|WBC15 Finger Lakes Speed Tasting Table with new and old friends|
W. Blake Gray’s post that the Wine Bloggers Conference is like adult camp is not a revelation; it’s an obvious observation from a first timer. Any veteran WBC attendee will tell you, wine is the topic of interest we rally around, but connecting with old friends and meeting like-minded wine lovers is the engine that drives the conference.
Call it Camp with Wine if you like, but it's often the only time of year most of us see each other. It's a time to meet the person behind a blog or Twitter profile you've been following. Ironically it's also the place I get to see friends that live nearby! Like Michael Wangbickler (@mwangbickler) and Liza Swift (@BrixChick_Liza). You'd think living in close proximity to each other we'd see one another more frequently but that is not the case.
The conversations at WBC revolve around more than wine: I spoke to Ken Hoggins (@KensWineGuide) about his daughters college plans and what type of degree would be best for her career (not journalism it was determined). I listened to Mykha’el Wilson (@Mykhael) tell me about his difficult year coping with the death of his father and brother, a romantic breakup, and moving across the country. And I heard Alina’s (@onegirloneglass) tragic-comic story of the crazy family dynamics that erupted when her grandmother broke a hip.
The Wine Bloggers Conference is a gathering of a diverse group of people dedicated to wine, but also devoted to each other.
|Three new friends in a shop window in downtown Corning|
My goal at each conference is not to try and taste 300+ wines, but to meet and hang out with at least 3 new people. This year that mission was accomplished by meeting Regine Rousseau (@ShallWeWineChi), Joanna Snawder and Gabe Manzo of (@WineFaveSnack). Three people I know I will keep in touch with in the coming year.
I’d also include W. Blake Gray in my list of new people. I’d never met Blake in person but was well aware of the reputation that preceded him as an opinionated, bombastic, take-no-prisoners wine writer that will rip you a new one if he disagrees with your view on a topic. (But in fairness, I’ll admit, he is usually right.)
I thought his shut down of Stevie Kim of VinItaly for being off topic in the Wine Writer panel was extremely harsh, I don’t think Stevie was trying to hijack the conversation, and she had a very interesting question that I’ll discuss in another post. But Blake’s outburst to re-track the conversation was like seeing someone explode with Tourette’s.
Yet after a delay of several hours in the Elmira airport, I saw another side to Blake—just a regular guy that wanted to get home like the rest of us. And his play-by-play call of the airline employees gathered around the wheel-well of our tarmacked plane was nothing short of hilarious. I also discovered he is a lightning fast runner as he loped out of the plane in Chicago and nabbed the last seat on the next flight to SFO (albeit the next day), while I got shunted off to Portland for the night and booked on a flight to SFO the following afternoon.
|Canadian pals from TownHall Brands Leeann Froese and Sujinder Juneja|
It's impossible to have a meaningful conversation with everyone you meet at WBC, but if you make an effort, you can develop a friendship over three days that may very well last a lifetime.
At the 2009 WBC, I sat down for my first speed tasting wondering: “What fresh hell is this?” Sitting across the table was a blogger who seemed to be thinking the same thing. That blogger was Frank Morgan (@DrinkwhatUlike). We’ve been friends ever since.
If you plan to go to Lodi in 2016 here’s a bit of advice: Come for the Wine, Stay for the Camaraderie.