Wine Bloggers Conference took place this past July 22 through July 24 in Charlottesville, Virginia. This was the fourth gathering and the first not on the West Coast. This was an important step to acknowledge the wines in the other 46 states and beyond. And that is to further say that many wine writers are not just writing about the latest Grand Cru vintage—but many have been focusing on the lesser known varietal, regions and producers. Hence this conference was important to highlighting Virginia wines.
While I have had wine from Virginia before I knew this would be the largest assortment that I would find anywhere. I wanted to see first hand how the Virginia wine industry is maturing. In a short time, Virginia has re-posted itself on the US wine map once again. Thomas Jefferson—a US President and a passionate wine devotee visioned what Virginia could become—a wine producing state—unfortunately he would not taste that wine. Perhaps there has been no US president like him who was such a wine aficionado. Jefferson wine legacy is a great provenance for Virginia and now is beginning to enjoy its wine renaissance.
Foot on land and hand on glass is essential to taking a first step in understanding wine and where it comes from. Virginia is important to know on many levels—a state forging ahead with an intention to make serious wines. Serious wine is a lot of fun to enjoy and without a methodic approach to quality and hand on artistry these wines would not exist. Virginia’s wineries, for the most part have, collectively worked towards a wine that could be poured on a table anywhere. And that is a big statement—there are many wine regions working through where they want to be—a lot of sweet goes a long way—or that should be said in the beginnings for a wine region. For many people it is easier to get into a sweet wine and perhaps graduate to dry wines.
Virginia is well known for Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Petit Verdot and they are also producing wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Manseng and so fourth. Foot on ground was essential—I hope that no wine region is just a mere footnote but a place that at least for me is a real experience. After all, I have not visited a wine country and have ever been disappointed. The greenness is amazing and while in many wine countries there are elements of green the brightness was intense and very luminous. I loved the landscape—reminding me of scene from the movie Giant where Elizabeth Taylor’s takes her kids to her family’s farm in Virginia for Thanksgiving.
While I tasted a lot of wine; I never get to taste as much as I would like. WBC11 was jam packed of events in truly which was just a 48-hour adventure for me (excluded my 15+ hours of taxis, trains, and planes). I would point to one of my winery visits—Keswick where they are producing everything from Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Blanc Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot—they were also producing a Verdejo…yes Verdejo. I was amazed as there are so few acres in the US let alone Virginia. I think this varietal serves as bell weather of opportunity and possibility. It is, in one sense, “easier, safer” to produce more widely known grape varietals than those less known. While Spain is the mother ship of Verdejo—Keswick is a great proving ground that this grape is a good one for Virginia and a great homage to Spain’s Verdejo.
The WBC forum is important to connect wine writers, video producers and reviewers. While I have meet many people virtually I have met only a small portion in person. Connecting dots and crossing “Ts” is essential for a well bound community. While the forum was perfect nothing quite is. My discovery was a wine community with many facets from producers, manager, wine maker, public relations professional and of course the wine writing community coming together and getting ideas and even fanning the flame of excitement about wine and social media. There were people who got paid to do their craft; others were dipping their tow in the great wine ocean. There could not have been enough published content that could convey the experience and hence a physical journey is important and essential.
Speakers Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov brought many great ideas and comments. Jancis Robinson who was the keynote speaker said and I paraphrase ‘think of yourself as a wine writer and not blogger.’ That is wine blogger is no longer required—just because one writes online doesn’t make a person less of a wine writer and in fact that should be the preferred term. I agree with Jancis and Erics comments about wine writing—and I would further that to say that while I see the online and social media world as integral about telling the story of wine—there are many channels and touch points that the online medium presents. While I do write and review I have worked on creating video content. The video content and I don’t want to say too loudly vlog—as vlog like blog is not a necessary descriptor. Why not just use the word video. Video is a nearly all-touch point media—giving many breathe to content that sometimes just the written word cannot always convey.
Eric Asimov said drink wine—experience wine—don’t spit it—drink it. I like his emphasis on experience. I would say that his advice to not write wine notes for a year not a realistic thing to do and I wasn’t quite certain what that would or wouldn’t do.
Fermenting on the many ideas spoken, thoughts shared and interaction with many people—one of things that was most clear is that while wine on it’s very fundamental terms is simple but the rollout to wine consumer is extremely complex—simply put there is no one person who can tackle or address this living organism called wine. Many people are needed to talk about wine, educate about wine and give wine it’s rightful presence.
The online writing community both has it’s work cut out for itself and will have to continue to invent and reinvent itself…and what better time in this amazing online world.
After all wasn’t wine one of the first social media’s way before WWW.
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