Wine Bloggers Conference 2009 – Day 1: It All Begins

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I am sitting now in the enclave dedicated to my desktop computer and feeling terribly old fashioned. The last three days at #WBC09 have been a tumult of wine and technology that puts this old clunky desktop to shame with iphones and blackberries momentarily about as ubiquitous as glasses of wine in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Having unfortunately been stuck in Vancouver for the first half of Friday writing my final bar exam (let’s hope I passed), I didn’t roll in to the Flamingo Hotel until about 8pm. While my cold subway sandwich consumed on the airporter was somewhat on the malaise side, the Russian River Tasting later that night managed to properly whet my appetite for the next few days, which were so magnanimous in their generosity that it will take me quite a few extended posts to go through all of my experiences.

That said, in brief introduction I found the conference a fascinating experience as wineries from across the Valleys treated us extremely well and appeared to take wine bloggers very seriously, recognizing the shift in information production, the increase in expressive capacity, and the surprising power of niche markets. If bloggers tend to individually attract niche audiences, collectively at an event like this with over 200 bloggers in attendance you begin to realize the sheer size and impact of the movement. That, and the impressive lack of pretense, which tended to be replaced by genuine passion for, as I like to say, the confluence of extreme sensory expression and intellectual stimulation that comprises the world of wine.

Fortunately I met up with Sean (@vinifico) and Graham (@vino_g) of fellow Vancouver wine blog and had an absoultely brilliant weekend drinking wine, talking wine, debating wine, talking technology, social media and the influence of the biodynamic and organic movements on the wine world. At points we were also joined by Karen (@winebard) of, Jeff (@vinaroon) of Farmstead Wines, and Brad (@Bradinator) of Township 7 winery in the Okanagan.

During our lively discussion on the first evening we drank a Sean Thackrey Plaeides XVII, which true to form was a chameleon of a wine with its inspired open vat fermentation under Eucalyptus trees expressing itself in the floral minty nose that is so distinctive to that species. A blend of 13 grapes you wouldn’t think belong together, this wine defies description and deserves a rating of excellent. I also wrote up the XVI a while ago. We also had a stunning Austrian riesling brought to the tasting by Jeff of Farmstead, which was oaked in Austrian oak and had a clean and mineral driven palate. However, there was an intensity of flavour that pushed the riesling slightly out of delicacy (its traditional territory) and into a new, brighter, burst of flavour. Frankly, I thought this was a beautiful wine highly deserving of an excellent rating. If only I wrote down its name – hopefully someone can remind me of this!

At the Russian River tasting I found many of the pinots to be pleasant but somewhat overwraught. However, there certainly were some standouts, notably Merry Edwards, Joseph Swann and C. Donatiello. I was particularly impressed with the clean lines and pure fruit of the Edwards and the austere almost Burgundian approach of C. Donatiello. Given that I had just written a bar exam and spent 8 hours on taxis, planes, and busses these are the extent of my notes for that tasting – rest assured much more is to come in future posts. Cheers!

Lastly, a HUGE thanks – my attendance at this conference was made possible by generous donations made through the Wine Blogger’s Scholarship, and I thank all the sponsors for making this possible. #WBC09 was a superb event and certainly served to increase my understanding of the role of social media in not just wine, but in marketing and society more generally.

NB: Just got some stats on the conference of 1,124 Tweets, a total of 1,539,239 Followers were reached from Thursday (7/23) to Sunday (7/26).


  1. Jeff Bashford
    July 28, 2009


    It was a pleasure to meet you over the weekend and I look forward to getting the Canadian contingent from the Wine Bloggers' Conference back together in the near future. Thanks for sharing the Thackrey Plaeides XVII, for me it was one of the most exciting wines of the weekend. The Austiran riesling you refer to in your post was grown by a young farmer named Martin Arndorfer. It came from his Die Leidenschaft series meaning 'the passion' in German.



  2. Graham
    July 28, 2009

    I can't agree more. Well said. The riesling was a Martin Arndorfer. Fantastic stuff!

  3. Karen G
    July 28, 2009

    Great post! I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on the conference. I still dream about that Sean Thackrey Plaeides XVII… really wish I had bought a bottle! Enjoyed the 'boys club' discussion with all of you. Cheers!

  4. Christopher Donatiello
    July 28, 2009

    Great to hear you enjoyed the wines so much. Hope you can taste through the single vineyard wines some time.
    Chris Donatiello

  5. Shea
    July 29, 2009

    Jeff, Thanks for reminding me of the where that riesling came from. Great stuff, and I look forward to hanging out in the future.

    Karen + Graham, thanks + we shall meet up again soon enough I'm sure!

    Christopher, cheers – I really did enjoy your wines and I will make a point to visit you next time I'm in Sonoma.

  6. J. Song
    August 4, 2009


    I LOVE the Pleiades XVI and was recently lucky enough to find it at my local neighborhood liquor store. (Go figure! I found but did not buy it in DC, where it was being sold at Dean & DeLuca for around $45.) I've wanted to try the XVII but read a few reviews online that stated it tasted like "cough syrup." I may very well have to purchase one now that I've heard otherwise from a reputable source!

    Joon S.

  7. Shea
    August 4, 2009

    cough syrup? That's ludicrous. The XVII rocks just as much as the XVI. $45 though? I think the WVII was $18 at bottle barn in santa rosa.

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