Vote Now for the 2015 Wine Blog Awards

The public voting period for the 2015 Wine Blog Awards is now open:

Vote Now

Public nominations were made in April and our panel of judges evaluated all nominated blogs to produce five finalists for each of seven categories. (Some categories have more than five finalists if there was a tie for fifth place in the voting.)

Voting is open through June 26, winners will be announced on June 29, and winners will receive physical awards hand-crafted by the Corning Museum of Glass live on Saturday evening at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference in Corning, The Finger Lakes, New York.

The Wine Blog Awards went through a few changes this year based on input from the wine blogging community, the most notable of which is to announce the awards well in advance of the Wine Bloggers Conference to encourage winners to attend. For complete details on the Wine Blog Awards process, see www.WineBlogAwards.org.

Wine Bloggers Conference Name Change in the Future?

One of our primary goals as organizers of the Wine Bloggers Conference is to deliver an event that meets the needs of our community. The “new media” world of blogging and social media is not so new anymore and changes yearly, so to achieve our goal of meeting your needs we continually think about new ideas, solicit feedback, and make changes.

One of the ideas we hear from our alumni is whether we should adjust the WBC to reflect the changing dynamics of wine blogging, professional wine writing, and social media. We recently conducted a survey of our alumni on this subject, with a specific focus on whether we need to change the name of the conference to be more inclusive to wine writers who are not blogging, and wanted to share the results here.

We asked in the survey about six different potential names with this percentage of respondents who “loved” the name:

  • Wine Bloggers Conference: 40%
  • Wine Writers Conference: 35%
  • Wine Writers & Bloggers Conference: 26%
  • Wine Media Conference: 27%
  • Wine Writing & Social Media Conference: 25%
  • Wine Communications Conference: 19%

Clearly, our alumni prefer to keep the Wine Bloggers Conference with its current name. Even more starkly, the “negative” response to the current name was only 19% – by far the lowest negative among any of the choices. Even those respondents who are not Citizen Bloggers preferred the current name.

So the results are in and we will not be changing the conference name.

We also asked whether there should be separate conferences for “wine bloggers” and “wine writers” and 87% said there should be one conference for both. This is a little contradictory since respondents did not want to change the name to include “writers” but the other survey questions and the many comments were very revealing.

In general, Citizen Wine Bloggers are passionate about what they do (we all know that) but also proud of being a wine blogger. Most see themselves as wine writers but as very different from writers who have an editor or who get paid for their work. And they are proud they have chosen the format of a blog to express their views on the industry.

Those attending the WBC who are not Citizen Bloggers (industry bloggers, professional writers, or others in the wine industry) are equally positive about wine blogging. Only 13% (the same as for Citizen Bloggers) consider blogging a “limiting or out of date term” and, in fact, people supported the focus on bloggers. As one non-blogger alumnus said:

Wine Bloggers should be respected for what they have achieved … a more open, democratic and vital forum about wine.

This comment seems to sum up the attitude of the survey respondents. In essence, our alumni are telling us “We like being wine bloggers (or associating with wine bloggers). But we also welcome everyone to our conference.” That works for us and, in keeping with that spirit, we have added the tagline “Writing and social media in the wine industry” to our conference website.

See you at the Wine Bloggers Conference this August.

Wine Bloggers Conference Content is Announced

We are happy to announce the content for the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference has been mostly finalized and is now online on our Agenda.

Determining content for the WBC is a long process that involves substantial input from our alumni. We recently conducted two surveys of our alumni. The first asked about whether we should implement one or more of five structural changes to the content format as follows:

  • Tracks: Run all breakout sessions in beginner/advanced tracks: 48% in favor, 22% against (remainder neutral)
  • Intro to Blogging: Alternatively, have an “intro to wine blogging” session and make the remaining content more advanced: 65% in favor, 6% against
  • Panel of Top Wine Bloggers: Invite a panel of top wine bloggers to tell their story and then participate in a series of breakout sessions explaining their success: 59% in favor, 8% against
  • Blog to X: Have a series of breakout sessions in which bloggers reveal how they went from wine blogging to getting a winery job, consulting in social media, writing a book, etc: 42% in favor, 15% against
  • Live Blog Reviews: Have a two-hour session in which experienced bloggers review the blogs of less experienced bloggers: 36% in favor, 16% against

We took all this feedback into account, added in our own experience as to what works and what is possible, and have made the following changes for 2015:

  • Intro to Blogging: Clearly the idea of having an intro to blogging session and making the main content more advanced appealed more than having tracks. We have added the Intro to the agenda and will make sure breakout sessions are more advanced.
  • Panel of Wine Blog Award Winners: We are announcing today changes in the Wine Blog Awards that will hopefully allow more winners to attend the conference. We will invite winners to sit on a panel on Saturday afternoon where they can share their secrets to success with all conference attendees and participate in workshops on Sunday in which we delve into specific topics more deeply.
  • Blog to X: This idea received some favor but many people suggested it deserved only one hour, so we have added it to the agenda as a one-hour breakout session.

Subsequently, we put out a Call for Content and then did a second survey of alumni to determine which specific topics we should include in other parts of the agenda.

We hope you like the agenda, which we feel is a good mix of blogging content, networking opportunities, wine tasting, and focus on the Finger Lakes host region. Thank you to all who participated in our surveys and call for content. We are working on securing a keynote speaker. If you would like to volunteer to lead the Intro to Blogging or speak on the Blog-to-X session or any other session now on the agenda, please email info@wineblogawards.org.

Changes in Store for WBC15

We have asked WBC attendees to rate the conference every year since we started in 2008. And each year we review all the ratings, read all the comments, and create a plan for improving the conference based on your suggestions.

Here are a few changes you can look forward to in 2015:

  • We will soon be asking our alumni to vote on potential content sessions so we simply can’t say what the content will be in 2015. It all depends on you. However, we will push for more nuts-and-bolts sessions on wine blogging so you can go home with solid information to either improve your blog or the way you interact with wine bloggers.
  • We will have more local wines from smaller wineries. In fact, Live Wine Blogging – both the reds and whites – will be entirely wines from the Finger Lakes.
  • There will be no speakers during the Saturday dinner.
  • We will get out of the hotel multiple times in addition to the Friday wine country excursions. The Friday evening reception will be held at the beautiful Rockwell Museum of American Art and the Saturday evening reception will be held at the amazing Corning Museum of Glass. We will also likely be out of the hotel for both the Thursday evening opening reception and the Saturday dinner.
  • We are making changes to the Wine Blog Awards and the awards presentation. Stay tuned!
  • We extended the Friday wine country excursions by an additional hour and are ourselves involved in the planning of them this year. The buses will show up on time!
  • There will be shuttles running from the local airport to the host hotel.

At the same time, there are some things we heard about in the surveys that won’t change:

  • We will only have one excursion into wine country during the conference. If you want to visit more wineries, you should sign up for the pre-conference and/or post-conference excursions or simply extend your stay.
  • We will not provide every meal during the conference. However, we will provide two dinners and two lunches – pretty good for the $95 Citizen Blogger ticket price!
  • The schedule will still be tight and if you need downtime, you will need to create it on your own. Remember – everything is optional.
  • You will still have to choose from among multiple breakout sessions, since this is how we get enough topics to please everyone.
  • Not everyone will fit in the main hotel. Book early.

We are extremely excited about the local support the Finger Lakes region is providing and think you will be impressed as well!

Finger Lakes Will Be An Awesome Host for WBC

Two of the highest-rated Wine Bloggers Conferences out of the seven so far were 2010 in Walla Walla, Washington and 2013 in Penticton, British Columbia. We think it is not a coincidence these were also two of our smallest host cities and we believe the 2015 conference, to be held August 13-16 in Corning, New York (population 11,000) will be equally as rewarding for participants.

I traveled to Corning and the Finger Lakes region in September and came back extremely enthused for next summer’s conference. I visited half a dozen wineries, met 50 local wine and tourism industry leaders over three planned meetings, and spent time in Corning itself.

Let me paint you a picture.

  • Local Airport: I flew into Elmira Corning Regional Airport, a local airport with good connections. I love airports like this, which are easy upon arrival and cut your get-to-the-airport advance time upon departure. Our host hotel, the Radisson in Corning, is only 13 minutes away and the airport is generously providing shuttles on Thursday and Sunday.
  • Small Town With Big Hospitality: Corning itself is an awesome little town that is coming together to support the conference. Two local off-hotel locations are tentatively hosting evening parties on Friday and Saturday, meaning we’ll be getting out of the hotel more often next year. Saturday’s sit-down banquet dinner is tentatively planned for outdoors in a local park and the Wine Blog Awards ceremony will take place just afterward in a theater auditorium, giving the awards more prominence and their own time slot. All this takes place within walking distance of the hotel in the Gaffer District of central Corning. (A gaffer is a glass blower, named after the eponymous company based in the town of Corning.)
  • Excursions: The Finger Lakes wine region is spread out and the nearest wineries to our host hotel are 30 minutes away, which means our traditional excursions into the local wine area on Friday simply cannot reach most of the wine region. However, we are offering both a pre-conference overnight excursion to Seneca Lake and a post-conference excursion to Cayuga Lake, two of the main wine areas, for those of you wishing to explore the region more. Space is limited and details will be provided in January.
  • Wine Industry Support: The local wine industry is definitely excited about the Wine Bloggers Conference and is stepping up to support the conference in numerous ways. Perhaps most importantly, both Live Wine Blogging sessions, which we have been running since the first WBC, will be full with Finger Lakes wines alone. You’ll have plenty of local wines to try during the weekend.

New York State, whose wine industry is led by the Finger Lakes, was named the 2014 Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, which called the state “one of the most vibrant and promising wine-producing destinations in the world.” This is against worldwide competition.

Make sure to come to Corning, the Finger Lakes, and New York State to participate in what should be an awesome Wine Bloggers Conference. Remember registration will be limited next year due to space constraints at the host hotel.

Zephyr Adventures in the New York Times

Taste Vacations, the new food, wine, beer, and spirits tour company from Zephyr Adventures, was included in yesterday’s New York Times travel section.

I would like to say we were “featured” in the paper but the article was just a few paragraphs. Still, the New York Times is one of the best locations for a tour company (or any company) to appear in print and we have already received information requests from all over the country from this one article.

The article focused on Taste Vacations’ food tours and the New York Times’ interest in this shows how hot food in general and food tourism in particular is right now. Cooking shows are immensely popular on television, eating local is a priority for many people, and food tourism – actually engaging with local producers while you are traveling – is also on the upswing. The same is true of wine tourism.

Consider joining Taste Vacations’ 2015 food tours in Peru, the Basque country of Spain, or Tuscany in Italy or join our Affiliate Program to receive commissions if you refer your readers to us.

What Is a “Citizen Wine Blogger”?

There has been some discussion and confusion since the latest Wine Bloggers Conference about what a Citizen Wine Blogger is.

I created the term “Citizen Wine Blogger” back in 2008 when we first started the Wine Bloggers Conference. The goal was to provide a less-expensive price to the WBC to those bloggers who were not employed by a company and, instead, had to pay their own way. (We also provide a lesser discount to industry wine bloggers.) That was and still remains the primary reason we use the term.

Citizen Wine Blogger was a totally arbitrary name and I could have selected any other term that achieved the goal: Non-Business Blogger, Hobbyist Blogger, etc. However, Citizen Blogger had a great ring to it and I have heard others like it too. I don’t really know what the popular opinion is but, at this point, it is well accepted.

We define Citizen Blogger as follows:

To be as a Citizen Blogger, you must have an active (i.e. at least three current posts) blog that does not promote a business and be listed as a contributor on the blog.

So a Citizen Wine Blog is one that is not connected to a business. To clear up any confusion:

  • An individual writing for his own account but whom also works in the industry is still a Citizen Wine Blogger.
  • A wine blogger who starts to offer consulting services or other similar money-making programs on his blog is still a Citizen Wine Blogger. One of our entire goals at the Wine Bloggers Conference is to give bloggers the tools to grow and prosper and we would not want to penalize them for doing that. Only once the blog is clearly more about a business than a personal blog would the blogger become an Industry Blogger.
  • Any blog using the URL of a business is likely an Industry Blogger.
  • We do not in any way take note of the quality, professionalism, intent, or success of a blogger. The entire point of blogging is that it is open to anyone, from the newbie just starting out to the blogger with experience and success.
  • The term Citizen Wine Blogger does not apply to the Wine Blog Awards. Most of the awards, with the exception of Best Winery Blog, are open to all citizen and industry wine bloggers.
  • We count all media bloggers as Citizen Wine Bloggers. I realize this is a bit misleading but many media (like your local newspaper) now have local citizens blogging on their website. Plus, we want to encourage media bloggers to attend the WBC.

I hope that helps but please provide any comments you have!

The Future of the Wine Blog Awards

The Wine Blog Awards have now operated eight years in a row, generate hundreds of nominations and thousands of public votes each year, and provide valuable exposure for wine blogging in general and quality blogs in particular.

At the same time, every year brings suggestions about how the awards process should be changed and improved. We are always open to feedback and invite your participation in a survey (link below) to provide your opinions now.

Created by Tom Wark in 2007 and initially hosted on his blog Fermentation, the awards quickly became the leading means of identifying excellence in wine blogging. Wine blogs are nominated for awards by the general public and the top finalists for each awards category are selected by a panel of judges. Awards are given based on an equal weighting of the judges’ opinions and a public vote.

In 2010, the Wine Blog Awards underwent major changes. Changes were made to the awards themselves and the www.WineBlogAwards.org website was established as the awards’ home. Tom Wark withdrew from managing the awards and the organizers of the Wine Bloggers Conference volunteered to take on this task. The awards are presented live each year at the Wine Bloggers Conference. There is no budget for the awards and the entire process is currently managed by one volunteer and a panel of volunteer judges – a system that needs changing to be sustainable.

Please provide your feedback on the current state and future direction of the Wine Blog Awards here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WBAfeedback

2015 Wine Bloggers Conference Heading to Finger Lakes, New York

We have been working for years to bring the Wine Bloggers Conference to New York and are pleased to announce the 2015 event will take place August 13-16, in the town of Corning, Finger Lakes region, New York. Registration and the hotel room block are both open now. See below.

We first had the Finger Lakes region on our radar in 2010 when we worked with then-president Morgen McLaughlin of the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association to bring the WBC to the region in 2011. That event eventually went to Virginia, Morgen moved to Santa Barbara and helped us organize this year’s conference, and Finger Lakes was put on the back burner.

Until now. We have been working for months to find the proper venue, communicate with Morgen’s replacement Laury Ellen Poland and her team, and finalize a date.

The Finger Lakes Wine Country boasts over 100 wineries centered around the region’s four main lakes: Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua. These wineries are responsible for yielding 90% of the total New York wine produced each year. For those of you who were at this year’s conference, here are some of the wines you tasted:

  • Wagner Vineyards – 12 bottles of 2012 Sparkling Riesling and 12 bottles of 2012 Single Vineyard Dry Riesling
  • Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars –  6 bottles of Gruner Veltliner, 6 bottles of Rkatsiteli, 6 bottles of Dry Riesling, 6 bottles of Blanc de Blancs Sparkling
  • Fox Run Vineyards – 12 bottles of 2013 Chardonnay (Unoaked), and 12 bottles of 2012 Cabernet Franc

Our host town is Corning, New York. In addition to being in the center of wine country and the home of Corning Glass, the town was named “Best Fun Small Town in America” in 2013 by Rand McNally. In Corning, our host hotel is the Radisson, where we have a room block and special rate of $159 (king or queen) or $169 (two doubles).

Reservations may be made by calling the Hotel directly at 607-962-5000 or by calling Radisson Reservations Worldwide at 800-333-3333.  Please request the “Wine Bloggers 2015” Room Block to receive the special rate.  You can also make your reservation online by going to www.radisson.com/corningny.   Once on the website, select your dates, select “more search options”, and input the promotional code WBC15. As always, the room block is limited so book now to reserve your room.

We have kept our Citizen Wine Blogger prices the same at $95 – without increase since our first conference. To qualify as a Citizen Blogger, you must have an active (i.e. at least three posts within the last three months) blog that does not promote a business and must be the owner or be listed as a contributor on the blog. To sign up as an Industry Blogger for $295, you must have an active wine-related blog connected to or promoting a business and be listed as a contributor on the blog. All other attendees – including those not actively blogging – should register as a non-blogger participant at $395.

In exchange for the discounted rates for Citizen and Industry Bloggers, we respectfully request that you blog about the conference at least three times (Citizen Bloggers) or one time (Industry Blogger) for the $300 / $100 discount you are receiving. You can blog about anything you want – the conference, venue, host city, sponsors, speakers, wines, wineries, whatever. This is what keeps our sponsors attending and what allows us to give you a discounted rate.

Registration for WBC15 is open now and space is limited to approximately 300.

We are super excited to be heading to The Finger Lakes in New York!

Day One of the Santa Barbara County WBC

Yesterday was a packed first day of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference and we are only now getting a chance to review the day

Wines of Portugal kicked things off with an amazing brunch. Held outside in a huge tent put up just for this occasion by the industrious and extremely welcoming Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, WBC attendees were treated to three food stations paired with Portuguese wines. But that description is too simplistic to describes the foods (Japanese station, Indian station, and Brazilian station) and the delicious wines that went with them.

We then moved inside to hear from keynote speaker Corbett Barr of Fizzle. Corbett was the first-ever non-wine keynote speaker in the seven years of the Wine Bloggers Conference (in which some years we had two keynotes) and he rocked. He clearly did his homework, speaking directly about wine blogging and wine bloggers, discussing the challenges and presenting some potential solutions, and providing a final message that the “Golden Day of wine blogging is still to come”. Corbett was very well received and I heard from multiple people they took long notes and had many ideas for change in their blogging.

We then heard from a panel of Santa Barbara County winemakers, led by by Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines. The four gentleman (Bob Lindquist of Qupé, Richard Sanford of Alma Rosa Winery & Vineyards, Ken Brown of Ken Brown Wines, and Richard Longoria of Longoria Wines) were elegant and yet casual, wise and yet modest, and very informative about the challenges and successful of local winemakers.

At this point, it was time for some more wine. What better way to proceed than the first Live Wine Blogging, a sort of speed dating created by the WBC way back in 2008 that pairs winemakers and bloggers. Attendees heard from 10 wineries in 50 minutes, each of which had their allotted five minutes to pour for a group of bloggers at a table, tell their story and describe their wine, and answer questions all while the bloggers tasted, analyzed, and wrote about the wine.

We then had three Wine Discovery Sessions and each attendee had to choose one to attend. I’ll be honest and admit I couldn’t attend any as I had to wrap up Live Wine Blogging and prepare for the next event! The sessions include:

  • Wine Discovery hosted by Rutherford Hill  and Duckhorn Wineries - #MerlotMe (Jockey Club)
  • Wine Discovery Hosted by Winebow - When the Sum is Greater than its Parts: Wine Blends from Around the World (Pavilion Tent- Lobby Level)
  • Wine Discovery Hosted by Jackson Family Wines - How the Pros Taste (Hotel Lobby)

At that point, it was time for our annual excursions into the local wine country, with 10 individual groups going to 10 different wineries. I don’t know what happened in all 10 groups but mine, which was hosted by the off-limits-to-the-public Hilliard Bruce, was outstanding.

We all gathered back at the hotel for the Wine Tourism Throughout North America reception hosted by Touring & Tasting Marketing and Media. We had wines from seven different regions, accompanied by a flowing chocolate fountain!

The Official After Party then began, hosted by Jordan and J Wineries and then stories will be legend, but I had to get to bed so I could get up the next morning to write this!