I had a hunch the 10th Anniversary for the Wine Bloggers Conference would be held in Sonoma, and now that that’s been confirmed, I believe it may also be the last Wine Bloggers Conference.
I’ve attended 8 out of 10 conferences--all except the 1st and Virginia (sorry Frank)-- but the 10th in Sonoma may very well be my final WBC.
I love seeing my wine friends first and foremost, and meeting new people that share a love for wine is one of the biggest draw for me. I think it's still a great value and experience especially for new attendees, but I feel like I’ve outgrown the format. Most of sessions, beyond the keynote and a few specialized break-outs, are of little value to me.
WBC needs more qualified experts to lead the educational sessions. Peer speakers are fine for certain topics, but often not qualified or experienced with presenting before groups.
I’d like to see an alumni track that allows greater access to the winemakers and more in depth sessions with regard to terroir and local winemaking. Much like the program at WBC14 in Santa Barbara presented by SF Wine School (although that was not an official WBC event).
I’d even be willing to pay more for qualified content such as the Santa Barbara session.
Overall the WBC schedule is filled with fluff and I think the format needs an overhaul as follows:
Keep the Thursday opening reception. Cut back to the core elements on Friday and Saturday: Keynote, Speed tasting (because people do seem to love it), Winery excursions, Wine discovery tastings, and local winemaker discussions and sessions on terroir, vineyards, grapes, history, and geology of the area.
Leave Sunday open for attendees to visit wineries of the region at their own pace. Provide a “hop-on-hop-off” bus that runs a continuous loop from conference hotel to participating tasting rooms and wineries. This would allow attendees the opportunity to meet new people and actually be able to talk to them on the bus.
I loved visiting Lodi this year, but the separate hotels and conference center was a real drag. Made it very difficult to meet up and connect with others after hours.
I think Zephyr has done a great job over the years and it is apparent they try to incorporate attendee feedback. But the content needs improvement.
I’ll be posting more about my Lodi experience and impressions soon.