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

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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 […]

Refugio Ranch – a hideway for the stars

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After the mayhem of the Wine Bloggers Conference had subsided a bit, the #QBP (and token Joe) decided to stick around a bit longer an enjoy the relative peace of Los Olivos on a Sunday afternoon. As luck would have it, fearless leader Melanie had arranged for a visit to Refugio Ranch Winery for some tasting and tweeting.  As we gathered in Los Olivos to relax in the Montana style hunting lodge tasting room, I could tell it was going to be a great visit.  But the tasting room was only the beginning… In 2005, owner Kevin and Niki Gleason found the 415 estate property, which they planted to 26 acres of vines.  Intending to maintain the property, tucked behind the town and well hidden form any view or civilization, the estate ranch is a piece of history that is truly stunning to enjoy.  Our group was whisked away from the tasting room and taken through the winding roads of the Santa Ynez hills, stepping back in time as we drove farther out of time. Approaching the retreat house, you can see the prime acreage planted to Rhone grapes, and the careful maintenance of the land is evident by the sprawling gardens, oak trees, and agriculture use.  There is no monoculture here. The Grape Whisperer, aka vineyard manager Ruben Solorzano, carefully selected blocks and varieties that he thought would best suit the property.  Winemaker Ryan Deovlet began producing these amazing wines in 2011, and together with the Gleasons, they have created a small slice of heaven. Tucked away on the ranch, the guest house is a rustic reminder that this is still a weekend retreat for the family.  Sitting on the porch, overlooking the ranch, you might think you were an extra in Little House on the Prairie – except the wine in your hand will make you forget about everything modern, sit back, and relax.  It’s no coincidence that you feel your inner cowgirl / cowboy coming out on this property, much like a back lot at Universal Studios, as Refugio Ranch was an untouched cattle ranch that had been in operation for centuries.  The transition to vineyards was a natural one, but the owners are carefully maintaining the native habitats and ecosystems, while using the best pieces for vineyards – maintaining a clear balance between past, present, nature, and man. Refugio Ranch is the only vineyard on this side of the Santa Ynez River, and gently rolls up from teh river to the ridge.  With only 26 acres planted, it’s hard to spot the vines, but easy to taste the terroir that makes this property unique.  The prime area is only 6 miles from the ocean, and is planted in salty, ancient sandy loam – the result of ancient sea beds, and long term drought.  This area of Santa Ynez gets very little fog in the morning, but a lot in the evening, lending a cooling influence perfect for those Rhones. Keeping in tune with the cowboy theme, […]

Naramata Bench adventures

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 On the first full day of the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, while I was doing some last minute rehearsal and logistical planning for my discussion on Saturday about positioning your blog(more on that later however), the rest of the attendees were enjoying some interesting insights on podcasting, the use of photography, and other digital media in their blogging efforts. After a morning and afternoon filled with Google Plus, Compelling Content, Wines of Ontario, and a rather wonderful speech from author James Conway, we were off on our chosen buses to our evening excursions to local wineries. Unlike past WBCs, we were able to chose our buses based on an activity, or theme.  I chose the paddleboarding adventure, since I hadn’t been to the Naramata Bench area of the Okanagan and was curious. Off we went in our two mini buses, darting in and out of wineries for a quick dry by tour before stopping to hear more about the unique terroir of the area.  The Naramata Bench Wineries Association is a group of 24 wineries that stretch along 24 kilomenters of lakeshore, both high and low, on the east side of Lake Okanagan. With sandy cliffs and gently sloping lakeside land, these vineyards have a unique climate that is perfect for some of the areas Bordeaux styel reds.  The views aren’t bad either! Our adventure took us through a vineyard, and culminated at Sandy Beach Lodge, where the Naramata Bench wineries were hosting a walk around tasting and dinner, showcasing the best of the area. In addition to the tasting, here at the sandy beach, we had the option of partaking in the paddleboarding.  Now, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion (hey it was my birthday!) but several of my blogging brethren certainly did!     If you go, be sure to stop by these wineries: Black Widow Winery – specializing in single vineyard wines, I especially liked the Merlot. Elephant Island Orchard Wines – I was not expecting to enjoy these fruit wines, but boy was I wrong.  Some were more like a hybrid between wine and cider, others were refreshing and unexpected. Howling Bluff – I love Pinot Gris, and the Okanagan makes some stunning examples.  This is one of my favorites. Popular Grove – the view from the terrace is simply stunning and second to none.  The home of Vanilla Pod restaurant, this was my favorite stop on my first visit to the region.  The red wines are world class and I wish I could take home a case! With four seasons and a festival for each one, now is the time to visit the area! Google    

How to be a good conference attendee

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It’s July 31st.  HOW is it the end of July already?  Eeks.  Must.  Go.  Pack.  I’ll be leaving in 10 days for some pre Wine Bloggers Conference fun, and meandering through Oregon experiencing the best of the Willamette with my friend from Fab OC Wine Chick.  Can we say I cannot wait? But really, the point of my trip to Oregon is to attend the 5th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, where 350+ wine bloggers, food bloggers, travel bloggers, and industry people of all sorts will get together to exchange ideas, get to know each other, and learn from each other.  What a way to spend a weekend! That said, there are a large amount of WBC Virgins attending this year.  Even those that have attended before have been guilty of not following some of these suggestion below, and have left a…lasting impression.  Here are a few things I have learned from my five conferences.  Five years and five conferences, the event has grown and changed – but most of these tips hold true no matter the size. 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.  I will be there manning the WBC Scholarship table for the first time (YAY!), so if you’ve ever wondered what we’re about, please come talk to us. Attend the keynotes with Rex Pickett and Randall Graham –  The keynotes are a fascinating way to get to know how the wine community thinks of bloggers, and also, how they became who they are. Attend the breakouts –  There is a lot to learn.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While you need choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, not attending them is just a waste of your time. 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. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Our goodie bags are sure to contain an aluminum water bottle which you can use to fill up at every opportunity. Don’t forget to sleep –  There is nothing worse than a blogger snoring in a session. Enjoy your wine responsibly – no one likes a drunk blogger.  It is embarrassing for others, irresponsible, and sets a bad tone.  Additionally, it is not looked upon favorably by speakers and sponsors when the audience is only half full after a night of partying.  You will miss parts of the conference while sleeping off your hang over!  By all means, enjoy yourself.  I certainly plan to partake.  But if you cannot get your butt int he chair the next morning, please go to Vegas instead. Engage in the spontaneous events – these are the best way to network with your fellow bloggers, writers, and industry professionals.  Going […]

Ogopogo and other fish tales from the north

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When I first found out that the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference would be in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, I, like many fellow bloggers, was somewhat dubious.  Canada?  Passports?  No transport of wine?  What the heck? Little would I know that many months later, I would fall in love with this isolated region east of Vancouver.  When flying in to the Okanagan Valley from Calgary, as I did, you get a bird’s eye view of the long, thin lake and the mountains that surround it.  It reminds me a lot of Lake Tahoe, except that is a glacial valley and not a caldera as Tahoe is. It’s here that the requisite lake monster, Ogopogo calls home.  You know the type – looks like a dinosaur, swims around, might be friendly, might eat small children.  Every large inland body of water has one:  Lake Tahoe has Tahoe Tessie; Lake Champlain has Champ, and of course – Loch Ness has Nessie.   These Darwinian mysteries swim the depths of these lakes and draw tourists to the souvenir stands.  But…I wonder if Ogopogo likes wine? The wine region is located in a narrow glacial lake valley, with Okanagan Lake to the north, and the much smaller Skaha Lake to the south.  There are actually several lakes dotting the region to the south, with the Okanagan River connecting them.  Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake were at one point a continuous body of water after the glaciers melted, but now, the town of Penticton  separates the two on a narrow strip of land. It is there in Penticton, and the base of Okanagan Lake that the wine bloggers will gather in June of 2013.  A small beach resort town, it’s cleverly walkable, with the lakeshore next to our host hotel (and casino…which I expect will have an interesting impact on the bloggers!), and wineries within a short drive. This steep sided valley is very reminiscent of the Rhine in Germany.  Historically fruit orchard territory, it is increasingly becoming the Napa Valley of the north.  The first known wine was produced in the Okanagan in the mid 1800s for the mission, which of course required Sacramental Wine.  However, much like the U.S., Prohibition wiped out the early vinous settlers, and the area turned the focus back to fruit production.  Once Prohibition was repealed, there was a booming fruit wine industry, but traditional wines were not produced here again in earnest until the 1970s. At that time, the first vinifera grapes were planted, focusing on the aromatic whites of Europe, such as Riesling, Ehrenfelser and Scheurebe which were well suited to the northern climate.  In the late 70s and early 80s, more and more wineries popped up.  The region has seen a massive growth in the last 20 years and has changed from a fledgling area with experimental still wines, to one of elegance and unique terroir.  The Okanagan started to gain more attention int he early 1990s when winemakers and consultants from around the world were courted to produce in the region.  This draw resulted in cross border penetration, with Old World winemakers from France and Germany mingling with New World rebels from Napa and Chile. […]

WBC here I come!

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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 […]

The Road to WBC!

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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!

It’s Bloggership Time!

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Happy New Year!  Boy am I glad 2009 is over.  While there were some fabulous times last year, the last few months were pretty wretched for me.  Today is 1/02/2010 however, and as a palindrome, I’m thinking it’s good luck. To kick this year off with a bang, I’m here to announce the 2010 Wine Bloggers Scholarship applications and donations are open!  This year, we are headed to Walla Walla in June to talk about wine, blogging and social media.  As with the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, this 3 day symposium brings together professionals, bloggers, winemakers and more to discuss the impact of industry and citizens bloggers, social media, and the adult beverage industry. We will spend 3 days in Walla Walla drinking great wine, learning the basics of wine blogging, blogging live while tasting, touring the Walla Walla wine scene, and also doing a whole lot of networking.  After the 2009 Conference in Sonoma, many connections were made, many bloggers blossomed, and several people got some killer careers going in wine.  What could YOU accomplish? In an effort to support bloggers that wish to attend to learn more, perfect their craft, or see what it’s all about, the WBC Scholarship sets out to raise funds to assist citizen bloggers (those unaffiliated with a  winery or other professional organization) get to Walla Walla and participate in the event of the decade.  Ok well the first year of the decade anyway. To find out more about the WBC Scholarship, please visit our site at http://wbcscholarship.wordpress.com/.  If you’re a citizen blogger and would like to apply for assistance, please see the Application page. If you would like to donate, or you know someone who would be a good resource, you may do so directly at our Paypal page here: If you prefer to send a check, or if you have any questions, please email us for details at wbcscholarship at gmail dot com. Google

**SPECIAL BULLITAN** WBC has been announced!

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  We interrupt the blog to announce that the 2nd Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference will be held in Sonoma and Napa, July 24th – July 26th.  I don’t envy the event planners because I know they made every effort not to conflict with other events.  I will miss some of my friends, but hopefully we can find that sweet spot where everyone can come! This year, we are back at The Flamingo in Santa Rosa, which is a Grande Dame out of the Rat Pack Days.  Yes, while the outside seems a bit, well, WORN, the rooms are newly done and it’s got good space and a great pool. Don’t forget to register early, as there are only 250 slots left! Details can be found HERE Agenda details: Friday, July 24 12:00 noon Registration and Sponsor Lunch 2:00 PM Welcome and Conference Overview 2:30 PM Live Wine Blogging 4:00 PM Breakout Sessions 5:00 PM Breakout Sessions 6:30 PM Grand Tasting of Sonoma Wines 8:00 PM Pool Party Barbecue Saturday, July 25 7:00 AM Breakfast on your own 9:00 AM Depart for Napa Valley 10:00 AM Breakout Sessions 11:00 AM Breakout Sessions 12:00 noon Depart for Napa Rocks at participating wineries 7:00 PM Dinner in the Vineyards at participating Napa wineries 8:45 PM Buses return to the Flamingo 9:45 PM Informal tasting of participants’ wines Sunday, July 26 7:00 AM Breakfast on your own 9:30 AM Breakout Sessions and Industry Discussions 11:30 AM Luxe Sonoma Tasting 12:30 PM Casual lunch 1:00 PM Conference Ends 1:oopm on – if you are still around, I’m sure there will be blogger tasting, parties, and other fun stuff! If you want to see what I thought of last year, check out these posts: WBC Day 1 WBC Day 2 WBC Day 3 WBC Day 3.5 Google