Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: Ten Observations

"The winemaking is heartfelt. The wineries are small, independent and taking on the world.” ~ National Geographic Traveler commenting on the Carlton Winemakers Studio.
Well-well it's time to say "See ya later, Alligator" to the wonderful 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference. For me personally I had a great time, Mrs. Cuvee to a lesser extent [wilted a bit in the heat] and the lack of sleep caught up with her and I both a bit on Saturday night. But, wow it was so much fun catching up with so many friends from the International Wine Tourism Conference & Workshop, the very recent Rioja Top-Bloggers road-trip folks and last years wonderful Navarre discovery tour.
I've made so many wonderful friends over the years, I've traveled with many of these same folks [who I had only known from a distance on Twitter or Facebook] to distant vine-covered destinations and I'm proud to call them my friends. So to each and everyone; who I met at this conference for the first time, during this year's Wine Bloggers Conference, if I've not said it loud or often enough it was great to meet you. For everyone else, who I've come to know over the years, it was fantastic seeing you all again and I look forward to seeing you again soon in the future.

Now I know I've waited a bit before releasing my observations about this recent Wine Bloggers Conference. For many, they like to strike while the iron is hot and honestly who can blame them. But I wanted to take a few more days to think about the experience. And yes, it was an experience to take it all in and then let it all go, oozing all over an unsuspecting drooling herd of vino-sapiens [as if there was such a thing]. But that said, I've think I have at least ten observations that I hope will inspire others to attend in the future, makes me think about what could have been and perhaps encourage others to take a deeper look into the Oregon wine-scene, so here we go.

1. This great [well-oiled-machine] event we've all come to know and appreciate as the Wine Bloggers Conference, gave Oregon wine a well-deserved spot-light over a four-day period. But this region, like so many others is like pulling out an old vinyl record, you have to get the deep-cuts to see what really is going on, to fully absorb the culture of great winemaking in Oregon and not just in the Willamette Valley.
2. For me, I was surprised and humbled by many who counted me as inspiration, a helping hand or as a blogger cited as "doing-it" right. Wow, thanks so much to everyone for publicly stating those favorable impressions. It's with big thanks and mucho gratitude to Shawn Burgert [aka, A Wandering Wino], Kim Johnson [aka, D’ Vine Wine Time] and Heather Unwin, representing the Red Mountain AVA that I say, thank you and to everyone else who has given me a virtual-high five over the years.
3. Having been to the Oregon Wine Scene once before this conference, more than a few years back, there have been many changes and many new producers who have joined the fray. All of which I'm so glad to see. But that said, I'd have to say that while I appreciated sampling the efforts of many new producers, a few of the old guard as well, some of my favorites, what I call the "heavy-hitters' were absent from the conversation. So for you folks who possibly are wondering "what did I miss" or you're relatively new to Oregon wine, may I suggest checking out the likes of Ken Wright Cellars, Beaux Freres, Patricia Green Cellars, Bergstrom Wines and lastly a trip to the Carlton Winemakers Studio is a must for any vino-sapien in the audience. If I left any off of this very short list please feel free to mention them in the comments below.
4. Again, like I said before in contrast to where I live here in San Diego, the folks who call Oregon home have an over-whelming friendliness, not typically encountered in my own home town. That’s not to say it doesn't happen here, it just doesn't happen that often. Take for instant the story of town of Carlton, a community which was jumping up and down about the many wild-eyed wine bloggers about to descend upon their relatively small town, they even sent a police escort to vigorously welcome them. Mrs. Cuvee and I met a very nice lady who was from San Diego, waiting-on-tables who enthusiastically confirmed our conclusions, you should have seen the smile on her face, it told us everything.
5. Wow, Portland a town I've only visited a couple of times before attending the conference; what really impressed me is the Public Transportation. In Portland, they take it to the Max with Pub-Trans and by all means, feel free to bring your bike on-board. The average Portlander dedication to recycling; the only thing that is missing are compost bins in each hotel room. But seriously, the public-transpo is in my estimation very cool, far better than the silly, barely goes anywhere San Diego Trolley [oh, did I say that out loud?]. But where I live out here in the burbs, perhaps having Pub-Trans to that same degree, would have in hind-sight have been a good idea, but now its a too little-too late proposition.
6. I discovered what I know will become a favorite to anyone else who experiences their wine; a new favorite producer on the Orgundian Wine Trail and that producer is Hawks View Cellars. After our bus load of bloggers finished piling into their well-appointed and comfortable tasting room, located in Carlton, OR our group was met by GM and Co-Founder A.J. Kemp. He's a fantastic brand ambassador who made each and everyone of feel as welcomed as an old friend, giving us a great introduction into the all the how's and why's of Hawks View Cellar, all without the aide of a teleprompter. The wine here is dressed to impress, it jumps from the bottle ready to slake the thirst right of you. Please stay tuned, as there are more details to come when I high-light this winery and its wines on an in-depth review. Just remember keep an eye on this place; they are going places [don't doubt me] and yes I purchased wine here.

7. Most of know that the No. 1 Oregon varietal by far is Pinot Noir, making up 60 percent of total acreage and wine production, closely followed by Pinot Gris. But not only is Oregon known for its Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, but now there's also a relatively new kid on the block, known as white Pinot Noir, which has the appearance of Pinot Blanc. A wine made from the same Pinot Noir grapes, but it now being used to make a white wine, called White Pinot Noir. A wine you'll find many producers are now adding to expand their portfolios along with other cool climate favorites like Viognier and stand-by Chardonnay. What you'll find in most of these wines is that White Pinot Noir is often very refreshing; buoyed by good acidity, while offering up delicate and sometimes shy aromas of apples, pears, wet-river stone and a slap on a honey-bees ass.

8. The excursions, oh the pre-conference excursions, folks honestly if you go to these conferences and you don't take the excursions, you're missing the boat. Nearly everyone I spoke with and nearly every conversation I overheard was super positive about the pre-conference excursions. Are they perfect, umm no, but do the positives far out-weigh the negatives, hell yeah they do. I only wish there had been a post conference excursion as well, like the one to Red Mountain in 2010. I've chosen to do an excursion for each and every conference and I'm always glad I have, the intimate nature of these trips, makes peeling back the layers of the onion, so much more delightful. You can discover so much more by participating and geez the cost is what I would call stupid-good. I went on the Washington County excursion, the folks who sponsored it, planned and executed this trip were fabulous and professional every step of the way.

9. Many [not all] the wineries were on the ball with invites to bloggers for extracurricular activities, before during and after the conference. A hardy round of virtual applause to you all, I'm sorry I was not able to attend all the many wonderful events that were planned. Now that said, one of the events I was able to attend was what I have dubbed as "Blend Camp" at R. Stuart and Co. and thank you Maria. Why, well I like to name things, I like to give folks, friends, events and other stuff in my life nick names. Anyway, a group of about 25 bloggers attended a post conference event where we had a very tasty lunch and then were invited to work with a group of other bloggers to come up with our very own blend to have shipped home. This was a highly fascinating and fun event that involved what it really takes to come up with a blend, no easy task, as many other teams found out.

10. "We don't need no stinking badges" sorry to disagree with the pot-prophets from the eighties, but we really need to change the badge format in my opinion. The name badges are so small and could have really emphasized the twitter handles a lot more prominently than they did. For me, I really only know most folks by their twitter handle; it would have made recognizing most folks much easier.

The writing was pretty small and obscured by the background image, so small in fact, I really had to look at each one more than once to know who I was talking with, a bit embarrassing. Second, geez I hope those badges will get steam-cleaned or something, because I know those badges went places most folks may not want to talk about.

Well folk that’s it for today, but after creating a list like this, it leaves me wondering what your own observations were. I'd really like to hear from many as you as possible, about your own experiences, positive or negative no matter. I really enjoyed seeing everyone again this year and I can't wait to see some of you again next year or hopefully before that if at all possible. If any of you find yourself in my wonderful little town of San Diego, please give me a holler, love to grab a glass with you ya and hang out. Until next time folks, continue to sip long and prosper cheers!


Dan J. said…
Good to see you again! I'm glad you enjoyed the wine, and I look forward to you detailed account of Hawk's View Cellars.
Will Eyer said…
Hi Dan,
Thanks I didn't realize I had not written a post in two weeks yikes! Thanks for checking in, cheers!
Anonymous said…
We will make the changes to the name badge next year! I have it on our To Do list. I agree with you on this.

Allan Wright
Anonymous said…
I agree with you on the name badges. We will make the change for next year. On our To Do list!
Ben said…
"A wine made from the same Pinot Noir grapes, but it now being used to make a white wine."

Ummm. No.
Will Eyer said…
Hi Ben, so not a fan huh? I think it's a bit esoteric myself, but glad I gave it a swirl!
Ben said…

Pinot Blanc is not Pinot Noir. Also, it isnt esoteric in the slightest. Alsace et al
Will Eyer said…
While Pinot blanc is a white wine grape popular in Alsace. It's however a point genetic mutation of Pinot noir, if you want to nitpick.

That said, I may have used the wrong name here; but in the context of that paragraph I was discussing what many producers in Oregon are calling white pinot noir.

It's a wine which is indeed esoteric IMO, it's a wine far outside the mainstream and is relatively a new style. While it's possibly becoming a popular style in Oregon, that's about where it ends.

Lastly, it could easily be argued that the White Pinot Noir produced from a red wine grape, being produced in a white wine style, it could be likend or referred to as Pinot Blanc if we are just arguing semantics.
Ben said…
I was not just trying to argue semantics or to nitpick. For me, I thought you had meant the grape Pinot Blanc and not white Pinot Noir.

Just as Pinot Blanc is a mutation of Pinot Noir, so is Pinot Gris. If I made a rosé from Pinot Gris, I would call it Pinot Gris rosé, not Pinot Noir (because of the color) rosé.
Will Eyer said…

Sorry that you got the wrong impression, but in order to avoid confusion I should not have mentioned Pinot Blanc anywhere in my description of the White Pinot Noir wines being produced in Oregon.

But as you know "Noir" (or noire) is the French word for black and "blanc" means white. So was it really a stretch to say Pinot Blanc in speaking about White Pinot Noir? I don’t think so, but feel free to disagree.

On the other-hand you're right Pinot Blanc has its own identity, so for clarification purposes it would be best to only refer to white wines being made from Pinot Noir as "White-Pinot-Noir" in the future, so as to avoid any further confusion.


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