f*ck the list: why we love (and loathe) best-ofs

It’s the end of a year, which means the interwebs are chock-full with “best-of” lists: wine, beer, travel, pop culture moments, and <insert random hipster shit here>. Oh joy.

I get that there’s big love for these lists. They help us navigate through an avalanche of consumer options, especially when most of our product research begins with the tippety-tap of fingers on keyboard. A top-whatever guide helped my fella and I select our last car. We got (mostly) what we wanted, too.

In the consumables/experiences world, ‘best-of’ lists are acquiring an air of not-so-humble brags and mutual back-scratchings – I list your product, and you promote me as a reviewer/writer/whatever. It’s icky, but it happens.

With that in mind – and knowing how many freebies float around in the world of reviewing (whether it’s a car to drive for a week, accommodation at a resort, or a bottle of something to taste) – I find I’m becoming increasingly sceptical of ‘best-of’ lists. There are no groups of people roving the world, sampling/trying/testing/whatevering on their own dime. Well, there might be. But I doubt there are many because they’d go broke pretty quickly.

So I say fuck the lists. All of them. And I say this knowing full well that some of my friends write really good lists, fairly, with little if any bias. (we all have bias – it’s knowing how to disclose it that’s important)

Rather than ‘best-of’, let’s call the lists what they are: favourites. Teachers, coaches, and choir instructors all have them. It’s normal to have favourites – partly because they don’t remain static, but also because we have bias. If you have a sibling, your parents likely had a favourite – it changed, depending on who was better behaved or was the first to learn how to mix a rye and Coke just right.

Here are a few of my favourites from 2013, in no particular order. Just because.

Moment of Trust: sheep cull at Covert Farms.

Covert Farms 18

First, Gene’s trust in me to document a sheep cull on his family farm. Second, EAT Magazine’s trust in me to write something palatable about it. This led me to a few more interesting moments on the farm, and is evolving into a larger writing commitment that has yet to fully form. Mostly, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of this world of good people. (FYI: the farm will be my hideout during the Zombie Apocalypse)

Example of Generosity With An Almost Stranger: Skype chat with Meg Maker. We have yet to meet in person, and when we do it will be epic (and I rarely use that word). I was faced with a challenge, and Meg offered her time and experience to help guide me through it. She’s a brilliant writer and a kind person.

40th Birthday Present I Didn’t Ask For: tickets to see KISS with Allison Markin.

KISS

The KISS army is real – and very dedicated. This guy (centre) worked super hard all concert, giving huge air-fist-pumps like nobody’s business.

So much happened this year – in my little corner and around the world. We grieved for the loss of Nelson Mandela, witnessed a factory collapse and kill thousands in Bangladesh, and we discussed ad nauseam the birth of a royal baby. Spectacular feats and pop culture spectacles replay at different intervals with no apparent logic. 

You know what? I say fuck my list, too. It has no meaning for anyone but me and I know that; maybe it’s of interest to a few of the friends I’ve mentioned here. But ultimately, my best-of/favourites is a list of things that are central to me. It’s not an objective thing at all, and I get ticked off when people writing a list pretend it is.

The lists are inescapable, and many are entertaining – but enter the best-of melee with caution. It’s crazy out there.

~ Jeannette

PS: the idea for this came during an evening of indulging with Wendy and Jay of Bella Wines – and while we didn’t consume any of their bubbles that night, they are delicious and should probably be on a list somewhere (see Wendy – i wasn’t that drunk and did write about this after all)

WBC13: thanks for coming to visit the awesome

It’s been one week since 240 of my not-so-closest blogger friends invaded Penticton and area for the 2013 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, and after some cleaning the regional house is now back to normal.

For those unfamiliar with a Wine Bloggers’ Conference, picture this: several hundred like-minded folks gather to attend seminars, workshops, and tour a region in pursuit of a better understanding and one heckuva good time. Most often we’re sequestered in a “host hotel” (in 2013, it was the Penticton Lakeside Resort) for the duration, except for an afternoon of mystery excursions to the surrounding region.

We’re wined, dined, and connected to our social networks 24/7; we share photos of food, wine, bottles, vistas, ducks, footwear, and the ever-present ‘selfie’ among rows of vines or atop mountain lookouts. We overshare for a period of days – and our world becomes terribly singular during that time. (while in Walla Walla WA, I almost missed hearing about the 2010 G20 riots)

As this year’s conference was almost in my backyard, I was in an unusual position of not-quite-host but not-quite-participant/attendee. My dear friend Allison was a local organizer, and I wanted to help ensure our region collectively put its best feet forward. It was like we were hosting a massive regional house party. That’s not a bad thing.

While 240 of my now-closer blogger friends recount (hopefully) glorious tales of great eats, delicious wines, and embarrassing dinner entertainment (more on that later), here’s my contribution.

Big List Of Awesome Discoveries While Hosting A Giant Regional House Party

Owning it. Although technology tries to convince us it’s bringing us closer together, it also facilitates living life at a distance from just about everything. When hosting a few hundred guests at your ‘house’, you’re forced to own the good, bad, and everything between. Our region (and province) has its challenges, liquor laws playing a large part. At the same time, tremendously talented and kind people make kick-ass wine and food here despite the ties that try to bind their hands. Dude, seriously. Did you eat/drink what I ate/drank? Hosting you helps us own it – all of it – and work together to make it better.

Sharing the secret. Yes, it’s hard to get BC wine outside of British Columbia (see point above). We know that. So when we have a chance to invite you to our place and share what we’ve been gushing over for, like, ever, we’re stoked. There’s no finding-a-local and ferreting out the secret goods: we ‘fess up with ease on where to go, what to try, and who’s doing fantastic things. We can’t keep a secret when it comes to celebrating the cool stuff – in fact, we might tell you the same thing three times just to make sure you know about it. (I probably did that)

Resilience is our middle name. Throw it at us, and we’ll find a way to make something pretty/tasty/fun out of it. This was the first year that WBC had shuttles to/from the airport/hotel – EVER. Allison knew many of you would have a challenge getting from the closest international airport (Kelowna) to the host hotel (Penticton). She found sponsors for some shuttles and BAM – $10 shuttle rides. And after a long day of excursions, the Oliver Osoyoos Winery Association provided bubbly in elevators to reward you for sipping your way through another late evening reception. by the way, thanks for sticking it out through a very long day – you’re total troopers

Rose-coloured visitor’s glasses. We Okanagan-ites live in the land of awesome. We get accustomed to expansive blue summer skies, glass-like lakes, fragrant spring orchards, and lush vineyards. Locals – you know it’s true. So when we’re quite literally seeing our home through the eyes of hundreds of others, it brings a profound appreciation for what we drive past every day. I love you for that.

Thank you, WBC13, for helping us see what we have to offer. We’d love to have you back for a visit – just let us know when you’re headed our way, and we’ll make sure to show you the awesome.

Skaha Lake
thank you, WBC13