what does the word influence mean in the blogging universe?  Blogger, or online wine writer, influence helps to drive demand for wine in general, and perhaps specific wines in particular.  Even if you cannot locate a wine that I write about locally, you can still go out and find a similar wine.  Online wine conversations get people talking about wine, and this is a primary goal of the wine industry.  Whether or not the wine is in the shop on the corner is somewhat immaterial; the important thing is that we are spreading the wine love and we are educating about wine.  No, I don’t mean that we are teaching you the WSET Advanced Course, but with 90% of wine consumers being the Average Joe, giving a flavor profile in a wine we like can educate a consumer enough to build the confidence to make their own choices at the local market.

Online wine writers need to define themselves clearly enough so that readers can know what to expect.  I am guilty of not doing this well enough, and I tend to morph in and out of themes; however, my specific goal is to write about the little guy, write about the story, and write about what’s going on in my local wine business.  If you write wine reviews, great!  However, you should have some framework for your writing.  With intention and content, influence will follow.

Portlandia: The Blogger's Edition

Earlier this month, 370 or so my wine blogging buddies, industry reps, intrigued consumers, and blogging neophytes converged on Portland, Oregon for the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference.  A gathering of people that cross a wide swath of wine, food, travel and pretty much anything you can think of, the WBC is an opportunity for us to discuss current topics of note, and get together to share.
This year, the 5th installment, was the largest yet.  It’s somewhat daunting, going from the intimate gathering of the close knit blogging crew of 100, to the large scale, multiple tracked event it is today.  Even so, it’s a vast array of information, and something I look forward to every year.
Being in Portland, so close to several of the best wine making regions in Oregon, I felt it my duty to bring you the WBC12 Portlandia Edition!  Here is my top 10 list from this year’s conference:
  1. There is some damn fine coffee in Portland.  Specifically, Stumptown.  But as I was told by my PDX local friend Jeffrey Weissler said “there is a new kid on the block!”.  He promptly gave me a welcome gift of another local roaster, which I cannot wait to break in to.
  2. Doughnuts are an anytime food, no matter what cookie monster says!  mmm VooDoo maple bacon bars make me happy!
  3. Portland has some of the best beer around.  Everyone needs a palate cleanser right?
  4. Never ever ever put Shriners, Quixicotals, travelling families and wine bloggers on the same floor of a hotel.  Ever.  Did I mention that this is a bad idea?
  5. Food carts make bloggers happy, much like bacon.  If you didn’t get a chance to check out the food cart scene, make sure you go back!
  6. The 2007 Pinot Noirs from Willamette are going strong and are quite possibly the vintage of a lifetime.  Widely panned by critics upon release, they are now changing their tune.  Mostly gone, nab some if you can find it!
  7. There is some awesome Pinot Gris, Reisling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay in Oregon as well.
  8. Oregon wineries really like us!  They really really like us!  While they might not get social media, as many wineries are still trying to get their feet wet, the vast majority of wineries participating in the conference went above and beyond to make bloggers feel welcome before, during and after the event.  This included private tours and parties, as well as invitations to visit the wineries on your own at another time.
  9. I was not looking at your chest, I was just trying to figure out your twitter name!  since most of us know each other by our twitter handles and not our real names, having these prominently displayed is helpful.
  10. The WBC is about reconnecting with old friends, learning about what the latest trends in wine blogging and writing are, and having a lot of great wine.
  11. OK one more – while the WBC Scholarship is a lot of hard work (and I mean I’m going to kill you/quit/give up kind of hard work), it’s worth it every year.  The amazing recipients were such a welcome addition to the conversations that occurred at WBC!

That is the short and sweet of it but there is more, much more to come in the coming days.

Up next:  How Bloggers Influence the Wine World.  A lively discussion ensued with a room full of writers, winery reps, PR professionals and others.  We might not always agree, but we all have the same general philosophy.

Speed tasting 12: Chilean Chard

Maycas Limari 2008 Chardonnay is grown 300 miles north of Santiago and 8 miles in from the coast.

It’s 100% chardonnay and sells for $20.

It’s nice that there isn’t too much oak on the front, but it has an interesting flavor that i’ve found in most Chilean wines.

I’m not so much of a chardonay person, and this is a miss for me.

Speed tasting 11: Going back back back to Cali Cali

Ok normally i would NEVER ever ever say Cali. But, Biggie Big is calling my name, and since we’re in Virginia sweating our asses off, I thought it was appropriate as we taste the 2010 Sivas Sonoma Sav Blanc.

This is a VERY grassy and green pepper wine.  It is 68% Sonoma Valley and the rest of the fruit comes from Russian River; it is 100% stainless steel fermented and is aged on the lees.  For $14 it could be a great summer quaffer, but it’s too grassy for me.

Speed tasting 10: Pinot gris agrees with me!

Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Pinot Gris sells for $19 is made about 70% stainless, and produces a lovely wine that smacks of pears.  A litle Riesling is blending in there as well and just a touch of secondary gives it a touch of fizz.  There is also a smattering of Viognier for fun.

I  love pinot gris and this is really a classic pinot gris that I would buy.  The pear component gives way to peaches and other stone fruit, and this tastes like dessert in a glass!

 

Speed tasting 4: Chateau Morrisette

Rose rose rose!  Thank god because it’s hot. Damn hot.  So hot you could do some crotch pot cooking.  *for those of you who never saw Good Morning Vietnam, I apologize but you really need to.

Slightly sweet, wish it were drier.  Notes of rose petals and orange  blossom.  $14 Chambourcin rose, is new to me.  Could be interesting but I really want it to be more crisp for my taste.

WBC here I come!

It’s less than 2 weeks before the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, and I’m finally getting a little jazzed with it.  life has been busy these days, with my day job, the WBC Scholarship, and, well, STUFF but I’m looking forward to a few days off spent with my 300 closest friends in the sweaty summer weather in Virginia. As a 4 year veteran, some things that I’ve learned on the road to blogging:

  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday to learn who has made the event possible; stop by and say hi!  You never know what relationships might form.
  • Attend the keynotes with Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.
  • Be prepared to want to do more than one thing at once
  • have FUN!
  • Don’t be overly structured
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!
  • Engage in the “Anti-Conference” spontaneous events; these are the best way to network with your fellow bloggers, writers, and industry professionals.
  • Participate in the Unconference sessions.  These informal discussion panels let you get involved.
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Bring business cards.  yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read otehr peoples information.
  • Follow the #wbc11 twitter stream.  Make sure you are not protected (my main account is, but I tweet under @luscious_lushes for public consumption).  We want to hear your thoughts!
  • Find time to post a few quick blog posts with your thoughts BEFORE, DRUING, and AFTER the conference.  First impressions are great conversation starters.
  • Spend some time on Friday morning meeting the sponsors.  They are the reason we are all able to attend this event, and they want to know the bloggers are much as we want to know them.
  • Participate, however briefly in the after hours events such as the Other 46 Tasting and the International Wine Night.  While there will undoubtedly be parties at the time time, it’s a great way to get to know other people.
  • Find a party to attend!  This is a great way to get ot know people on a personal level.  Sponsors, wineries, and bloggers all host formal and informal parties during the event.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.
  • am Content
Here’s what I thnk I”ll be doing: 

  • Keynotes, of course
  • Breakout 1 – Online Technologies and Wine. I am really looking forward to hearing more about current online technologies and how they relate to blogging and the wine world.  Hey, I work in IT.  Once a geek, always a geek.  This stuff fascinates me.
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed DSating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  you can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.
  • The Other 46 Tasting – I’m the first to admit, I’m a snob when it comes to wines being made in other states.  But, in keeping with my belief that you need to go with an open mind, I’ll show up to taste wines from Texas, Indiana, and other states (spit cup in hand).  Who knows!  I might find something I like!
  • Saturday Morning Wine Country Visit – one of the core events of every WBC is visiting a local winery or two and learning about the local wine culture.
  • Vibrant Rioja After Hours Party – I like Rioja, and what’s NOT to like about a wine and food crawl?
  • Unconference Blogger-Led Discussions – This was one of my favorite events at the first WBC, and I’m pleased to see it has finally made it back.  Part of the inspiration for me, is hearing what other bloggers think on topics.  This format allows us all to have a structured but informal conversation on topics we all want to hear about.
  • Ignite Wine! – Five minute mini presentations on all sorts of topics.  How much can YOU distill in 5 minutes?
As you can see, there are some sessions not on my personal agenda. It’s not that I don’t find them valuable, it’s just that I don’t think I will be personally interested in them.  In leaving them off my “must do” list, I create some free flow, where I can catch up with my blogger friends, experience some of the local restaurants, write some posts, join an off the grid get together, or just chill.
I will see you in 10 days and can’t wait to report this year’s news!

The Road to WBC!


Wine Blogger's Conference 2010 - Walla Walla, WA

So, as you know, we here at the WBC Scholarship are all about getting a diverse group of bloggers together in Walla Walla to have some great wine, learn a few things, and have a great time.  As you may have read, before & after the official conference, there are excursions to the Yakima Valley and Red Mountain regions.  In addition, several of us are going to Portland for some pre-WBC tasting and fun.

I’d also like to mention that the good folks over at WineCHATr are holding a contest for out of state (non-Washington) bloggers, for a 3 day road trip through wine country.  The WBC-or-Bust campaign is hosting 12 bloggers from Seattle to Walla Walla, and they taste wine, explore the wine regions of Washington, and get to know each other for 2 days before the Wine Bloggers Conference.

The road trip begins on June 23rd in Seattle, where you will be picked up downtown and taken out to Woodinville for an afternoon of wine tasting!  The itinerary is:

  • Food & Wine Pairing at Ste. Michelle
  • Woodinville Grand Tasting at Willows Lodge
  • Lunch at Barking Frog.
  • Palate Refresher at Pike Brewery
  • Ending up at the downtown Renaissance Seattle Hotel
  • A grand Winemaker dinner will close out Day 1

Day 2 you will be carousing through Red Mountain and Yakima, to visit some premier growing areas and wineries.  More information will be available shortly on that day, and you will end up in Walla Walla at the Marcus Whitman for the kick-off to the WBC!

In order to qualify for the “WBC-or-BUST” campaign wine bloggers need only signup on WineCHATr.com, add a contest badge to their website, and then blog about Washington wine. At the conclusion of the campaign 12 bloggers will win a seat on the all expenses paid road trip headed to Walla Walla and the 2010 WBC.

The contest ends in April 2010 and a total of 12 bloggers will be chosen on the following basis.  Two winners will be chosen for posting the most Washington wine related blog entries (minimum of 150 words required for each post). Six additional winners will be chosen for the best category based posting:

  • Top 2 Best Washington winery posts
  • Top 2 Best Washington wine or tasting note posts
  • Best Washington growing region post
  • Best Washington vineyard post

For all the details on how to enter, head on over to WBC or Bust for the complete rules and instructions.

Special thanks to WineChatr and WBC or Bust for their support of the WBC and the WBC Scholarship!  Creative ideas like this are always welcome, and the unique experience for out of state bloggers is guaranteed to delight.  plus, it’s easier and cheaper to fly to Seattle, so enter and good luck!

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