Wine Bloggers Conference 2011

As I fly home from the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, I’m pondering the reply to a question I posed before I left, “will it be worth attending?”
We made the decision not only to attend, but to be a sponsor as well. Sponsorship we hoped, would offer us a greater opportunity for interaction with the 300+ bloggers and a chance to address the group through an exciting presentation format called  Ignite. It’s a PowerPoint presentation that has 20 slides, showing for 15 seconds each, so you’d better be ready to bring it!

I’m happy to say that, yes; it was well worth the resources we extended to be part of an event that I can only describe as, truly unique. Never did I imagine spending three days with this many people so passionate about wine, who don’t get paid for what they do. I met people from all over North America, with every conceivable background and level of wine knowledge. At times it looked more like a geeky computer  convention with people hunched over multiple laptops, typing feverously. With many opportunities for one on one’s with the bloggers, to talk about the environmental aspects of closures, I got the same kind of reply’s that I get from just about every group I speak to, “Gee, I didn’t know that” and “but I thought….”.

As I’d imagined, most of the information regarding the wine closures was relegated to the old “screw cap vs. cork discussion. Which as always, revolves around TCA/wine quality issues. The striking difference between this group and other wine industry events, that I have addressed, was the willingness to listen with an open mind. There was none of the “cork is dead” attitude that can often permeate wine centric events.

In the end, I have to say, attending this event was a home run for the CFCA and the survival of the cork forests. I had a large number of people tell me that their understanding of the cork industry, forestry and closures in general, had been changed and that they would be letting their readers know, about the misconceptions that exist in the cork/wine world.

I also got to meet team members of the Charlottesville Whole Foods Market, who have done a great job with Cork ReHarvest. I spent part of my day on Saturday with Duane Cassis, President of Carpet Plus in Charlottesville, who has been running a cork-recycling program for the last two years. Duane has over 60 participants collecting natural cork and we are exploring ways to work with Duane and his team to expand the program throughout VA.

I want to say thank you to the event planners for giving us this opportunity and to all the bloggers for their open and welcoming attitudes to the cork dork.

Highlights of my trip:
Making some friendships that will certainly last.
Being told by a young wine maker from Argentina that I had influenced his decision on the closure for his wines, natural cork.
The numbers of people who told me how important the work we are doing is and that armed with the facts, many bloggers will spread the word to their readers.
Meeting and spending time with Brian Kraemer from our corporate partner Kendall-Jackson
Visiting Charlottesville, VA for the first time.
Tasting some wonderful VA wines
Having my flight cancelled and being re-routed, first class!

I’m looking forward to next years Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland Oregon!