During the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, I talked.
And I talked to a lot of people. Some just wanted to say hi, some wanted photos with me (still trying to figure that out… because I’m not really a photogenic subject!), and others wanted my advice or thoughts on various wine- and blogging-related topics (also filing those in the “still trying to figure that out” category).
Given that I received similar questions from dissimilar people at the event, in good real-life sort-of-SEO-oriented fashion I thought I ought to craft something more generic out of those conversations, in the hopes that it would be useful to those WBC-ers who wanted to talk to me but didn’t get the time, couldn’t be bothered because they were drinking at the time and so was I and I didn’t shut up for enough time to allow them a word in edgewise, or who just want the money-shots without having to deal with me in person (I know what it’s like… I even have to live with me!).
And so I present the Four Most Frequently Asked Questions proposed to me at various points during the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference…
1) What did you think of Oregon’s wines?
Sadly, I’ve the least to offer on this despite (or maybe because of?) the WBC12 event location in Portland. I enjoy OR wine, and have found some real stunners from there, but also some real clunkers. The amount of OR wine to which I was exposed at WBC12 was actually really limited. Only one producer – King Estate – had wines poured at the main dinner event, and the producer-visit bus excursion I hopped on (to Willakenzie) took place in 100F heat, so I didn’t feel it responsible of me to pass any sort of judgment on any of the producers’ wines that were poured there (though when things cooled down at dinner, I found myself enjoying the Penner-Ash wines, particularly the Pas de Nom). I would include the small-ish overview of OR wines as one of the few drawbacks of WBC12, actually. One of my best WBC12 memories, though? Ditching the invites from the big producers, and instead drinking Illahe wine out of mason jars while eating taco cart food in Portland with long-time 1WD blog commenter Gabe! Not only was able to walk my own talk, I had a damn good time geeking out with him. This one is totally on me, though – I just didn’t have enough time between jaunts to get the know the area in depth, they way I’d have liked.
2) Are you upset that you didn’t win the Wine Blog Award again this year?
The first thing I found myself doing when being asked this question (many times) was correcting people: I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a finalist in various WBA categories for three years in a row, but I’ve won only one WBA (in 2010). So I’m still a bridesmaid statistically-speaking, and had to remind people that Tom Wark’s Fermentation won in the Best Overall Blog category last year (for those of you who didn’t know that: you need to get out more!). Much love and congrats to the 2012 WBA winners, by the way!
Anyway, I think it’s healthy to have a little bit of competitive disappointment when you lose anything; it’s the same feeling that I suppress so that my toddler daughter can win we play Crazy 8s. But getting truly upset about this sort of thing brings you close to douchebag territory. I mean, as a Steelers fan, I can be disappointed that they didn’t win the last Superbowl in which they took part, but it was their third in five years and they’d won two of those three, so how upset can you be about that? Not to equate the WBAs with the Superbowl, but considering my good fortune, I’m just happy to be a finalist and I’m happy for the winners who took home the trophies this year.
3) Speaking of the Wine Blog Awards, what was up with all the winners who didn’t attend?
This answer is going to get me in some hot fermentation eventually, but the fact that so few of the WBA winners were present at WBC12 I think says something about how seriously the WBAs are being taken (which is to say, they’re not being taken seriously enough yet). The awards have come a long way in a short period of time, and the organizers did a hell of a job incorporating suggested improvements (I’m on the improvement committee, so I know this firsthand). And Mutineer Magazine’s Alan Kropf did a great job on the awards ceremony, but – and I think this is telling when we’re talking about how seriously the awards are treated even within the wine blogging community – he was only given thirty minutes to present the finalists and the winners. If the WBAs are to be more meaningful to more people, then a much bigger deal needs to be made about them – promotion, awards, publicity, you name it. The WBAs are great and have come a long way without sponsorship, but when you compare them to other awards in the wine writing/media field, they’re just not “there” yet. You might be thinking I should get real, and wondering if I really think the WBAs ought to be as big as the James Beard awards; to which I’d reply “hell, yeah, I hope that they are that big someday!”
4) What advice to you have for me as a wine blogger?
This was the toughest and also most touching question I got at WBC12, and I got it a lot. So I walked away from the conference deeply touched that so many people gave a crap about what I had to tell them about their blogs, writing, approaches, ideas, and dreams. Much of what I told everyone can be boiled down to this: take the wine, and the craft, seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.
Always work on your writing, your voice, your style, your photos, anything; because the competition is fierce and the standards are high (I know that people like to bemoan the state of wine writing and blogging, but take a look at the quality of the things that you can read out there about wine FOR FREE right now, and then try to look me in the eye and tell me with a straight face that they all suck… you can’t because they don’t).
Those of you just starting to blog shouldn’t expect to be able to critique wines at first, because simply put you’ve not tasted enough of them to have your opinion mean much to those who do not yet know you. But that day may come, and it may come sooner than you might think, so view every glass as means to get you there (because it is). Don’t be afraid to make money at this stuff, either. And just because you shouldn’t at first start rating wines like the more established people in this space doesn’t mean that you don’t have anything worthwhile to say – on the contrary, you might have a sh*t ton to say, and you might garner a lot of people who are willing to listen to it if you keep it real, authentic, and let your inner awesome shine through in your work (and it is work!).