The final day of the Wine Bloggers Conference began with three different breakout sessions. I must say I was somewhat underwhelmed with the options:
Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media for Wine Business
Monetization of Your Blog, OR
Creating a Social Network for your Winery or Wine Business
Beyond Words: How Video Content is Changing the Wine World, OR
Search Engine Optimization, Traffic Building, and Blogs.
It's not that those topics don’t necessarily intrigue me. They do, but I found many of them to be winery focused (and I do not currently work for a winery). Also, the two I was more interested in (the last two) competed for the same time slot. I understand that’s the way things go at conferences as I have been to my fair share of them. My only feedback to the organizers on this portion of the conference was to have a more diverse array of breakout session options throughout the three days with consideration to the attendees interests and skills. At any rate, I did find some useful information from the sessions that I did attend that I will be able to apply to my own blog.
Highlight of the day
For me, the highlight of this day came later in the afternoon during our wine walk and tour of Michel-Schlumberger in the beautiful Dry Creek Valley. I have been to the Dry Creek Valley dozens of times and for some reason have never paid a visit here until this time. Bad me! I am now grateful that this was an option at the conference or I may have never discovered this place!
I will start out with this, these folks get it; hospitality, education, social media, and very important - making good wine. Upon our arrival we were greeted by Judd Wallenbrock, Tony Wasowicz (their vineyard manager of over 15 years) and Jim Morris (also known as @sonomawineguy on twitter) with an introduction to the winery and its history.
Moving on we went on a nice hike through the vineyards (well it felt like a hike, these were pretty steep, yet beautiful, vineyards… good thing I changed into my hiking flip flops).
A soil sample
After about an hour hiking through the vineyards and learning about their viticulture practices we moved to the lawn for the wine tasting. This is where I get sad. Our timing did not allow for us to really experience the tasting portion of this which was truly a bummer since they went out of their ways to set up what would have been an educational tasting of the three different branches of their wines (their Pétanque brand, their Flagship Wines, as well as their Wine Bench Club Selections)
Another fun experience that was cut short was Jim’s Jelly Bean Tasting. He had put together a fun array of Jelly Bean flavors and asked us to come up with a mix that would pair well with the wines. No, this was not meant to be too serious, just a fun and creative way to encourage guests to really think about the blending process.
I am sad to say I was only able to taste a few of the wines. The the ones I did try, however, really impressed me.
Starting off with the:
Michel-Schlumberger Wine Bench Club Selection 2008 Pinot Blanc
Bright and citrusy with good acid and mineral undertones! Would be a perfect summer sipper! $21
Michel-Schlumberger Wine Bench Club Selection 2006
Typically I am not usually a fan of strait up Cabernet Franc’s, but I always try them… just in case. I really liked this one. It had nice, rich fruit, and good balance. $40
2005 Coteaux Sauvages (Reserve Wine)
Meaning “Wild Hills” in French, this wine is a Rhone style red blend, primarily Syrah based, with a small amount of Viogner co-fermented with the Syrah (as they traditionally do in Northern Rhone). This is the kind of Syrah blend that makes me smile. It was earthy yet with rich fruit at the same time. There are Syrahs from all over the globe, but this style is the kind that really reminds me of some of my favorite in Northern Rhone.
(Note: I really don’t like comparing one region to another because all regions are different and have unique characteristics to offer, but Syrahs can be tricky. You can get a rich and powerful fruit forward Australian style, or more earthy and mellow Rhone style, so I compared this wine to the Rhone style so that a consumer who has never tried it will have some type of benchmark.)
The only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to taste through more of the wines at a nice slow pace. The good news is that now I have a reason to return to Michel-Schlumberger next time I visit (which will be in T-minus 4 weeks).
I honestly can only speak for the few wines I tried, which were really good. What I can say with confidence is that the folks at Michel-Schlumberger have a strong focus on hospitality and education (two things I really value when touring new wineries), so I would feel very comfortable recommending them as a stop to anybody visiting the Dry Creek Valley! They were good people, with a strong passion for making great wines, in one of my favorite California Wine Regions.
All in all, I think the conference was a great way to bring wine lovers together from all over the country (and beyond). We got to taste some good wines, visit some new wineries, meet some great people and learn from each other while building a sense of community for what we are all doing; whether it is blogging, working at a winery, distributor, retailer, or other. The organizers did a good job maximizing the three days with a mix of events, dinners, tastings, and breakout sessions (although, as I mentioned above I wish there were more of them… or perhaps this is just the geek inside me who is addicted to learning). I am excited that next year’s conference will be held in Walla Walla, WA, as the Northwest is my current stomping ground and I love exposing people to what the NW has to offer.
If anything, attending this conference has inspired me and provided me with lots to write about over the next few weeks.