Tuesday, July 28, 2009

17 Things I Learned at the WBC 2009!

1. I learned when people tell me how difficult it is to fly into Walla Walla to stand up and tell those naysayers to "buck up!"

If Lewis & Clark didn't have any problems finding the place on foot, neither should they have a problem finding Walla Walla via planes, trains or automobiles.
After listening to criticism after criticism of why Walla Walla wouldn't make the best place to have a Wine Bloggers Convention in regards to our small airport, extra miles, etc., to all of those critics, I wanted to cast a spell that all of the wines in their cellar turn to boxed white zin!

You can almost place six Sonoma County/Santa Rosa Airports (aka Charles M. Schultz Airport - you know, Snoopy's Dad?) into one Walla Walla Regional Airport. Then there is the $40 cab ride to destination Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa - WBC 09! Umm...the Marcus Whitman Hotel will complimentary shuttle your butt to their hotel, destination WBC 2010.

2. Once I finally arrived at destination WBC 2009, I learned that the Flamingo Resort Hotel has a lot of history. It was very glamorous and well appointed with the 1950's Hollywood/Las Vegas style. I kept wondering when Luci and Ricky Ricardo would check in.

3. Friday morning I discovered that I will never become an Ambassador for the Secret Sherry Society. Even the expensive stuff tastes like the cheap stuff, with the exception of the Fino style - the driest and palest of all Sherry varieties. I enjoyed the Fino very much and can see myself purchasing a few bottles.

4. Friday afternoon I learned I really liked "Live Wine Blogging" (aka "Speed Dating"). After lunch every table is "romanced" by several winemakers as they pour you a glass of their wines. You taste and then blog or twitter about it on your laptop or phone to get the message to your readers about the experience. However, even though I loved this, I failed miserably as I was too busy chatting with my lunch companions.

5. I learned I should have gotten my liver in better shape before I headed to California!

On Friday, somewhere between registration check-in and visiting the sponsors who welcomed us with glasses of wine, along with "Speed Dating," the "Grand Tasting of Sonoma" located at the pool patio before dinner, including wine tasting during dinner, that by the time I made it to the "After Hours Party" hosted by the Russian River Valley Wine Growers, my palate was fatigued! So I sat by the pool for awhile under the stars waiting for the ghost of Jayne Mansfield, who use to frequent the Flamingo Hotel pool. She didn't show.

6. Saturday morning I was delighted to learn that the former Christian Brother's Brandy Distillery was now the home of the CIA - Greystone.

The Culinary Institute of America was our host for the morning, complete with a continental breakfast. The last time I drove by the former distillery in St Helena, the distillery had moved out and the old building was not what she could be. The buildings and the gardens are now gorgeous!

Our key note speakers at the CIA were guests were Barry Schuler - former CEO of AOL and Jim Gordon, Executive Director of the Symposium of Professional Wine Writers and Current Editor of Wines & Vines magazine.

7. I learned from Barry Schuler that he and Al Gore created the internet while smoking pot one evening and their creation of the internet was with us wine bloggers in mind.

8. I learned from Jim Gordon how important it is to spell correctly when blogging. He reminded me of my junior high writing instructor as he told us, not once, but several times the importance of spelling or at least using some kind of spell check. Yeesss Mr. Gordon.

But more than that, Gordon also touched on an important issue brought on by last year's California wildfires. With wildfires, there is the potential the smoke can effect the actual grape's physiology, as the smoke can effect not just on the skin surface, but the smoke can permeate the pulp, as well. With that said, there certainly is the potential for serious smoke taint in Washington State since we have been known to have our share of wildfires, especially in the North and through the greater Columbia Valley AVA.

9. I learned that sitting in the back of a bus for two hours on twisty Napa Valley roads and digesting bus exhaust makes me nauseous. Even too nauseous to taste wine.

10. I learned a new road trip song. Sung to the tune of Do-Re-Mi (from Sound of Music). "Do is what I buy my wine with. Re is who I buy my wine from! Mi is who I buy my wine for. Fa - lalalalala..."

11. I learned the importance of "Green" in the Napa Valley.

It's difficult to fit 277 wine bloggers and their tools into one bus, so we were split up into seven buses and taken to different wineries in the valley. Our bus (#4) was sent to Cuvaison Estate Winery, where we met with Jay Schuppert, President. We were treated to a beautiful lunch prepared with local produce, while Jay informed us of their remarkable green program - from solar panels to staff carpooling. Not only was Jay informative, but he and his staff were hospitable and extremely generous.

Later on the bus someone raised the question if we thought Napa Valley was really that into "green" as they professed. Questions were raised if perhaps "green" was really only a trend or maybe a marketing ploy. My contribution to the question is I totally believe that overall, Napa and Sonoma actually live "green." I base that on several trips to Northern California visiting friends and peers and they really do "walk the walk." Remember, we are talking an area where the original "hippy" movement evolved.

12. I learned that even I can share my blogging knowledge with long standing wineries from California.

Our bus visited Staglin Family Vineyards/Winery and was met by Shari Staglin (remember Shari and Garen from the movie, "Mondovino"?) Joining Shari and Garen Staglin were representatives from other wineries, including Russell Weis, General Manager of Silverado Vineyards. We all gathered around the table for a panel discussion of "Does Size Matter?" No we didn't talk about an article from a Cosmopolitan magazine - - we talked about the sizes of wineries and why a owners, winemakers choose them. Eventually, the discussion came back to us - - the wine bloggers.

I couldn't stand it any longer. I had to ask Shari and Russell if they blogged. Neither one did and of course, I had to ask why? Shari said she didn't know what to say and Russell said he was scared. Well, I said, "Do it! Don't procrastinate! Do it now or you never will!" Then I got off of my soap box and ran to the bathroom.

13. I learned at the Grand Tasting of Napa Wines held at Quintessa Winery, that I was really home sick for wines from Walla Walla!

Though I will say the Cabernet from Cakebread made friends with my palate. But the high point for me at the tasting was the 1996 and 2006 Cornerstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon that friend, fellow wine blogger and General Manager, Craig Camp poured for us! Beautiful Craig!

14. I learned that one of the best times of the day in the Napa area is at Conn Creek Winery just as the sun is setting. Bus #4 was taken there for dinner. As the sun set around their beautiful gardens we were treated to a delicious, fresh and colorful dinner! The Napa-style is all about loca-vore and loca-pour.

The other treat at Conn Creek Winery is their AVA Room Barrel Blending Experience where our dinner was held. Conn Creek was very generous and gave us the opportunity to blend our own wines from the various barrels representing the terroir from their unique AVA's.

15. Sunday morning I learned how to use social media, monetization and crazy videos on my blog.

16. I learned that I can no longer party like it's 1999.

17. I learned that all of favorite winebloggers are not the size of 80 x 80 pixels after all!

And if I never learned a thing at the WBC 2009, it was still worth the trip and the time to finally meet, break bread, drink wine, hug, laugh, discuss "blogging politics" with all of my wine blogging colleagues who I have been emailing, Twittering and linking with now for the last five years.


Unknown said...

It was so great to finally meet you in person, Catie! A great writeup and I can't wait to check out your upcoming articles. Have a great night and welcome back to your home. :-)

Joe Roberts said...

Actually, I *am* the size of an 80x80 pixel icon... :-)

Marcy Gordon said...

Hey Catie-- this was great. Thanks for the onions and her is my new the slogan I made up for WBC 2110 -- Walla Walla Big Bang Here We All Come Thang--you can check it out in my post on http://comeforthewine.blogspot.com/
--ciao ciao

Unknown said...


Craig Camp said...

Great to see you Catie! I'm looking forward to Walla Walla next year. Glad you enjoyed our cabs.

Ryan Reichert said...

Great post Catie - it was so good meeting you too. I can't wait to explore Walla Walla next year. Thanks for talking some sense into (most of) us!

@Joe - you crack me up.

KCG said...

Catie, Great to meet you and I am looking forward to seeing Walla Walla next year.

wild walla walla wine woman said...

It was WONDERFUL to meet all of you! 'Til we meet again. Go Walla Walla 2010!

Unknown said...

Catie, thank you for shaking things up inside that vaunted cave! You know, I learned that the degree to which you rock is inversely proportional to 17 times the size of Joe Roberts. (!)

Unknown said...

I should check my math. I should eat more bacon! What I meant to say wasn't "inversely" - it was "perversely". There.

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Russ - perversely, you say? There are many winebloggers that resemble that remark. ;-)

Unknown said...

Catie, it's all about pursuing equilibrium. (Or Lithium.) Thank goodness that our collective physical decrepitude is finally catching up to our collective moral decrepitude! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Catie. You truly write well. This is one blog I definitely will come back to.

I wish I had known you were waiting for Jayne Mansfield. I would have introduced you. She was in my room.

Anonymous said...

That recap really put me there. Wish I had been! Looks like a smart, fun, upbeat crowd. Thanks for doing all the advance PR on Walla Walla! Here's to a great WBC10. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Love this post. So glad you could visit Cuvaison! We enjoyed hosting you and the other bloggers!

wild walla walla wine woman said...

Thanks so much for the comment. Your winery was definitely the highlight of the day! Everything from food to wine to meeting your staff was first class!

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