Live Wine Blogging from the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma and Soon from Dallas, Texas
By Kori ~ July 24th, 2009 @ 2:30pm – “Dad (John), Colby, and I are here at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma County, California. We are just about to begin the Live Wine Blogging segment featuring wines poured for us by the winemakers themselves. We will update this post as we go. Having major Wi-Fi issues at the host hotel. So they’ve switched a few things on the agenda and postponed the Live Wine Blogging segment. Hopefully, they’ll get it sorted out and we’ll be back soon.”
These comments sent by the Wine Peeps are not exactly the words that you want to hear coming from a Wine Bloggers conference!
At the last minute, I decided that I would sit out this year’s galactic, Internet wine love fest called the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC – http://winebloggersconference.org/america) held again at the retro, 50s-ish Flamingo motel in downtown Santa Rosa, California. I attended last year and found it interesting, informative and quite a frenetic experience particularly with a live blog tasting. It can only be described as like speed dating for wine inclined. Wineries poured and discussed their wines while blogger tasted wine and blogged about their wine experiences.
Links to some of my posts from last year’s WBC events can be seen by clicking on the following links:
WBC’08 Second Only to Obama on Twitter
At last year’s event, wines from many well known (and lesser known) regions of the wine world freely flowed with bloggers dominating the Internet. At WBC’08, the number of Twitter posts (called “tweets”) coursing through the Internet from the WBC on the opening day of the event was second only to those containing the word “Obama”. Activities ran from breakfast to afterhours functions around the pool. However, in 2008, there was at least a WiFi connection to be had. This year, it became a serious issue delaying the start of the 2009 WBC festivities. Apparently, from several blogger online comments, it persisted to a degree into the night. This made blogging from hotel rooms chancy, at best. Some bloggers sought out the nearest Starbucks for a stable Wi-Fi connection. There was even a rumor going about that the Flamingo Hotel’s WiFi system was the target of a cyber-attack by beer distributors.
If you are into Twitter like me, following the hot “wine-tweets” this year is a bit schizo. This resulted from there being two not one real-time Twitter feeds to monitor:
The reason for my absence from WBC09 is that I am trying to concentrate on my Texas wine book project. So, I relegated myself to being a “virtual blogger” at the WBC09. That is a moniker that I just made up for someone like me who is not actually participating in WBC’09, but observing the action from afar using social networks like Twitter and monitoring blog posts.
On the Other End of the Internet Connection Thinking About the Upcoming Texas Twitter Taste-Off
I was particularly interested how a wine blogging event looks on the other end of an Internet connection as I am orchestrating a similar event in August up in Dallas, Texas. It feature a Texas Twitter Taste-Off in conjunction with the Go Texan Drink Local Wine Conference (details at: www.drinklocalwine.com). This event will feature 40 or 50 locally grown and produced Texas wines, all wines of Texas appellation (http://www.texaswinetrails.com/tmap-2.htm). In this first ever event, bloggers and other invited media will taste this selection of Texas wines in a walk-around style event, and blog and network via the Internet on their tasting experiences. Some may chose to post messages to their respective blogs while others can announce their findings via Twitter or other social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook. At the end of the event, the participants will provide an online vote for the top wines in four categories (white, red, dry and sweet) and the awards will be presented to the wining Texas wineries.
Despite the confusion caused by the Wi-Fi problem and the double work to monitor both real-time Twitter feeds, there were loads of interesting comments floating about the blogosphere from the WBC’09 event. I have highlighted some of these below:
Best Organized Tasting Notes
First, one of the better organized blogs when it came to posting tasting notes was the family trio of bloggers that call themselves the Wine Peeps (www.winepeeps.com). They came down for WBC’09 from Washington state. What I enjoyed about their postings were their simple and concise tasting notes of the wines in the WBC’09 Live Blog Tasting event as highlighted below. They should write a textbook for other wine bloggers with their crystal clear style of blogging. It lends itself to high speed live event coverage while also being informative. I will definitely refer the media-types at our upcoming Texas Twitter Tasting in Dallas to their website for examples of posting blog tasting notes.
Best Live Video Feed
The best live video feed of the delayed WBC’09 Live Blog Tasting that I could find online came from Clint and Loni Stark at Stark Silver Creek (www.starksilvercreek.com). Loni was at the mic when I watched the festivities yesterday. She had a pleasing camera presence, provided snappy yet insightful comments on the wines being tasted, and also stopped to interview notables who happened to wonder by their table during the tasting.
Tweets from WBC’09 Attendees
I have also monitored the tweets coming from WBC’09. As mentioned, this was made somewhat problematic by having to switch back and forth from the two separate live feeds coming from the conference. However, in the middle of this confusion, I stumbled across a convenient Internet software tool called TweetDeck (http://tweetdeck.com/beta) that can be downloaded for free. It enables you to simultaneously monitor multiple Twitter feeds (like #WBC and #WBC09) at the same time. It also lists Tweets by others that mention your comments, and also keeps track of any direct messages you send over Twitter to other accounts. This is one cool app; the interface is shown below:
I particularly like Twitter for conveying tasting notes as you are allowed only 140 characters in an individual tweet. Basically, I feel that if you can’t describe a wine in 140 characters (usually 15 to 20 words – if you don’t use too many four syllable words) you probably aren’t very good at describing wines. Secondly, tweets can be launched into the blogosphere directly from your Black Berry, phone or other handheld communication device. Best of all, this form of communication doesn’t need a local Wi-Fi network (as was problematic at WBC’09). It is enabled directly through your phone’s own network provider: Have smart phone, can Twitter.
However, one thing very noticeable from the start of the WBC’09 Live Tasting that continued on into the evening was that the tweets were dominated by comments of a social nature. They were complete with some of the same old high school pick-up lines that I tried myself 30 years ago, just web enabled! However, a few of the bloggers were serious about conveying their tasting experiences, see below:
The Empty FaceBook
I was surprised by one of the most interesting aspects of the online coverage of WBC’09 was the difficulty I had finding anything on FaceBook or MySpace on the event. It appears that the attendees at the conference were blogging directly to their websites and most were posting comments on Twitter. In fact, the average time between tweets as I wrote this blog on Saturday afternoon was about 7.5 seconds. This works out to about 8 comments tweeted per minute. At that rate, you can hardly expect each one to be unique, poignant and insightful.
Over the past two hours, the WBC’09 attendees were on the following schedule:
10:15 AM Welcome followed with Keynote Address by Barry Schuler on
“The Future of Blogging and Social Media”
11:15 AM Keynote Address by Jim Gordon on
“The Future of Blogging and Wine Writing”
The comments have gone from the nuances of wine to the nuances of blogging, social media and wine writing. Comments from the live Twitter feed:
“joewinetraveler: #wbc09 Schuler: Bloggers are reshaping the media industry. Big things come after a down turn.”
“wineinkbytia: RT @pmabray: The wine biz hasn’t had its “internet moment” yet @Bshuler- agreed! #wbc09”
“marycressler: Trending topic discussion @ #wbc09: is Twitter 2009 equal to CB radios of 1975?”
“PasoWinos: GOOD POINT – RT @bricksofwine How many of us really “respect” Robert Parker? #WBC09 (via @oenoblog) Heck, do millennials even know who he is?”
“cellarmistress: Signing off to conserve battery power. This has been an exhilarating speech–very informative! #WBC09”
Such “blogocentric” comments should not to be unexpected, after all this IS a bloggers conference. However, don’t worry. The participants have just boarded the conference buses and are departing for lunches at Napa Valley wineries where they will be undoubtedly served more wine and the discussion will quickly return to the nuances of wine and the pickup lines of yore.
P.S. I almost forgot to mention one wierd but cool thing observed. If you go to the WBC homepage (http://winebloggersconference.org/america/) at the top of the page you can see what looks like sequence of real-time photos from the event from organizer Joel Vincent’s personal phone-cam.