Monday, August 24, 2009

PART II - Gen-Yine Road Trip

Excerpt From the Secret Diary of Sharayray aka Shana (Project-Yine co-director and wine blogger)

Dear Diary:
DAY 3 Louisiana to Texas--
I am beginning to worry about the success of Project-Yine. Ashley is coping well and seems not to be bothered by the heat or the lack of wine. But it’s only been BEER BEER BEER since I got here. So far the only Gen-Yine folks that have turned out to meet us are guys in their 40’s that live with their mothers!

I am getting weak from the lack of mental stimulation and the complete lack of anything that is edible. We have seen nothing but Waffle Houses and Huddle Houses and Budweiser for days now. When I say I’m a vegan and don’t eat meat I’m told to order the Hush Puppies. Helllooo! This thing they call Hush Puppies is just Fried Bread!

Maybe I should have thought this out more before embarking on a cross county trip with someone I barely know. And I swear if I have to tell one more person how to say my name I’m going to shoot someone! It’s Shana…rhymes with banana. Not Shana rhymes with--well pronounced like that it rhymes with nothing.

Finally a speck of hope on an otherwise bleak landscape. AUSTIN I LOVE YOU! OMG! On the 8th day God created Austin. I can eat again. I think I might just move into the Whole Foods here. It is an oasis of hope in Texas. I never want to leave. I’m afraid of what might await us on that long desolate stretch of 1-10 called West Texas….

DAY-5 Wenchie says we should just make a mad run for it and drive all the way to Phoenix in ONE DAY!! OMG it’s going to be grueling, but the sooner we get out of this state the better. Talk to you later diary….

Later just past El Paso in West Texas we find our heroines still driving--

A: We are not far from the border now Shana, why don’t you just go ahead and take a nap. I’ll wake you when we get there.

S: Okay. I sure could use some rest.

Hours later Shana wakes up to find herself in a huge fluorescent lit room with hundreds of Gen-Yiners seated in front of computers starting straight ahead to a stage with a big screen flashing pictures and words.

S: Wenchie where are we?

A: Um well, I have something to tell you.

S: What is this place a tech support center?

A: No Sharayray it’s the Blogger Deprogramming Center. And I’m not exactly who you think I am…

Yes, our beloved Shana aka Sharayray had been tricked into thinking she was part of a study for Project-Yine, but now finds herself miles below Yucca Mountain at the Robert Parker Blogger Deprogramming Center for Wayward Wine Bloggers.

Shana sees a giant picture of Robert Parker lit by spotlights surrounded by posters of 98 point shelf talkers while on the screen the following words flash by:





All the Gen-Yines repeat what they see in a monotone drone. Shana now notices they are all chained to their chairs as well. Their voices boom inside the cavernous room--



Shana screams—
S: Noooo No! OMG!!

Shana tries to run, but Ashley grabs her arm and starts to shake her.

A: Shana! Shana! Sharayray! Wake up!

S: Oh hey, ummm …Where am I? Who are you?

A: It’s me Ashley. We’re in Arizona! I think you were having a bad dream.

S: OMG! You don’t know the half of it!

To be continued…

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Ten at Book Passage Travel Conference

Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference –2009

I’ve always wanted to go to the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference. This year I finally had the chance to attend and I was not disappointed. The faculty line up of Writers, Photographers and Agents was first rate. There was so much packed into four days it’s impossible to cover it all in one post. Instead I’ll give you my Top Ten Favorites—the people & moments that were most memorable. If you want a more in depth account of the conference check out the posts by Trish Miller on her site at Travel Writers Exchange.


1. The Attendees- Meeting so many interesting fellow attendees and making plans to see each other again.

2. Accessibility to Faculty and Special Guests. --The opportunity to meet and talk with so many talented people in one place cannot be understated. Accessibility is the true value of the conference.

3. Marci Tiesel’s Photography—I viewed her portfolio on Thursday night and bought one of her Italy photos on the spot. I was sitting next to her on Sunday when she won one of the photography awards. Way to go Marci!

4. The Staff of Book Passage- These folks are a delight. Elaine & Kathryn Petrocelli and the entire staff were warm and gracious the entire four days. They really went out of their way to make sure everyone felt welcome and taken care of.

5. The Audacity of Karaoke –The Saturday Night Karaoke tradition is legendary and nothing can prepare you for the sight of leaders in the Travel and Photography world rocking out to Born to be Wild and Y.M.C.A.

6. The Editor King—Larry Habegger had the wherewithal to notice and then correct the spelling on a tweet I was writing in the middle of a dark and noisy event room full of karaoke singers. The man is a great writer and editor with amazing powers of concentration!

7. Jim Benning's Digital Media Class – Great content and interesting participants made for three days of fun and inspiration. Jim’s class gave us the tools and hands on experience to go out and make some digital content of our own. Look out World Hum here we come.

8. Spud Hilton’s Face When Pitched a ‘Staycation’ – On the last day of the conference I was standing next to Spud Hilton and talking to Larry Habegger when a woman came rushing up to Spud. She was from a start up called The Little Passports and she got wind of the travel conference off twitter, and being a good little promoter she came storming down to the conference to pitch Spud Hilton in person with her press kit, err, suitcase.

So she starts to pitch Spud telling him all about what the product entails and then she says Little Passports is perfect thing for your readers to use with their children on staycation. And Spud, who up to that point was listening with his best open happy eyebrows-up demeanor, suddenly dropped his face into a big deal-breaker frown. And he looked at me like it was somehow my fault that the lady had just said the holy grail of fail words- staycation. She stopped and said “What? What did I say?” And Spud says, “Oh I’m sorry I’m not trying to take away from the validity of your product in any way, but you just said staycation.” And she says, “Oh I know, I saw that on twitter!”

It was my tweet she saw. This is what it said : Send @SpudHilton all your "staycation" queries. Just Kidding! DON'T DO IT!! #BPTravel

And I said, “Did you read the whole thing?” And she said “Oh yeah.” And I said, “Did you read the part that said it --DON’T DO IT--?” And she said “Oh yes, I read that too.” So it just goes to illustrate Spuds point that no matter what you tell people they just cannot find it in them selves to follow directions.

I wish Little Passports all the best, and hope it is a huge success. I just don’t want to sit next that lady in the exit row after she tells the flight attendant she read and will follow all directions in case of an emergency....I’m just sayin’. But you have to admire her moxie. Not only did she seize an opportunity off twitter, she was also breastfeeding a baby the whole time she was pitching. It was amazing.

9. Don George's emotional reading of the prize-winning essay by Erin Byrne. I thought we were all going to end up on the floor weeping.

And My Favorite Moment of all----

10. Georgia Hesse, on the last day of the conference before the closing ceremonies, telling her story of an unscheduled layover on Easter Island. Georgia needs her own HBO comedy special. She has the most perfect deadpan delivery and comic timing of anyone I have ever met. I laughed so hard I hurt myself. I want to be Georgia when I grow up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scenes from a Gen-Yine Road Trip

Shana and Ashley’s Most Excellent Adventure--
(A genuine parody)

Part 1 --Tampa to NOLA

S: Umm why are there no road signs anywhere?

A: I guess they haven’t had a chance to replace them yet since Katrina.

S: Okay, but it seems like we've been driving in circles for the last two hours. Are we lost?

A: No! We’re not lost. It’s just hard to navigate by landmarks when you are in a swamp. But wait what’s that? I think that’s the place we’re looking for!

Our heroines pull up in front of a dilapidated shack with the words “Gator Bait Bar” spray-painted across a board nailed to the tin roof. Inside a heavy pall of smoke hangs over the bar. Three seedy men that look like extras from the set Deliverance sit at a back table playing cards. The bartender is watching bass fishing on a TV above the bar.

S: OMG! There’s like smoking allowed in the bars here! I guess I’m not in California anymore.

A: Hey Everyone. We’re here for the Gen–Yine survey.

All the men turn to stare at Shana and Ashley

Bartender: I gots’ Genwine Miller Draft right here on the tap.

S: No not genuine–Gen-Wine!

Bartender: Gurl, that’s what ah said. What’s wrong wit yar hearing?

S: Um I mean generation Yine. We're looking for young people in NOLA to talk about their wine buying habits and take our survey.

Man #1 at table: They gots’ buyin habits all rat but it ain’t fo wine. My dang kid spends most his check on Benadryl and Robotusion! Then he cooks it up in the Geerage. He blew the door clear off last week.

Bartender: Girly, this here the swamplands of Nawlawins. Y’all wants wine go see that Dirty South boy up in 'lanta. I saw him on the Teevee and he gots him some powerful wine affliction or sumptin.

One of the men playing cards comes up next to Ashley—

Man #2: Dat sho is a purtty butterfly ya gots round yo neck dare. I’d like to put mah net round it. Har har har…

A: Umm Sahrayray .. Shana! Lets get outta here!

Man #3: Wait! Anit's ya gonna ask us some mo questions?

Bartender: Hay, I know who laks questions. Bo..go get the Gimp!

S: Ashleeyyyy!

Cue sound of dueling banjoes as our heroines tear off in a cloud of dust.

Well kids, lets hope things improve in Texas! Stay tuned.

But for the Real Deal on the Project Y-ine experiment and survey please go here and here and here to read all about it and follow along.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Travel In A Bottle

After WBC09 I started thinking about the wine blogosphere and where I fit in on the scale of things. I’m not really a nuts and bolts wine blogger reporting on what I find ‘on the nose and in the mouth’. There are plenty of folks who do that on a regular basis and way better than I can. I know it’s a crucial aspect of conveying the expression of a wine to readers through a common language. But I find it almost too clinical, as if I’m reading chart notes written by a doctor—Patient Male 32, presented with shallow breathing and dilated pupils. Placed patient on IV drip of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cab Franc-Petite Verdot with infusion of black cherries and hints of smoky mushrooms. Vitals improved. Recommend two year rest in French Oak barrels.

For me, a post consisting of only facts and figures is a boring read. I enjoy reading blogs that give me something beyond the basics and hopefully some insight to the personality of the blogger. I relate more to a story about the wine. After all, what goes on in your palate may not happen on mine. So while I appreciate the efforts of others to describe and rate wines, it's something I do very little of.

My approach to writing about wine is similar to writing about travel. I try to illuminate the small details or moments that are often overlooked and instead of writing lists of restaurants, hotels and must-see sights, I try to capture the character of a place or culture through a narrative that is entertaining yet still informative. I think there is room out there for both type of approaches.

Wine to me is an experience of a time and place. It's travel in a bottle, an adventure without leaving home. Your trip begins with the label, and right from the very first glass you are on a journey; each sip represents the land and the people who made it.

Nothing triggers travel memories stronger for me than a glass of wine from a region I have visited. From Cava in Barcelona, to Sangiovese in Tuscany, wines are like vacation snapshots I store in my palate album. And for regions I have not traveled to, such as Chile, I consider the wine as pre-trip research.

So instead of asking “What do you want to drink tonight? I ask “Where do you want to go tonight?" Perhaps you will go to Spain, Italy, France, or Chile. Or maybe you will stay closer to home. One of my favorite destinations is right in my backyard—the Russian River Valley

I want to read about your journey. So pack light and let me know where the next bottle you open takes you. And don’t forget to send me a postcard.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Secret Sherry Society

I’m always a sucker for a slick bit of creative design and The Secret Sherry Society caught my attention right away. The Sponsors room at WBC09 was full of handsome marketing materials, but their elegant black and white invitations and colorful stacks of coasters were a standout.

The campaign seeks to bring awareness of the category of Sherry to a new and younger audience. The lead piece, a private invitation, was designed with a black ribbon and “sealed” with the stamp of the Secret Sherry Society. A custom thumb drive was attached to the ribbon.

The envelope contained an invitation to join the secret society. Playing on the fact that Sherry is an oft time over looked wine, the campaign promises members an inside track to “wines best kept secret”. Pretty clever if nobody knows about Sherry than maybe build on that fact to create an aura of exclusiveness –the secret society. The invitation mentions special events for members and hints at “black arts”.

The thumb drive contains a brief introduction to the Secret Society where all members are encouraged to have aliases and wear disguises. That’s it on the thumb drive. From there you are directed to the web site. It seemed a bit of a let down since the premise was so promising but there was nothing more to interact with on the drive so off I went to the web site.

The web site opens up with the standard age verification and then “blindfolds you” before you proceed. The whole thing has a very Baby Did A Bad Bad thing feel to it and looks a bit like the set from Eyes Wide Shut. Heck, who knew Sherry was so kinky?

There are rooms to explore each highlighting an aspect of sherry such as history, growing regions, and varietals. Yes, Margaret, there are different kinds of Sherry out there. Who Knew?

In the founders portrait gallery you can click on the paintings and get a quick synopsis of the different styles of Sherry. Like Moscatel, Oloroso and Fino. There is also an extensive list of cocktail recipes that look worth trying.

The final room takes you to the guest book for sign up and since the whole society is Secret you are prompted to take an alias and then upload a photo and obscure your true identity with various props like a diving bell or a eye patch. Pretty cute and fun to play with.

I have not had sherry since my mom made Coq Au Vin and I use to sneak a few sips . So I tried the Tio Pepe Palomino Fino (15% alcohol) by Gonzalez Byass of Spain. It was light and dry and much more balanced than I expected it to be. This was not my Mothers' Sherry for sure. I could see pairing this with crabcakes or a cucumber salad.

I think Sherry deserves a second look on my part and I'm interested to try the other styles and blog about it in future posts. In the meantime I’ve joined the society and anxious to see where it all goes. I would like to recommend that the Wine Blogging Wednesday group devote a month to blogging about Sherry if they haven’t already. I think it would be interesting to get the impressions of the bloggers on Sherry like we did with the Sake assignment.


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