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

live wine blogging: 6 tips for wineries

Speed tasting. It’s like speed dating, but with wine. (I know, right? score!)

For anyone who has attended a speed-wine-tasting event, you know the drill: hundreds of tasters seated at dozens of banquet tables scattered around a room, getting introduced to a new wine and winery every five (5!) minutes. That’s right – every five minutes. For an hour. Spittoon, please.

There’s a method to help with the pouring madness. After observing and participating in a few tastings of this sort, I have a few handy tips for wineries to help you out at the 2013 Wine Blogger’s Conference or any other crazy speed-tasting.

WBC12 speed tasting
Live Wine Blogging at WBC12 in Portland, OR

1. Don’t go alone. If at all possible, have one person pour and another introduce the wine while handing out tech or information sheets. The bloggers appreciate the info when reviewing their notes after a 12 hour day. (I did)

2. Give it up. Yes, we’re all aware of our carbon footprint. But handouts are stellar: tech sheets, with logos and all the juicy tidbits (including social media channels). We’ll plant a few trees later.

3. Be social. On the media, that is. Have Twitter handles at the ready. In fact, plaster them all over you – not only will you get the message out, it’ll make for great photo-ops.

WBC12 speed tasting 3
Kathleen of Between the Vines gets a taste of Oregon.

4. Smile for the camera. Be ready to have your photo taken – often. Pour with the label facing the blogger so s/he can snap a great pic. Better yet, have an extra (empty) to pass around the table. (just remember to take it with you)

5. Take questions. You’ll be repeating the same words 12 times that hour. Maybe you can add one new piece of info at each table – from answering just one question. Way to bond.

WBC12 speed tasting 1
Bradley Cooper (Okanagan version) gets info from a happy Oregon winery rep.

6. …and take it outside. Have a business card at the ready – no rushing to answer longer questions, it spreads the blogger love around, and it shows you really want to engage with them. You do, right?

Above all, have fun! This is a room full of people absolutely stoked to be here. They chose to come – and that’s really cool.

See you in the <hiccup> tasting room.

~ Jeannette

my wicked-awesome Okanagan, part II (message in a bottle)

It’s desert-like, but not quite a desert – and it’s definitely not an island. And these messages are less paper, more wine. Actually, they’re full of wine and the bottles ship in cases instead of floating in the water. Maybe the whole message-in-a-bottle theme is a stretch, but it’s a catchy title so I’m sticking with it.

One of the cool things that happens in the BC wine industry is mobile bottling. I’ve witnessed two different mobile bottling companies truck up, set up, and do their thing – and I’m still in awe of it.

A few weeks ago, winemaker and general manager Severine Pinte-Kosaka of Le Vieux Pin asked me to capture their bottling process as part narrative, part photo-essay. I met Severine a few months after she moved to the Okanagan with her family, from France. Yes – France. And she wants to make wine here. (I think that says something about the area)

We’ve got  awesome people in the BC wine world, and Sev’s one of them. I fell in love with her as soon as we met; I even wrote about her for Wineries Refined (page 60). When you meet Sev you’ll fall for her, too.

Here’s a glimpse of the day I spent with Sev and the team at Le Vieux Pin as they bottled 2012 Viala Rosé and 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Le Vieux Pin bottling
Severine measures the first bottle off the truck. (tasty ’12 sauv blanc)
Le Vieux Pin bottling
Not a drop is wasted. (I offered to take care of that…)
Le Vieux Pin bottling
The difference between mobile bottling in France and what we do in Canada: in France, the truck comes with labour to do the work – in Canada, the winery provides the workers.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
A compact and very efficient use of space.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
Stelvin or cork, the bottling truck can handle many closures – and bottle sizes.
Le Vieux Pin bottling 34
Finessing label levels while Severine watches.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
Always smiling, even under threat of rain.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
This is how smaller wineries do it: outdoors, in any weather.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
My inner gear head rejoices at such a display of equipment.
Le Vieux Pin bottling
Pretty, in pink.