A Wine Conference for the Passionate

I think it must be clear to anyone to cares to take notice that today there is a far greater abundance of wine-related media at our disposal than at any previous time. I’m not talking about wine-related tweets and posts as these generally are devoid of any real substance or are links to or comments upon wine-related stories published elsewhere. I’m talking about the plethora of wine media offered up in the form of wine publications, wine blogs, podcasts, newspapers columns and magazines.

The problem for wine-interested folks is not finding information, but organizing it.

This problem isn’t being addressed in the agenda at the upcoming Wine Media Conference, a two-and-a-half-day affair taking place August 5-7 in Eugene, Oregon. But I’m not sure this conference is the place to take on that problem. The curation of wine media is an issue for an entrepreneur, not necessarily the writers who will gather in Eugene to discuss working with wineries, using social media to advance one’s media property, the business of being a writer, running a podcast, engage in seminars on various wines and wine-producing regions and a variety of other topics of interest to the wine media and content creators.

Some may know the Wine Media Conference better under its former moniker, The Wine Bloggers Conference. Originally staged in Sonoma County in 2008 at the height of the blogging surge, the Conference has gathered writers, bloggers and others in the industry in places like Napa, Lodi, Australia, Walla Walla, Portland, British Columbia, New York, Virginia and other wine locales. Though a source of interesting content and discussion, the annual event is probably best known and most appreciated for its networking opportunities. It is a fun event that is surrounded by informal parties and gatherings and excursions.

Testament to that camaraderie that has marked the Conference is the fact that the conference organizers, Zephyr Conferences, always posts a running list of those who will be attending. With 160 people currently shown as registered, the event will be practically sold out as Zephyr is limiting the number of attendees in deference to the continuing COVID situation. However, the list is really fascinating. It consists of writers and editors published in mainstream wine media, a number of wine podcasters, wine writers with personal sites we used to call “blogs”, a contingent of publicists, various winery-connected attendees and a smattering of others connected in one way or another to wine. The diversity of types is encouraging and should make for some fascinating discussion.

This will be my 11th time attending this Conference. In the early years, I played a small role in getting it off the ground, I oversaw the wine blog awards that were presented at the Conference, and I continue to sit on the advisory board. There is no monetary gain for me in all this. I just like the people who are passionate enough to commit themselves to this kind of endeavor and like gathering in one place along with them. 

The event is, however, a gold mine for two groups of people in particular: publicists and publications. The publicists can, in one venue, get to know hundreds of writers and content producers. In wine PR, knowing and having a relationship wtih the writers and content producers you’ll be reaching out to and pitching stories is the coin of the realm. This conference is perfect for getting to know and developing an understanding of these people. For publications looking for voices to bring into their circle as writers and editors, the Wine Media Conference is like the AAA league in baseball. Many if not most of the content creators in attendance are not extensively published but tend to be willing to put in the work and hone their craft. Over the years a number of really good writers have come out of the ranks of attendees of the Wine Bloggers Conference and went on to play in the show…so to speak.

On this latter point of the Conference being a place for the established wine publications to find new talent, I’ve always been disappointed that more members of the mainstream wine media don’t attend. While it’s true that publications like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine-Searcher, VinePair Wine Business and others have no problem attracting the interest of potential contributors and writers, the value of being in the room with so much potential talent seems undeniable. It’s sort of like the value of having a large and well-curated list of new wine stories and podcasts to rely on daily. The difference is that this curated list of what’s new to listen to and read doesn’t exist. The AAA League for wine writers does and it’s coming to Eugene, Oregon in a few days.


8 Responses

  1. Tone Kelly - July 21, 2021

    I am looking forward to hearing more about this.

  2. Tom Natan - July 22, 2021

    As a wine blogger who is also an importer/online retailer, I can’t say it was a positive experience overall at the two conferences I attended over 10 years ago. On the one hand I don’t have a large business so I didn’t relate to many of the industry people, and on the other hand so-called “citizen” bloggers looked at me like I was a used car salesman. I learned some things so it wasn’t a total loss, but I hope that situation has improved.

  3. Tom Wark - July 22, 2021

    I’ve not heard the term “citizen blogger” in a long time. For some reason I always think of the 18th century when I hear “citizen” put in front of another word.

  4. Austin Beeman - July 22, 2021

    Will you be there this year, Tom? If so, I’d be able to introduce you to people that will make you feel welcome.

  5. George Rose - July 22, 2021

    Looking forward to it Tom. I’ll be presenting “Photography Tips for Making Your Wine Blog Pop.” All those well-chosen wine words will always benefit with a well-chosen image. See you there.

  6. Carl Giavanti - July 23, 2021

    I agree with Tom that this is a great opportunity for wine publicists and why I will be there. I also think it’s worth noting that many wine bloggers have leveraged newfound relationships from this conference into paying wine careers.

  7. Tom Wark - July 23, 2021

    What Carl Said.

  8. Tom Natan - July 27, 2021

    Tom W: The citizen bit is what the conference organizers used to call it. It is a little bit Goody Proctor, isn’t it?
    Austin: Thanks, but I can’t make it. Most years the conference happens during a week that I have an annual commitment for. The only ones I’ve attended were when it fell outside that week.

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