What Companies Want From Wine Bloggers

WBC17 Blog - Session Template“What Companies Want From Bloggers” was the highest-rated prospective content session in a vote by alumni of potential content at the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference. As such, we have put this on the agenda in a premium “all-session” spot, 3:30 – 4:30 PM on Friday, November 10th. Thank you to moderator Allison Levine for the post below.


Whether you are just starting out or have been blogging for some time, you know the “perks” of writing. Sometimes samples are sent to you; sometimes you get invited to events; sometimes you are invited on a trip. How can you do more of this? And what is the cost?

If you want to reap the benefits and perks of being a writer, it is important to understand how to speak the language of public relations. From external companies to in-house dedicated positions, the public relations people are the gatekeepers to the invitations. So, what are public relations professionals looking for?

We are excited to bring you a panel of industry professionals who will share valuable insight from their various perspectives. Moderator Allison Levine, owner of Please The Palate, works with wine regions around the world to organize trade and media events around the U.S. The panel includes Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing & Communications at Jordan Vineyard & Winery; Katie Calhoun, owner of Calhoun and Company; and Birgitt Vaughn, Public Relations Manager for Sonoma County Tourism. Everyone on the panel is responsible for interacting with media and qualifying them for invitations and requests.

Too often, as writers, you think about what you want and need. But are you thinking about what the company wants, needs, and expects? Learn the tools you need to develop and establish relationships with public relations professionals and the companies they represent – or the tools as a company of how to select and work with bloggers – in this panel at the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference.

The Panel Bios

Allison LevineAllison Levine, Owner, Please The Palate

Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry. Allison holds a Master’s Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. She also holds a WSET Level 3 Certificate from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET), an Italian Wine Specialist Diploma from the North American Sommelier Association, a Certified Meeting Professional Certificate (CMP), and is BarSmarts Wired certified. As an industry expert, she works with wine regions around the world, organizing trade and media events around the United States. She is a columnist for the Napa Valley Register, as well as a regular contributor to California Winery Advisor. Her work has also appeared in WineTouristMagazine, ATOD Magazine, LAPALME Magazine, Thrillist, LA Weekly, Wine Industry Advisory, BIN (Beverage Industry News), FoodableTV, Drink Me Mag, WeSaidGoTravel.com, Wine Country This Week and The Tasting Panel.

Lisa MattsonLisa Mattson, Director of Marketing & Communications, Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Lisa Mattson possesses nearly twenty years of experience in writing, event planning, public relations, marketing and digital media strategy in the wine industry. She is considered a thought leader in video storytelling, social media and digital brand strategy for luxury wines. As director of marketing & communications at Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Mattson is responsible for developing and executing brand strategy, social media strategy, the photography and videography program, email marketing and website, as well as managing traditional press relations. As an early adopter of social media and video storytelling, Mattson developed “The Journey of Jordan” blog, which was named Best Winery Blog (2013, 2012) and Best Photo/Video Blog (2014, 2013) by the Wine Blog Awards. She has been featured in Apple Inc.’s iPad at Work series, Sonoma Discoveries, Sonoma, and Tasting Panel and quoted in Wall Street Journal, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Business Monthly and Wines & Vines. She won Best Music Video at the 2016 International Wine Film Festival, Best Wine Themed Video at the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards and 2015 Winery Chief Marketing Officer of the Year in the North Bay Business Journal Wine Industry Awards.

Katie CalhounKatie Calhoun, Owner, Calhoun and Company

Katie (pronounced “Kah-tee”) has devoted her entire career to the wine and spirits industry, and today brings over 25 years of public relations expertise to Calhoun & Company Communications. Through her work with a wide variety of wine and spirits companies, Katie has developed a broad perspective on the industry and built strong relationships in the press. She travels frequently to meet with the media throughout the country and track emerging trends so that she and her staff can generate individualized and meaningful story ideas. Katie’s palate and tasting skills have earned her a place among top wine and spirits professionals as a national competition judge. She has judged at the Sunset International Wine Competition, San Francisco International Wine Competition, Monterey County Wine Competition, and San Francisco World Spirits Competition; she is also a frequent taster at Wine & Spirits magazine.

Birgitt VaughanBirgitt Vaughn, Public Relations Manager, Sonoma County

Birgitt Vaughan grew up in Germany traveling all over Europe. That sparked a lifelong desire to seek out new adventures that have taken her to dozens of countries on five continents. Her 20-year career has included creating sales and marketing campaigns on the trade side, event and trade show management as well as working on the public relations side representing countries all over the world. Now in destination marketing, Birgitt has been the PR manager of Sonoma County Tourism for over five years working with journalists worldwide. She is living her California dream and says her #SonomaPassion is being on the search for the perfect Sonoma County red blend.

Content Set for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference

The content is mostly set and the Agenda is updated for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference.

We had 38 sessions proposed for the conference this coming year and were only able to take 13. Thank you to everyone who proposed a session, whether it made it via our alumni vote onto the agenda or not.

Please keep in mind the agenda is tentative, as we reach out to confirm the presenters who suggested each session. The agenda is also not entirely complete as we need to finalize some additional speakers, confirm sponsored wine tasting sessions, and wait for the results of the 2017 Wine Blog Awards to staff the winners panel.

But here are a few items you can look forward to:

  • We have added four 30-minute wine writing sessions to be presented by four professional writers and editors. We thought this was so important we made it an all-conference two-hour session.
  • The top rated session overall was “What Companies Want From Wine Bloggers” and we made that an all-group panel too.
  • We have three hours of breakout sessions with three sessions per hour, so nine topics from which you can choose.
  • We decide not to have an “industry” non-blogger track as we did in 2010 in Walla Walla but did select one session during each hour that was rated highly by our non-blogger alumni. So industry folks should have breakout sessions that match their interests.
  • We also decided not to have “beginner” and “advanced” sessions but will, instead, ask all our presenters to present advanced sessions. We did this, in part, because the large number of proposals allowed our alumni to select sessions naturally of interest to them.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this process, whether you suggested a session or simply voted on the options!

Call for Content and Speakers at the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference

Speaker applications and content suggestions are now open for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference and will remain open until December 2nd.  We are ready to hear from you to create an exceptional schedule and content sessions for next year. If you are an expert, have a story that needs to be told, and can impart some necessary wisdom upon our community, then we want to hear from you!


You will be asked to select from among the following content categories:

  • Blogging & Social Media: There are dozens of excellent potential topics involving blogging and social media. Keep in mind 2016 will be the ninth annual Wine Bloggers Conference so we have covered many topics. Topics that will be most successful are those at an advanced level or covering new ground.
  • Business & Career: Many wine bloggers wish to launch from their blog to a part-time or full-time career in consulting, events, or even wine making.
  • Wine Industry: These sessions will not include wine pouring and can include a wide range of topics, from current trends in wine marketing to best practices for interviewing winemakers. All content should be of interest to wine bloggers and writers.

Please note this process does not include keynote speakers. Please contact us directly if you have suggestions about a keynote speaker. Also, most sessions at the Wine Bloggers Conference that involve wine take place during meals, events, or sponsored sessions. If you are interested, please contact reno@ZephyrAdventures.com.


Everyone is free to submit suggestions, whether you have attended the Wine Bloggers Conference before or not. Please note we are not able to pay travel costs for speakers.


  • Open call for speakers: November 6 – December 2. We will accept your proposals and suggestions until December 2, 2016.
  • Session reviewDecember 5 – 9, 2016. We will review all content submissions. We do not have enough room to include all submissions and so will make decisions on which are most applicable, combine similar sessions, and edit others as we deem appropriate.
  • Alumni voting: December 9 – 15. We will ask WBC alumni to vote on submissions.
  • Content & Speaker Announcements: December 16. We will update the WBC17 agenda  and contact speakers whose sessions will be included in the conference. Speakers must pay their own travel costs.

Submit Your Content now and please remember to Register for WBC17, November 9 – 12 in Santa Rosa, California.


WBC17 Attendance on Record Pace

WBC17 attendance

Early registration for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, to be held November 9 – 12 in Santa Rosa, California, is on record pace and will likely be the largest WBC ever. Consider this:

  • We have 137 people registered as of today
  • With 10 days left in the month, we are already 154% ahead of our previous record at WBC14 in Santa Barbara at the two-months-in point of time
  • We had 24 people sign up in the last 10 days and given the impending October 1 price increase, we could easily have another 24 registrations as of September 30, putting us at 161 a full 13 months before the conference

Why is this happening? Clearly the return to America’s wine center in the Sonoma/Napa region has an impact. Equally true is the 10th year anniversary next year is exciting to our alumni. We like to think, too, that our recent conferences have been excellent experiences for attendees.

Whatever the reason for the surge, come join us in 2017 and register now so you can reserve your hotel before space runs out!

WBC17 Hotel: Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa

hyattWe have crossed the virtual t’s and dotted the virtual i’s and so can now officially announce that our room block at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa is now open for registrations.

The Hyatt is the top-rated conference hotel in Santa Rosa on Trip Advisor, has a Four Diamond rating from AAA, and bills itself as a “Tuscan villa” within Santa Rosa. It is perfectly located only two blocks from the Railroad Square historic district and a 15-minute walk from the Russian River Brewing Company, not that you will have time to visit during the conference.

In terms of space, the Hyatt offers a 6,944 square foot ballroom and is providing us four additional rooms for our use.

Group Rate

Our group rate is $199 which is the highest rate we have ever offered to attendees of the Wine Bloggers Conference. We understand most bloggers and writers attend on their own time and their own dime, so we have always strived to keep your costs low. The reality is, this is a very good rate for Santa Rosa in November and an excellent rate for the Hyatt. A search online for rates for the similar November weekend this year shows all hotels of similar quality over $200 and the Hyatt Vineyard Creek at $299.

Room Block

Please note we have only secured a room block of 300 room nights or 90 rooms per night at this point. This is not enough rooms to meet the demand of the conference and this block will sell out. We have the ability to add rooms if they are available but the hotel only has 155 rooms in total, which itself is not enough space to accommodate everyone. So please make your reservation early.

Register Now

At the time of this writing, we have 109 people registered for the 2017 conference and are 184% ahead of last year’s registrations at this time. The capacity of the Hyatt ballroom with accompanying breakout rooms is approximately 400 attendees. We fully expect to sell out, so please register today if you have not already. Note you must be registered for the conference to secure the group room rate. The hotel will be checking room reservations against our attendance list to confirm this.

WBC17 Agenda Outline Set

WBC17We have created a draft skeleton agenda of the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference.

You will notice we say both “skeleton” and “draft.” The agenda is a skeleton agenda because we have no specific sessions or speakers listed. We will do a Call for Content in the fall (likely October), hold a vote of possible content sessions among our alumni, and fill in sessions and speakers from that.

The agenda is draft because things can and will change. Some of our content depends on sponsorships. We sometimes have to move items to accommodate our host hotel. Occasionally we just get a (brilliant) new idea we feel we need to add.

But, nevertheless, this agenda will at least give you an idea of which days you should plan for your November, 2017 trip to Santa Rosa. New things to note on the 2017 agenda:

  • We have added Wine Education Sessions to Thursday afternoon. These small-group sessions will be limited to 25 attendees who will taste, evaluate, and learn about interesting or unique wines.
  • The Expo has been moved back to Thursday evening. This will change if we find a sponsor willing to host the Friday lunch and have the Expo at the same time, as we did in both 2015 and 2016.
  • We have added 30 minutes of Live Wine Blogging Followup after each of the two Live Wine Blogging sessions. This will allow attendees to talk in more depth to winemakers of interest to them or try wines from those wineries that didn’t visit their table.
  • We are eliminating the Sunday morning content and instead having the Sunday Post-Con Excursions start at 9:30 AM. This will give them more daylight hours (critical in November) and allow most attendees to actually get home that day.
  • In part because of the above change to Sunday and in part because of the fewer daylight hours, we are shortening the usual Friday Wine Country Excursions and renaming them Wine Country Dinner Excursions. These will be similar but generally will take place at just one winery.

We always strive to present the best conference possible and hope you appreciate these changes!

Don’t forget – early registration pricing increases on September 30th at midnight.  We have over 90 registered attendees already for 2017 and will be announcing the hotel information in the coming days.  Get on board for the 10th year of WBC and register today.


10th Wine Bloggers Conference to Return to Santa Rosa in 2017

The 10th annual Wine Bloggers Conference will return to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, California in 2017. The conference will be located at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek from November 9 – 12.

Registration is Open Now

The first and second conferences back in 2008 and 2009 were held in Santa Rosa and this launched the WBC as the annual gathering of online wine writers. Because of this history, it was a natural choice to return to Santa Rosa and Sonoma County in 2017 for the 10th event.

Hyatt Vineyard CreekIn addition to returning to the location of our founding, we are also changing the time of the 2017 conference. The first-ever conference took place in October and we chose November as it is much more affordable in well-visited Sonoma County. Space is simply not available and hotel room prices are too high in our traditional summer months.

NakedWines.comWe are just starting to work on identifying sponsors for the 2017 conference but are super pleased to announce NakedWines.com will be the sponsor of the traditional Saturday night banquet dinner. Nakedwines.com uses crowd-funding to support indie winemakers all over the world and dozens of them work out of their winery in Sonoma Valley. So we’re really excited to meet their winemakers, hear their stories, and learn how this new type of business can interact with the wine blogging world.

For more information on sponsoring the Wine Bloggers Conference, please contact reno@ZephyrConferences.com.

The Hyatt Vineyard Creek is an AAA Four-Diamond property, styled after a Tuscan villa and perfectly situated in the center of Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa itself is in the center of Sonoma County and so within easy reach of the many wine regions in the county.

Please note in 2017 we are paying attention to our Advisory Board which has been suggesting for years we raise prices of the conference. The WBC prices started at an extremely affordable $95 for Citizen Bloggers in 2008 and we have not increased them since then. For 2017 there will be a graduated $100 price increase, depending on when you register:

  • Through September 30, 2016: $95 published writers and citizen wine bloggers, $295 industry wine bloggers, $395 non-blogging participants (current price)
  • Through December 31, 2016: $120 published writers and citizen wine bloggers, $320 industry wine bloggers, $420 non-blogging participants
  • January 1, 2017 – April 30, 2017: $145 published writers and citizen wine bloggers, $345 industry wine bloggers, $445 non-blogging participants
  • May 1, 2017 – September 30, 2017: $170 published writers and citizen wine bloggers, $370 industry wine bloggers, $470 non-blogging participants
  • October 1, 2017 and Later: $195 published writers and citizen wine bloggers, $395 industry wine bloggers, $495 non-blogging participants

We are expecting great interest in the 10 Anniversary of the Wine Bloggers Conference as we celebrate the past, present, and future of wine blogging. We hope you can join us. Register Today!

Wine Blogger Reports at WBC16

Not every year at the Wine Bloggers Conference but, often, we feature a session called Wine Blogger Reports in which 8-10 bloggers each get five minutes to relate to the audience something they are doing of interest. They not only give our attendees an opportunity to share but also serve as inspiration for you to go home and develop your own blogging, writing, or wine endeavors.

This year, the Wine Blogger Reports will take place from 10:45 – 11:45 AM on Sunday, August 14th, effectively closing out the conference.

We are pleased to present these Wine Blogger Reports participants:

  • From Blogging to Your First Book: Rachel von Sturmer, Wine Fox: Harness your blog and get published! This talk will cover the steps in writing a first book from a blogger’s perspective, from how she channelled her passion for the local wine region, hatched a plan for writing a guidebook, organized research and tasting trips, hired a graphic designer, and put together a fun wine tour guide to BC’s Okanagan.
  • The Blog as Platform for Building Personal Community: Amy Collins, Pig&Vine: Thinking she was a “big damn deal” due to her decade of experience in the wine and restaurant industries, upon moving to New Orleans Amy found out better. Using Pig&Vine as a springboard to make friends and business connections helped her to plant roots quickly and embrace my new home. We all want more followers and to monetize our passions and hardwork, but it’s deeply rewarding to simply form friendships.
  • It’s all about you! One Blogger’s Attempt To Match People With Wines They’ll Love: Stephanie Byington, My Wine Tribe: You and a wine critic don’t necessarily share the same palate. It was Stephanie’s own inability to find wines that suited her palate that started her on the path to becoming a wine blogger. With the help of chefs and sommeliers, she developed a way to help people identify their own flavor preferences – their wine tribe. Now, mywinetribe.com gives readers customized wine recommendations  based on palate preferences while providing accessible, humorous and experiential education to demystify the world of wine.
  • Expanding Your Writing From Wine to Other Products: Justin Koury, Wizard of Whiskey: Justin is a sort of jack of all crafts, with experience in wine, spirits, and cooking. Are you a wine writer interested in expanding your horizons to other products? Justin will provide some of his experiences and quick tips.
  • From Aligote to Zweigelt – It’s Tasting Time: Valerie Stride, The Demystified Vine: Who doesn’t love a good party? How about a tasting party? Whether it’s helping local wine clubs plan galas or throwing her own private tasting parties, Valerie enjoys organizing events revolved around tasting wines from A to Z. This brief presentation will examine how wine bloggers can approach planning tasting parties. The goal: to have a lot more blogging material at the tip of your fingers all the while having a lot of fun!
  • Interviews With Artisan Winemakers: L.M. Archer, binNotes: L.M. has a section on her blog called the redThread, which is a series of interviews with artisan winemakers. As she writes “Behind the glamour, prestige and popularity of wine makers and wine making hides another story – a story about struggle. A true modern day hero’s journey, winemaking includes leaps of faith, mentors, battles fought and won, and a return home with the treasure – in this case, wine – the redThread™ that binds us all.”
  • Finding Your Wine Blogging Niche: Holly Shaw, Wine Not Whine: There are over 1,500 wine blogs in the blogosphere, so how do you find your niche? Blogger Holly Shaw took what she knew (being a mother of three kids) and used that as the best for her blog, Wine Not Whine. Holly will talk about creating a blog that that offers a unique perspective based on your qualifications, without writing in a way that just isn’t you.
  • Attending Festivals as a Wine Blogger: Emily Martin, The JetSetting Fashionista: Emily is a travel, food, and wine blogger with a fashion background in New York City and seven years of blogging experience. So there were lots of topics she could have covered in her five minutes. We asked her to speak on Attending Festivals as a Wine Blogger since she has attended dozens and can relay tips for how wine bloggers can connect with festival organizers so both sides win.
  • Around the World in 80 Harvests: Amanda Barnes, Around the World in 80 Harvests: We normally ask bloggers not just to tell us about their blog but this UK blogger’s concept is so cool it is worth sharing. Amanda is spending two years traveling the world to document 80 harvests in 80 different wine regions. She’ll relate what she plans and how she goes about making the connections that make her trip feasible.
  • Romancing the Language: Gwendolyn Alley, Art Predator: “Go for the jugular,” advises Natalie Goldberg in her books on writing. This is not just advice about writing (or life) but how to go beyond tasting notes to provide a visceral experience for your reader, one that combines story, insights, risk. The wine will tell you what to write about if you listen to what it has to say about which glass it prefers, which food it wants to be paired with, and what story it wants to be told. It’s about romancing the language, not just publishing tasting notes. Learn how to evoke feelings, memories, and emotions through wine from Gwendolyn.

Wine Blogger Reports: Call for Speakers

Wanted: Eight Citizen Wine Bloggers who are attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference and wish to take five minutes to address the audience about your current wine blogging or wine industry activities.

We are putting out a Call for Speakers for the final content session of the 2016 conference, the Wine Blogger Reports.

Each speaker will have five minutes to talk about what he or she is doing in wine blogging or the wine industry. Topic examples include how you created a local-only blog, your participation in a blogging collective, how you leveraged your blog to create a series of wine pairing dinners, or pretty much anything else as long as it is related to wine blogging and your current activities.

The Wine Blogger Reports are open only to Citizen Bloggers (not blogging for a company or organization) and to those registered for the conference. To apply, please send us an email by Friday, June 24 with your name, blog name, title of your proposed presentation, and one paragraph of detail. If we have more than eight submissions, we will select based on the content of each submission and variety among topics.