Ten Things I Learned at WBC10

I have just returned from the 2010 North American Wine Bloggers' Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. It was a long weekend of drinking wine, meeting people, talking about blogs and blogging, and trying to decide just how late one should stay up.

I had a great time, and met some amazing people. Here are ten takeaways I’d like to share from this year’s conference:

  1. Joe Herrig of Suburban Wino does a mean Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, and knows the obscure lines from Total Recall, Commando, and Conan the Barbarian to really pull it off.

  2. Telling Amanda Maynard of The Wineing Woman that Dustin Pedroia broke his foot while she should be enjoying her wine worry-free is not the best idea. I’m sure he’ll be fine, Amanda!

  3. A wine clocking in at nearly 16% ABV does not necessarily mean it will overrun your palate and be hot hot hot. The 2007 Mollydooker Velvet Glove Shiraz was poured at the red wine speed tasting on Saturday, and it was my favorite wine of the weekend. Some other peoples' as well. The thing is, it clocks in at what I would normally consider an insanely-high 15.8%. But it is balanced, nuanced, layered, and really delicious. It’s also $185 per bottle.

  4. There are always dissenting opinions. My friend Jason Mancebo of the $20 Dollar Wine Blog thinks I’m crazy and that the alcohol being that high is too much for his palate, and for many people’s. That it wouldn’t pair at all with food. He’s certainly got a point there. Dissenting opinions are awesome, especially when they’re given in good faith and without vitriol, like Jason did.

  5. People in the Washington wine biz are crazy about their state. They love it like a fat kid loves cake. The slogan of the Washington Wine Commission is “Washington State —The Perfect Climate for Wine.” Winemakers were telling us all weekend how they can grow literally anything they want. While I question how somewhere–anywhere–could be the “perfect” climate for both, say, riesling and tempranillo, I certainly admire their chutzpah.

  6. The other thing Washington wine folks are all about (right now, at least) is cabernet franc. Now, while I still really love Trefethen’s Cabernet Franc I have to say that as a variety overall, I can see why the Bordelais use it primarily as a blending agent. Ditto petit verdot, which Washingtonians are all about making right now, as well. Personally, I don’t see it working (besides, they make such fantastic syrah!) but more power to them, maybe they will crack the untapped market of American drinkers of the “other” red Bordeaux varieties.

  7. This never gets old:

  8. There is no substitute for meeting face-to-face. Over the course of a dinner that lasted less than an hour, the aforementioned Joe Herrig and I sprouted a new project idea. We wouldn’t have been able to work that quickly chatting over IM or email, or tweeting at each other. By the end of dinner I’d registered a domain name, and by the time I was taking off from the Walla Walla airport, the “Coming Soon” site was up and functional. It’s not launched yet, and I’m not giving a ton of details, but: Pop Winos.

  9. Not a lot of love out there for review-based wine content, at least among bloggers. I heard numerous times over the weekend how reviews are what people do when they can’t think of “good content,” or that reviewing what you drink is the “simple-minded ghetto” (or somesuch, that’s a paraphrase) of wine writing. Not that it will change what I do here, but I found it interesting.

  10. It still unnerves the hell out of me when people recognize my face or name. I know it’s my own fault, my face is my Twitter avatar, and I write under my real name, so it’s bound to happen. But it’s still creepy as shit when someone either walks up to me and says “You must be Steve!” or I tell them my name and they go “Oh! YOU’RE Steve Paulo!” Wigs me right out, man.

There will be more coming later, I’m sure, but these are ten things I learned or am taking away from this conference. Some of the things I learned will forever inform what I do, and some of the people I met I believe will become lasting friends. It really was an incredible weekend.

Next year’s conference is in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of the University of Virginia and birthplace of Dave Matthews Band (though not of Dave Matthews, he being of South African origin). Not sold yet on whether I will be able to make it to the next one, but it is still 13 months away. I wonder what the weather is like in Northern Virginia in late July?

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