Monday, June 21, 2010

Reunions: Family and Wine Bloggers

Today starts an exciting week for many wine bloggers around the nation and especially an exciting week for the Washington State wine industry. Most of all, it is a great week for the Walla Walla wine and hospitality industry because - - the Wine Bloggers are coming to town! The Wine Bloggers are coming to town! Over 300 lovers of the grape and the grape media will gather together as early as this Thursday in Walla Walla, Washington. They will soon discover that there really is a Walla Walla and it is more than a mythical name for cartoon character Bugs Bunny's door-to-door sales pitch repping for the "Wishy Washy Washing Machine Company of Walla Walla Washington."

This has been a morning of great pondering for me. I just said goodbye to my favorite brother (my only brother and who lives in the Nashville area) after spending a week with him and just returning from a weekend with other family members at our tri-annual reunion camp-out. And very soon I will be having another reunion this weekend with "old" wine blogging friends and hopefully meeting many "new" wine blogging friends who I may be in touch with everyday online, but haven't yet met face-to-face.

Last Friday morning before I packed the SUV with my mauve-colored tent, wine, sleeping bag, wine, air mattress, wine, artichoke tapendade, the "Squeaking Box" (aka Igloo ice chest with creaky sounding lid), a bottle of Cava, cheese, wine, a bag of licorice, and a fashionable new camping scarf for my little dog - - you know, all the important things one needs to survive in the wilderness; I took some time to catch-up on some of my favorite wine blogs before I went into the woods. (Lions and tigers and no Wi-Fi! Oh my!) I came across one read, that in my opinion was possibly what I felt, was diminishing other wine blog's styles and themes to bring attention to their own. Needless to say, I was disappointed and many of you know me all too well, that of course I wasn't going to leave without dropping my opinion off like a seagull in the sky. However, after reading many of the other comments later last night, I wanted to continue a rant, but I decided it was best that I rant on my own forum - my wine blog.

The wine blogger pointed out that most wine blogs do not pay enough attention to the average wine consumer and it was suggested that many blogs are written with the intent of attracting the audience of professional wine trade, wineries, and even other bloggers. There were feelings that some wine blogs are "guilty" of using sex, profanity, and even plagiarism as keys to their success. Gasp! Oh no! S-E-X! Please say it aint so! Or should I just say, "Yes please!"

Hmmm ... as I ponder. First of all, who says wine blogs should be limited to writing to an audience of "average" wine consumers? It may be true that many wine blogs do not pay enough attention to the average wine consumer, but then again - what and who is exactly - - well - - "average?" I don't think I like that term, "average wine consumer."

To me the beauty of a wine blog, or just blogs in general, is the different themes and approaches authored by the unique wine-loving personalities. The wine blogging community has taken the once stodgy and one dimensional attitude about wine into a subject that is finally approachable for the novice, as well as the professional. There are wine blogs written about social media, wineries, wine politics, specific regions, price ranges and winery tours to name a few. No theme or expression is deemed "better" than any other wine blog, especially if the wine blog has an audience.

I find it fascinating, and in fact embrace, that the blogging community has been able to take the subject of wine and make it more approachable whether they use sex, rock 'n roll, corny videos, sports or even satire. The point is, they are finding an audience who is interested in wine, no matter what style and verve they use. It would be awfully boring if we were just stamped cookie cutters of each other. For the most part, we have already seen that and been there with traditional print media. At this point of the growing wine industry, I would like to think that the wine blogging community has played a big part of that success, and especially with marketing and social media.

It was later pointed out that we won’t reach our financial potential as a group nor individually until we basically provide consistently "good" content that is of value to the wine consumer.

Regarding the later comment from the blogger about “financial potential as a group” I thought it rather odd and still trying to figure why now worry about “group,” when the original post seemed everything but being cohesive as a group by calling other wine bloggers out. And about our reaching financial potential: Hello! News flash! We are on the road to financial potential and within reach, if not already there. We have been scrutinized and criticized by traditional media and now the traditional media who has criticized us in the past have their own "blogs." Most of all, we are on our third North American wine blogger's conference with many traditional media and wineries gathering to see what we are all about. This just didn't get done over night or by one person alone, but by several wine blogging enthusiasts coming together to obtain success for one and for all.

And again, what the blogger may think as consistently “good” content may not be what some wine consumers view as good content. That’s been the point of wine blogging – to be able to be anything but the usual, stodgy and predictable. If there are wine blogs that want to talk sex and rock ‘n roll, smattered with profanity and they have built an audience of cursing-head banging-wine consuming-sex maniacs, then they are providing “good content” to their readers. If you want to talk "financial" the bottom line is the wine industry coffers do not recognize the difference between the puritan and stodgy wine consuming dollar from the extreme Sodom and Gomorrah profanity-screaching wine drinking dollar. The point is a dollar is a dollar no matter where it comes from, but what the wine coffers do recognize is growth - more dollars - more dollars from various genre of wine loving enthusiasts.

To be a successful wine blog, I think the three most important things are: find your voice, be consistent in your posting and most of all, build community. I am working on my sixth year of wine blogging and the first thing I learned was the importance of community. When I first started my wine blog I believe the count of wine bloggers were just at 350+ and I was immediately embraced by some of the best out there: Craig Camp, Deb Harkness, Lenn Thompson, and Joel Vincent to name a few ... and I certainly wasn't the "norm" as I was one of a few wine bloggers in the State of Washington and not too many wine lovers out there even knew Walla Walla was producing wine, let alone a real city.

Wine blogging is not a competition against other wine bloggers. Many of the awards and accolades we receive are often from our own wine blogging peers - - and there are certainly enough awards and accolades to give everybody their 15 minutes of fame, or even 30 minutes if you are lucky, without having to discount what other wine bloggers are doing or - - "not doing." It is not to say I am against self-promotion. I am not. If you've been a reader of my wine blog, then you know I am my biggest fan - my biggest self-promoter. I believe nobody can promote yourself better than you can. I would tell other wine bloggers to do their own "shameless self-promotion" but you can do it without comparing and down playing other wine bloggers and do it by standing on your own. And if you are really just writing for the "average" or the "not so average" wine consumer, then why care about what other wine bloggers are writing about if you are writing for the "average" or the "not so average" wine consumer and doing it well.

The wine blogging community that I will be with this coming weekend reminds me of my own family reunion I attended this last weekend. At the family reunion we celebrated promotions, vacations, new babies and even letterman jackets. Hand shakes, hugs and even bottles of wine were shared with familiar faces that we see maybe just once a year. Sure, there was certainly competition at my family reunion, but it was kept within friendly games of horse shoes, volleyball and auctions of heirloom quilts and bottles of wine.

As wine bloggers, we have already had enough poo thrown at us from traditional wine media and we sure as hell (Oops! There's that profanity...) don't need to give the poo-tossing-enemies snorts and giggles by tossing poo towards each other. That is surely the path to our own undoing and everything we have worked for - the freedom of our own opinions and our own unique wine blogging styles. And like the Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 in Santa Rosa and now the Fairchild Family Reunion 2010 at Mary Hill, no matter the miles we traveled, we all left with a feeling of community; learning something new and knowing that we are all in this together. Hopefully, this upcoming weekend we are going to again learn something new and leave with the knowledge that we are all in this together, no matter our styles and creative differences because we all have the same goal - sharing our enthusiasm.

See you all-a in Walla Walla!


Will Eyer said...

Well just buzzed over to find this great post and I think in regards to what Catie has said here, that JFK who once used the phrase, "a rising tide lifts all boats" sums it up best. Because we collectively as "Wine Bloggers" are the new rising tide of influence in the wonderful world of vino and those who are snapping at our heels in the form of ad hominem attacks, are the same folks who are the way out!

Cheers Catie!

Unknown said...

I applaud you, Catie. Blogging is all about building relationships and community. Some people blog because they want to share their passion about wine with others; others want to share their expertise; while still others simply like to have fun. We should embrace, not judge, each other.

I'm going on four years of wine blogging now, and I have always agreed with you that "the three most important things are: find your voice, be consistent in your posting and most of all, build community."

Cheers to you!
Margot - WriteforWine

Sip with Me! said...

Sing it sister! Consider this my big, standing "O", that's ovation silly - get your mind off sex for just a minute, won't you? :)

Lisa Spangenberg said...

Anyone who doesn't find wine, and wine-making, and grape-growing exceedingly sexy is doin' it wrong.

We're talking about wine-making, an art with a five-thousand year old history of erotic overtones.

We are blessed.

Chris said...

Beautiful Post, Catie. Looking forward to meeting you and my other new cousins in a day or so.

Chris and Barb

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