August 26, 2012


Ok, finally a moment to recount the Wine Bloggers Conference 2012 that happened in Portland last weekend. I went into the event a bit skeptical about how professional the experience would be. Is it self-hatred? I'm a blogger, yet I feared that other bloggers might not be serious enough, whatever that really means. I guess I just didn't want to be part of some kind of shill fest of people looking to promote anything they could get for free, with each day devolving into a booze cruise party.

So how was it? Really good. The event attracted lots of bloggers, some more experienced and knowledgeable than others, as well as lots of other categories of industry people. Journalists, producers, publicists, vendors, and because it was in my hometown, lots of old and new friends who were a delight to spend time with.

Yes, there were sponsors providing lots of opportunities to taste their wines and otherwise hear their pitches. So what? We tried wines of Oregon, of course, and Alsace, Franciacorta, Greece, Mallorca, Sardenia, among others. Several were exceptional. Several were ordinary. All were worth my time.

I skipped the Thursday evening reception in favor of Friday's conference kickoff events at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland. There was a general tasting of wines of the world, a wistful keynote by Randall Graham, speed tasting of whites and roses (not my favorite moment to be sure), then field trips to various wine regions close to Portland. I was on the bus to Sokol Blosser winery in the Dundee Hills, where we learned about soils with Rolin Soles of Argyle and David Millman of Domaine Drouhin. Then we had a tasting in the cellar of several notable Dundee Hills wineries, more tasting outside with some delicious food from Red Hills Market and ice cream from Salt and Straw. Don't forget the beautiful scenery of the Dundee Hills, including the iconic tree pictured below that Eyrie fans might notice. Then back to the Doubletree for the sort of unfortunate night of many bottles. This was one of the weaker moments, with way too many bottles in a warm room where smaller, less formal gatherings would have been better.

Saturday saw lots of breakout sessions on topics like social media and what is wine blogging anyway. I enjoyed the learning sessions but then took advantage of Winebow's session on unusual grape varieties of the world, a blind tasting of seven wines led by Sheri Sauter Morano, MW, a terrific session host. Ever had Hondarrabi Zuri? How about Sauvignon Gris? Neither had I, knowingly anyway. Then there was an uncomfortable keynote by author Rex Pickett, who's a name dropper and terribly prone to talk about things he "can't talk about" and then keeps talking but doesn't say much and you're left wondering, what? Then more speed tasting of red wines, this more successful in content than the whites and rose. Then a break before dinner hosted and prepared by King Estate Winery. Not shabby, and I enjoyed good company at my dinner table.

I was especially impressed with the people who came to the conference. Lots of internet wine geeks from the pre-blog days, a few MWs at least, the organizer of VinItaly, you name it, I kept turning around and meeting people I was glad to meet and look forward to seeing again.

After Saturday dinner, there was more wines of the world to taste, then the official unofficial after parties in various hotel rooms. I stopped by the Chehalem Mountains Winegrowers Association tasting to say hello. Then I went to the Drink Alsatian event for the highlight of the weekend, a four year vertical of Trimbach's Clos St. Hune Rielsing. Oh my god, the '97 was magical and the others simply otherworldly. Sometimes I get jaded in the world of wine, but these wines were incredible.

Ok, that sounds like a lot of wine and it was. I spit pretty much everything until later in the evenings or at the Saturday dinner. I also didn't stay at the hotel but was smart enough to ride my bike the few minutes from my house. Two days was plenty, so I skipped the final Sunday morning events and called it a good conference. So good, I'm thinking I very well may go next year when the event is in Penticton, BC, which I happened to visit a year ago this weekend. A lovely place with special memories for me, though I won't be staying at the Holiday House.

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