I spent this past weekend in Walla Walla at the wine blogger's conference. My reasons for attending were two-fold, to present Stoller's 2007 JV Pinot Noir during a live tweet red tasting and to network and learn. Happy to report that the wine showed very well -- our main goal was building awareness. The follow up is measuring an increase in that awareness and translation to sales -- hardly a mathematical equation, but an important step for analyzing return on marketing investment nonetheless.
As far as learning how to improve my blog, the conference was less useful since I write primarily about business matters and to a very (intentionally) limited audience. The vast majority of attendees were non-industry and focused on learning about wine and educating/reviewing. However; when viewed from a macro level in terms of increasing overall consumer awareness of and appreciation for wine, the conference and social media in general are a great movement for the industry.
It was very well organized and the Saturday field trips were a highlight. Our group visited Forgotten Hills vineyard which supplies Waters, made a pit stop at Cailloux vineyard owned by Cristophe Baron of Cayuse (my personal favorite 5 minutes!) and Walla Walla Vintners where we walked to Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland vineyard. We then lunched at Cougar Crest.
Spending some one-on-one time with traditional media proved to be an unexpected benefit. Unfortunately, I missed Steve Heimhoff's Friday introduction given a delay in leaving, but I did enjoy Lettie Teague's keynote on Saturday evening. She was genuine, positive, funny and quite refreshing. I've loved reading her column in Food and Wine over the years and will be following her at Wall Street Journal. Paul Gregutt generously invited me to a tasting of older Washington reds which demonstrated the aging potential of these wines. My two favorites were a 1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot and 1998 Wineglass Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.
Below are Cayuse's Cailloux and Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland Vineyards
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