Vote Now for Wine Blog Awards Finalists

The annual Wine Blog Awards process is in full swing and it is time to vote for your favorites. Voting ends June 13:

Vote Today!!!

The Wine Blog Awards panel of judges reviewed all nominated blogs for each of seven awards categories and have come up with their five (or more given a tie) finalists. The public vote is then combined 50/50 with the judges’ vote to determine a winner. If you are curious about the process, please check out the complete information on the Wine Blog Awards website by clicking on the various pages listed in the menu.

All winners will be announced June 15 and winners will be recognized at a Wine Blog Awards Ceremony held on August 13 at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA.

Here are the finalists for the 2016 Wine Blog Awards:

Best Original Photography or Video on a Wine Blog

Best Winery/Industry Wine Blog

Best Single Subject Wine Blog

Best Writing On a Wine Blog

Best New Wine Blog

Best Blog Post of the Year

Best Overall Wine Blog

The Relationship of Wine Bloggers to Wineries

2The relationship between wine bloggers and wineries is complicated. Bloggers often write about a winery or its wines. Sometimes this is done without ever alerting the winery and other times it is done with some help – information, a quote, a free tasting, a visit, a dinner, or perhaps an event at the Wine Bloggers Conference.

We have delved into the ethics of this relationship at past conferences and will do so again this year with a planned session on Wine Samples provided by wineries to bloggers.

But in this post we wanted to present you with one comment, by a winery PR pro, that we thought nicely summed up the relationship between wineries and bloggers. The comment below (edited for brevity), by Sao Anash of Muse Management, was posted in 2014 as a comment to a piece on the Drink What YOU Like wine blog, authored by Frank Morgan, about the recently-completed WBC14 in Santa Barbara County.

I was having lunch with Chris and Dayna Hammell out at Bien Nacido Vineyard the other day. We work together a lot on hosting visiting media, and we all agreed that we found the visiting bloggers, most of whom we had never met, to be enthusiastic, cordial, curious, polite and grateful to be in Santa Barbara County! You can hardly ask for more as a host.

There is a lot of chatter about what blogs actually mean and if they’re worth our trouble…and by “our” I mean, the supplier, in trade-speak.

Blogs are here to stay, I believe. My criteria, as a publicist, for a blogger that is worth taking the time and resources (for they are high) to host is not necessarily how big their readership is (everyone has to start somewhere) or how deep their knowledge of wine is (again, we all start somewhere).

I just ask that they be serious about their craft, respectful of the time of others, and truly curious about their new found vocation. Are they willing to open their minds to new experiences? They don’t have to like everything they taste, but are they willing to come into a situation with their own set of editorial and professional standards in place, and give a visit its proper due? I believe there are many bloggers out there that meet this criteria. And, it was reaffirming to meet a number of them at this year’s WBC.

In our opinion, her view crystallizes how wineries might think about wine bloggers and how wine bloggers might act while dealing with wineries. Wineries should not expect massive results from working with any one blogger. Instead, working with wine bloggers is about establishing relationships with influencers who, over time, can have a meaningful impact, especially in concert with other bloggers. And bloggers should realize wineries often spend significant resources on them (be it sending out bottles, answering emails, or investing in the Wine Bloggers Conference) and act professionally in return, both during the interaction and by following up with posts on blogs and social media.

We are very pleased to hear Sao was happy with her winery clients’ investment in the 2014 conference and are looking forward to the same in Lodi!

Do you have a story similar to Sao or Frank?  We would love to hear from writers and wineries alike on thoughts related to what makes a successful wine/wine writer partnership.

Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson to Keynote WBC16

We are super pleased to announce Andrea Robinson will provide the keynote address at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference, taking place August 11-14 in Lodi, California.

Andrea RobinsonOne of only 23 female Master Sommeliers in the world, Andrea couples this distinction with a strong culinary pedigree as a graduate and former Dean of the French Culinary Institute. She was the first woman ever named “Best Sommelier in the United States” by the Sommelier Society of America, is a winner of three James Beard Awards, and has been widely featured across leading national television networks and publications. She has written four best-selling books and blogs at AndreaWine.com.

Want to know more? Below is an introduction by veteran blogger Joe Roberts of 1WineDude followed by an interview with Andrea, reproduced in the same pink font she in which she sent it to us.

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Joe Roberts: “You might not know Master Somm Andrea Robinson. But you should; and if you’re heading to WBC 2016, you will.

The quickest way to tell you what you need to know about Andrea is that she’s L-E-G-I-T.

In looking back on nearly a decade of wine blogging, from its promising infancy to its present status as an en-masse force predicting most of what becomes trendy in the wine world long before it’s deemed cool, I can’t think of any entrenched wine personalities who were as supportive of that change as early (or as enthusiastically) as Robinson.

Andrea did me a few solids when I was less-than-a-nobody in the wine world. She publicly cheered on 1WineDude.com when she had little (okay, no) self-serving benefits to do so. I later came to learn that wasn’t special treatment coming from her; I have personally watched Andrea offer support for burgeoning sommeliers and promising wine writers; really, anyone in the wine biz who she thinks is also legit. And we have all watched her not only welcome the challenges that the advent of online media engendered in the wine world, but grab that shiz by the horns and put the smack-down on it.

In other words, Andrea is a vinous bad-ass.

Those of you lucky enough to hear her speak at WBC 2016 are in for a real treat. Not only is Andrea more than capable of extending the streak of excellent WBC keynote addresses, she’s also a veritable force of nature, regularly displaying an enthusiasm that would seem more probably coming from someone five times her size.”

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We are now in the ninth year of the Wine Bloggers Conference. How do you think wine writing (and wine blogging) has changed in the ensuing years?
Andrea: I think there continue to be new voices in wine blogging, which is exciting but also creates challenges for differentiating one’s voice and work. I also think that over that time frame, statistics have begun to show a dwindling importance of the big traditional publications, and of scores out of 100 points, as the key voices of influence in wine trends and purchases. This suggests that alternative sources of information are more important, including presumably wine bloggers.

You’re part of a sommelier community that is incredibly supportive, having each others’ backs in a way that can be quite inspiring. What do you think or hope the online wine writing community can take away from that example?
Andrea: The conference is a great way to foster and solidify solidarity and community among writers and I’m hoping to see aspects of the event devoted to this. It would be great to have a board similar to the Guild of Sommeliers where writers can share on topics and areas where they need help or would like input or views of their bretheren, and where they can share links to what they are working on so we can all support one another’s efforts.

You have written for both print (including four books) as well as electronically (including an active blog on your website). What do you think is the difference between writing for print versus online?
Andrea: The lead times for print are such that you can’t be very current, except for topics of known relevance like Wines for Thanksgiving or the Best Bubblies for Valentine’s Day, for example. And print doesn’t work so well for essay-type topics except in magazines, where there remain precious few outlets for wine articles. What’s great about digital is that with the long tail, you can narrow-cast topics you really care about, and find your audience, and they you.

Do you have any thoughts yet on what you plan to tell attendees at the Wine Bloggers Conference?
Andrea: Having just attended the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, I have a lot of fresh insights from some of the best writers out there that will inform some of what I would like to share. I also plan to talk about topics that could use more attention and why, as well as platforms that bloggers perhaps are not considering, trends that might inform topic choices, and the importance of credibility and authenticity, broadly defined.

Agenda Updated and Speakers Selected for the Wine Bloggers Conference

Please take a look at the updated Agenda for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.

We followed our normal selection process of issuing a Call for Content in November, having a vote by our alumni of potential sessions, and determining topics and speakers based on this vote.

While the conference officially opens on Thursday evening, content begins on Friday morning with a keynote address (details coming soon), a panel discussing the History of Grape Growing and Wine Making in Lodi, and a second all-group panel titled The Truth About Viticulture. With Lodi so famed for its grape production, we felt it appropriate to have a session devoted to this oh-so-important aspect of the wine industry.

On Saturday morning you will get to choose two breakout sessions to attend from among the following six options:

  • Advanced Social Media for the Wine Industry
  • Traffic Analysis – Using Data to Make Decisions
  • Wine Samples
  • Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, & Periscope
  • United States Wine Regions & Climate Change
  • Monetization

Saturday afternoon we focus on the craft of blogging and writing with two great panels: A Panel of Wine Blog Award Winners and a Panel of Print Media Wine Writers.

On Sunday morning we finish with two breakout presentations (The Big Jump – Why Wineries Desperately Need the Skills Bloggers Have and Increase Your Audience and Engagement) followed by Blogger Reports, a series of ten five-minute reports from bloggers located around the country and the world.

This, of course, is just the academic side of the conference. We will also have pre-conference and post-conference excursions, lunches, dinners, many wine tastings, and some afternoon trips in the Lodi region.

Call for Content and Speakers at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference

Speaker applications and content suggestions are now open for the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference and will remain open until November 22nd.  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!

CONTENT CATEGORIES

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.
  • Wine: 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.

Please note this process does not include keynote speakers. Please contact us directly if you have suggestions about a keynote speaker.

WHO SHOULD SUBMIT

Everyone is free to submit suggestions, whether you have attended the Wine Bloggers Conference before or not. You also need not want to present yourself as you can simply suggest a content idea.

SCHEDULE

  • Open call for speakers: November 6 – 22. We will accept your proposals and suggestions until November 22, 2015
  • Session review: November 23 – 30, 2015. 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: First Half of December. We will ask WBC alumni to vote on submissions.
  • Content & Speaker Announcements: Second Half of December. We will update the WBC16 agenda  and contact speakers whose sessions will be included in the conference.

Submit Your Content now and please remember to Register for WBC16, August 11-14 in Lodi, California.

Zephyr Adventures is Hiring

Zephyr Adventures is hiring two marketing professionals with an application deadline of September 20th:

  • Conferences Marketing, Communications, and Sales Manager
  • Chief Operating Officer of a new Marketing Agency

Zephyr Adventures has been operating since 1997 as an active tour company and now also runs wine, beer, and food tours through its sister company Taste Vacations. In addition, Zephyr created the Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008 and now runs six conferences per year related to wine, beer, food, and fitness.

We are a lifestyle company and only engage in industries we find fun and exciting.

The new two marketing professionals will be our seventh and eighth employees. Zephyr is entirely a virtual company with each person working out of his or her own home office, although the COO job above will likely require relocation. We do not work defined office hours and all Zephyr employees are free to take time off whenever they want to run, take a yoga class, or just go food shopping.

For complete information on the two jobs and to apply, see Zephyr Adventures is Hiring.

Survey Results from WBC15

We conduct a post-conference survey and have done so for every conference we have ever run since the first WBC in 2008, using the same 1-5 scale where 1=needs improvement, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=very good, and 5=outstanding. We analyze these results thoroughly each year to make sure we are constantly improving. We also like to share these results with you, our community.

Here are some of the findings from the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in The Finger Lakes.

  • The overall conference rated 4.09 on the five point scale, slightly below our high of 4.13 in Penticton. I can hear the cheers from Canada now but this is a great rating for The Finger Lakes.
  • 89% of respondents rated the overall conference Very Good or Outstanding, which means the conference pleased almost everyone. Four people rated the conference “needs improvement” and four people rated the conference “fair”. I know many people who were there will shake their heads at this, since so many people did enjoy almost everything about the event. However, we the organizers understand people have specific priorities and if we didn’t meet these (like the poor WiFi at the hotel) the conference might have “needed improvement” for a few people.
  • Karen MacNeil, our keynote speaker, was the highest-rated keynote speaker ever at 4.51. This is extremely impressive.
  • The pre-conference excursion with the Seneca Lake Wine Trail rated 4.74 and the post-conference excursion with the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail rated 4.28. These excursions are almost always some of the highest-rated aspects of the Wine Bloggers Conference and always sell out.
  • Content sessions on average rated 3.84, well above our average for all conferences of 3.60. It is hard to provide content that resonates with everyone but this score means the content was mostly successful. The highest scoring sessions were Wines Across the Andes (Montes Wines from Chile and Kaiken Winery from Argentina), Cellaring Sense: The Ageability of Finger Lakes Wines, and the Women in the Wine World panel.
  • In terms of events, the conference rated 3.95 with the highest rated events being the Finger Lakes Wine Country Excursions, the Hot Glass Demo at the Corning Museum of Glass, the Friday evening Wines of New York reception at the Rockwell Museum, the Saturday banquet dinner at the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Thursday opening reception hosted by the Gaffer District downtown association in Corning.
  • There are always snafus at any conference but I am proud to say attendees rated the overall organization of the conference a 4.22, which shows the effort of my team and especially our new employee Kerry Dopler who was running her first-ever WBC.

Much credit for the success of the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference goes to Laury Poland and her team at Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association and all our many sponsors. Thank you!

Wine Tourism Conference Yields Advantages For Wine Bloggers

Are you are looking for new perspective and insight into the wine industry beyond the annual Wine Bloggers Conference? Then you should consider attending the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference. The conference is designed primarily for leaders and representatives from the wine and tourism industries but is also of great value to bloggers looking for an insider view on wine tourism trends and developments. Plus, citizen bloggers who attend to cover the conference get a 50% discount – see below for details.

WMTCMany bloggers have attended past Wine Marketing & Tourism Conferences and found the two-day event worthwhile on multiple levels. For Thea Dwelle, Editor of Luscious Lushes, the content of the conferences helps to advance her goal of adding more travel content on her blog. “Attending the conference gave me a fresh look at old ideas, and I was inspired to change my social media attack as well as HOW and WHAT I write about,” said Dwelle of the 2012 conference.

Thea felt the glimpse into the “other side of the house” was “fascinating”.

The Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference is not as jam packed with tasting opportunities as the Wine Blogger Conference, but the networking and chance to discover new wine regions and make contacts in a less competitive setting was key for Liza Swift of Brixchicks. “I learned so much from the other attendees…[and] as a wine blogger, the greatest benefit I got was the expansion of my travel horizons to the other attendee destinations such as Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Texas. I tried great wine from places I had never considered visiting and now have a burning desire to go and tell the readers.”

Joe Becerra, owner & editor of WineCountryGetaways.com also found the access to industry leaders and new contacts a benefit to his blog and business. “I seemed to make more connections here than at the Wine Bloggers Conference. It’s a nice change of pace to meet folks who do not blog but have a web presence,” noted Becerra.

Additionally, Joe’s business partner and spouse Janelle Becerra stated, “Joe and I weren’t sure this conference would be beneficial for us, but ended up thinking it was well worth our time and money.” “The main thing we enjoyed was the opportunity to meet and talk with people in the wine industry. Networking is so important to all of us, and the Wine Tourism Conference gave us many opportunities to do that.”

The Wine Tourism Conference may not be a good fit for all wine bloggers, but as Ms. Dwelle tweeted: “Any blogger who is serious about wine and travel should register for the conference.”

Good advice! And since we at Zephyr Conferences organize both the WBC and WMTC, we are able to provide a 50% discount from the normal Wine Tourism Conference registration fee for active citizen wine (and food and tourism) bloggers. The deal is this: You must be an active, “citizen” blogger (ie not blogging for a company website) and must agree to write at least two blog posts about the conference – subjects of your choosing. If you agree to this and wish to join the conference, please register online and use discount code MEDIA.

Note: This post was updated and re-published from a 2013 post.

2016 Wine Bloggers Conference Heading to Lodi, California

The 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference will take place in one of California’s great historic winegrape growing regions – Lodi, California on August 11-14, 2016. Registration for WBC16 is open now!

WBC16 logo

Lodi is important in terms of wine grape growing. While California leads the nation with 90% of all wine production, Lodi accounted for over 17% of the grapes in the state crushed for wine in 2014. A classic Mediterranean climate pervades the region and as such, the region boasts a broad array of winegrape offerings – over 75 different varieties at commercial levels.

Lodi is now also emerging as a well-known and regarded wine producing region. Anthony Giglio noted in Details magazine recently that “Lodi, California is the next Napa Valley.” In 1986, Lodi was officially designated as an AVA and subsequently seven distinct sub-appellations have been designated, highlighting the region’s diversity in climate and gerography.

In the last 20 years Lodi has seen a rapid increase in the number of wineries making great wines from the region, now boasting over 85 wineries. The region is also seeing increased interest from winemakers throughout California and the country to make their wines from Lodi grapes – wineries such as Turley, Bedrock, Ramey, Cline Cellars, Forlorn Hope.

Our local partners are the folks at Lodi Wine, who are doing an outstanding job promoting Lodi and are welcoming us with open arms. Timing couldn’t be more perfect as some grape varieties will probably be being harvested, vineyards will be abuzz with activity and cellars will be gearing up for the 2016 vintage while we’re there. See the video below for a better sense of the area.

Hutchins Street SquareLodi has an excellent downtown community and conference center called Hutchins Street Square, which has been reserved entirely for the conference. Hotel room blocks will be announced in the near future and transportation between the venues will be provided by our local partners. As a community, Lodi is a bucolic agricultural town of about 60,000 people which is deeply entrenched in the wine industry – many of the shopping centers in town are named after vineyards or grapes, the city bus line is “The Grape Line,” and the city crest bears a cluster of grapes.

“I can’t tell you in words how much I’m looking forward to this adventure. #WBC5 will represent my third-in-a-row conference. Each one has helped to shape me both professionally and personally and I hope it does that for each and every one of you. The Wine Bloggers Conference is as much about the joy of wine and the power of online journalism as it is about friendship and community. Packing my bags this weekend and am proud to be part of this amazing group.”

That comment came from Sujinder Juneja in advance of this year’s conference and we thought it was sort of a fitting end to the 2015 conference as we look forward one year to when we will all be packing our bags for the WBC once again.

We are super excited to be headed to a new region for the ninth annual Wine Bloggers Conference, one which is so critical in grape growing, now established as a wine producer, and growing in importance in wine tourism. Register now for WBC16!

Expert Wine Writing and Wine Blogging Advice

The Wine Bloggers Conference is always filled with expert advice pertaining to all angles of wine blogging. Included this year are sessions on digital marketing, going from blogging to new ventures (Blogging-to-X), photography and videography on your smart phone, making your site mobile friendly, and much more.

This year, however, we also have three sessions specifically addressing wine writing and wine blogging, brought to you by your peers. These include:

  • Panel of 2015 Wine Blog Award Winners (Saturday 2:30 PM): In past years we have announced the Wine Blog Award winners live at the conference. This year we announced them 45 days in advance, allowing more winners to plan their trip to the conference to accept their awards. In addition, we’ll have a session in which 2015 award winners Chris Kassel from Intoxicology Report, Jason Stubblefield from Cork Envy,  Meg Houston Maker from Maker’s Table, Wil Fernandez from Vintage 2014, and Becca Yeamans from The Academic Wino (via video) will present to you their stories and tips for how they became award-winning wine bloggers.
  • The Secrets to Wine Blogging Success (Sunday, 9:30 AM): We’ll follow this up with specific advice from four experienced wine bloggers. They will be providing concrete advice on everything from creating a community to tying your blog into social media. Our panel is composed of Madeline Puckette from Wine Folly, Jana Seitzer from Merlot Mommy, and Frank Morgan from Drink What You Like, with moderator Thea Dwelle from Luscious Lushes – all extremely successful wine bloggers.
  • The Secrets to Wine Writing Success (Sunday, 10:30 AM): To cap things off, we will have two professional writers, experienced in both print wine writing and blogging, talk about the actual art of wine writing. W. Blake Gray blogs at The Gray Report, is the California editor at Wine-Searcher.com, writes a monthly column for Palate Press, was previously the wine editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and has written for many print outlets. Meg Houston Maker blogs at MegMaker.com, which won Best Writing in the 2015 Wine Blog Awards. In addition, she consults professionally with companies to improve their own communications with their constituents.

We think you will love this lineup of award winners, experienced bloggers, and professional writers and so have set all these sessions to be in front of the entire audience so no one will miss any of their advice.