Wednesday, June 12, 2013

WBC13: Day 1

Even though I had come in too late Thursday night for the opening night reception at the See Ya Later Ranch (great name), I popped out of bed bright and early, spending some time on the balcony watching the sun over beautiful Okanagan Lake. Not too soon after, my WBC13 roommate, Byron Marlowe of @professormerlot fame and I headed out for a quick morning run to explore the Penticton downtown, After dead-ending along the lakefront, we headed up some steep hills for trail running, with the most amazing lavender scent permeating the air. We headed back down after some great views of the lake from the bluffs above, then ran around the downtown area to see what we could see. Breakfast ended up being at The Bench Market, a great little cafe (everything on their healthy and fresh menu is made from scratch on-site), the only place in Canada that I got a decent latte, strangely enough -- not sure what the problem is with Canada and soy lattes. The Penticton area is incredibly gorgeous, a nice mix of nature, agriculture, vineyards, residential areas, and the downtown area itself -- all this within eyeshot of Okanagan Lake. The lake is 76 miles long, seemingly going on forever.

Post-breakfast, the day began.

WBC13 Day 1

10:15 – 11:15 AM Keynote speaker – James Conaway

As I wrote in my post yesterday, WBC13: Passion, Responsibility, Engagement, and Fun, Conaway started the Conference off with a bang, exhorting attendees to go beyond, to research and dig and expose, to not be content with surface prose. It's not enough to review the wine, but to look at the environment that it is made in - it is our responsibility to expose the truth: "Writers aren't supposed to be liked. The more you are, the less effective you are as a journalist." I'll admit to being disappointed a bit in that he read his remarks rather than off the cuff or from memory, but the content was powerful, stirring, and made me excited to become a better writer.

11:15 – 12:00 PM Current State of Wine Blogging – Survey Results

Not surprisingly, most bloggers don't make money from their work, though this is somewhat misleading, since many of us receive samples, which obviously has cash value. There were some surprises for me, especially the number of Twitter followers and unique visitors; I lag FAR behind in these two, so I wonder where some people are getting their numbers (or there's some serious number inflation going on). Since people self-reported, it would probably behoove the survey to be based on a single source, such as Google Analytics. For a complete look at the results, head over to the 2013 State of Wine Blogging Report.

12:00 – 1:30 PM Lunch with Wine Country Ontario

Not to toot the host area's horn for them, but, while the wines of Ontario were certainly drinkable, they did not have the crisp acidity, fruit, and balance when compared to the BC wines. Great spread though, and really nice to see vegetarian options for most of the courses.

1:45 – 2:45 PM Breakout Sessions
- Session 1: Google Plus Workshop
- Session 2: Creating Compelling Content
- Session 3: The Secrets of Chenin Blanc from South Africa
The Compelling Content session was one I was really looking forward to. While tasting wine is fun and educational, ultimately sharing one's tasting notes is not altogether useful, as each person's palate is so distinct. This session was about telling the story, about being passionate, educating oneself so that one can educate the readers. This is the very thing I had in mind when I started blogging, but I feel like I strayed from that, becoming formulaic. Hopefully changed moving forward.

3:00 – 4:00 PM British Columbia Live Wine Blogging – White, Sparkling and Ice

Just wow. Even though these speedy exposures to wine aren't the best way to appreciate them, these BC wines were spot on, really a shame that most of the wine-drinking world will never get to try them. From my tasting notes, characteristics that were repeated are acidity, stone fruit flavors, citrus, honey, balance, pleasant mouthfeel, the positives just kept coming. If you're travelling through Canada and can get here, get here. If not, buy some of these wines in the duty- free shop or another store, then check them as baggage or carry them on. Your cellar and palate will thank you.

4:15 – 8:00 PM Excursions to Penticton-area wineries (departures from the front lobby)

Five local winery associations put together excursions for Friday afternoon with different themes and fitness levels, not to mention great BC wine and food. One I dismissed out of hand as paella was dinner, but all the others sounded pretty fun.

WBC13 Similkameen Wines

The theme I chose was "Vineyards and Geology," because I was interested in learning about the "unique geology, terroir and environmental differences that help create the award-winning wines of the region" (which turned out to be the Silkameen). The Silkameen is an area that is known for its commitment to the sustainability of the land and the organic focus of their grape and fruit wines. On the way to the winery for the tour and dinner, we stopped at the Old Grist Mill and Gardens, a BC Heritage Site. They are currently growing their own wheat, with plans to refurbish the mill and actually bake bread onsite. Also on the property is an apple orchard with multiple heirloom varieties -- visit there in the fall and you can get a taste. Seven Stones Winery was our final destination and the reason I chose this outing ("head underground for an earthy, down-to-earth dinner?" yes, please!). After a tour of the winery, the vineyards, and the newly built cave and barrel room, we met with area vintners for wine tastings - to a person unfailingly nice, sharing their stories and wines, both of which were compelling and attractive. Then underground we went, where Chef Chris Van Hooydonk (of Artisan Culinary Concepts) created a feast to please all palates, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options that paired perfectly with the local wines. Kudos to all!

9:00 – 11:00 PM Evening Reception with the Oliver-Osoyoos Wineries Association (You will be transferred directly from the Excursion to the Reception)

Flat out too much for me. After a day of drinking wines and travelling on the bus in the afternoon, I was simply too tired to appreciate this reception. After one more glass of bubbly, I headed downstairs and got on the first available shuttle. No after-hours parties for me; instead, to bed and some much-needed rest.

Like 50 States Of Wine on Facebook
Follow 50 States Of Wine on Twitter


  1. It sounds like a really great conference. I can certainly appreciate being tired after that itinerary, however!