It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since the conclusion of the American Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. I have been to each conference since the first one on Sonoma in 2008, and I feel that this one was the best by far. An amazing array of bloggers contributed to the experience and the content surrounding the conference. There has been an amazing wealth of summaries, montages, and impressions, many more creative and eloquent than I could ever be. So, rather than reiterate what many have said about the conference and tell you what you may have missed, I’m going to tell you, as someone who represents a wine brand in some capacity, why you need to be at the next one.
First, if you still have any doubt about the influence of wine bloggers, you only need talk to the townsfolk of Walla Walla. The town, almost literally, rolled out the red carpet, or at least, chalk. Yes, chalk. Several shops and tasting rooms in downtown W2actually wrote messages for bloggers in chalk on the sidewalks around town, inviting them to stop in and visit. Brilliant. Several folks at the airport and restaurants around town asked if we were there for the conference, and were obviously excited by our visit. It was quite a contrast to the first year, when many folks had no idea what a wine blog even was. The folks of Walla Walla were friendly and welcoming, and above all, smart. They realized that these wine geeks, as a group, have immense influence with wine buyers. The wineries treated each blogger with the respect they deserved. Other wineries would be wise to follow suit, and next year’s town has a lot to live up to.
Speaking of the 2011 conference, my second point concerns next year’s location: Charlottesville, Virginia. This may seem like a long way away, and an odd choice, but it’s a great venue for the American Wine Bloggers Conference. As you may know, from my trip earlier this year to Virginia for the Drink Local Wine Conference, the state has a lot to offer in the way of wine history and culture. There is a lot of support for the industry from local government and local businesses. In fact, last Wednesday Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell released an announcement that the three-day conference will be held in Charlottesville next July. It made the Associated Press. I’d say that’s a ringing endorsement. With state government behind it, the 2011 conference has the potential to get even more attention than 2010.
Third, participating in the conference pays dividends. My firm and I have encouraged several winery clients to participate in both the 2009 and 2010 conferences, in one form or another. Some have engaged in the live wine blogging events, and some have poured during other events. In every case these wineries have received more blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates than ever before. In addition, it’s given me an opportunity to follow up with those bloggers who’ve expressed a positive opinion of any of these client wines. This has led to further posts and greater awareness.
Finally, bloggers today may be the wine journalists of tomorrow. When writers like Steve Heimoff, Lettie Teague, Paul Gregutt, and Bill Daly recognize the significance of these wine bloggers, you can bet that others will take notice. There is now a lot of crossover between the winestream media and bloggers on both sides. I expect that eventually the lines will be blurred beyond recognition. So, those wise wineries will recognize that these folks may be the future of wine writing, and this is an opportunity get in front of them early on in their careers.
So, I hope to see you all in Charlottesville next year.