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 I

I live in a pretty stellar place. An acquaintance referred to it as “living in the best bread basket in Canada”, and I’m inclined to agree. More than inclined.

Due in large part to the surroundings, but also as a result of having gained the friendship of excellent people, I’m spoiled. Fairly regularly, at that. Great food, beautiful wines, and rockstar company. It’s true, and I’m grateful.

As of June 2013, a few hundred bloggers will visit my oasis. Sweet!

To whet a few appetites, I’m counting down the weeks (and days) to their arrival with photo-essays of what life is like in these parts – so they’ll be as stoked as I am about what goes on around here.

Cheers,

~ Jeannette

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Communal Table Dinners at Miradoro (Tinhorn Creek Vineyards)

During the shoulder seasons, executive chef Jeff Van Geest hosts the ultimate dinner parties on Tuesday night. I’ve attended two this season – and caught the most recent on camera-phone. The theme: forage. Everything was foraged from the local hills and valleys, that day or the previous day. (except the cattails – wild harvested the previous day from the greater Vancouver area, by a visiting chef)

Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
first course: raw cattails with mustard aioli (wood ivy and dandelion)
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
second course: halibut elderflower ceviche, garnished with prickly pear cactus, arrow leaf balsamroot stems, wild chrysanthemum, and biscuit root flower
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
third course: snail ravioli with in nettle sauce, wild mustard greens salad
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
fourth course: grilled quail with wild watercress and chicken “cracker”
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
fifth course: hay ice cream (seriously delicious), tree fruit blossoms, heart nut cake, with last season’s cherry preserve
Miradoro at Tinhorn Creek
there was wine. plenty of it. at one point there were four glasses in front of me – just another Tuesday night in the Okanagan

The best part: my house is a seven minute drive from this.

Now that’s what wicked-awesome Okanagan means.

6 reasons you should be at WBC13

Today marks 82 sleeps ’til WBC13 in Penticton. I think. Whatever the number, that means it’s soon. Hooray!

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, WBC13 is the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference. 300(ish) bloggers, wine folks, and grape-oriented enthusiasts gather to taste a region – while attending seminars to help hone palates, pens, or postings. This year, WBC is on Canadian soil for the first time – in the heart of BC wine country, Penticton. That’s awesome. It helps that I live within a 30 minute drive, but distance hasn’t stopped me from attending past conferences – in Walla Walla (2010) and Portland (2012).

There are oodles of reasons why someone into wine should attend a Wine Bloggers Conference, and the folks at WBC can list the highlights better than anyone. Past attendees are often enthusiastic cheerleaders, and the host city (chosen by the bloggers) will readily give dozens of good arguments as to why theirs is THE hotspot. Every one of those reasons, endorsements, and arguments are totally valid. Listen to them.

If you still find yourself wavering about attending, I’ll try to give you a push in the right direction. (I’m entirely biased because I live in BC wine country and think it’s skookum)

1. Random encounters with awesome people = new friends. A few friends are in my life as a direct result of WBC. I’m not kidding. Sure, it’s likely we would have connected some other way – eventually. But the combination of time, place, and people made for a solid foundation. Even if I don’t see some of these friends very often, they’re pretty fab to have.

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Summerland, December 2012

2. Full immersion in a region you’re not likely to have such open access to, unless you become a rock star. Let’s face it – most of us are regular folks with a day job and one hot-damn expensive hobby/enthusiasm/habit. We don’t get the red carpet treatment all that often – that’s fine by me. However, I like having a region all to our wine-loving selves for a few days (that’s how it feels). This is the uber-tour of uber-tours. It might not be total rock star treatment, but it’s like having the ultimate backstage pass to the coolest gig of the year.

3. BC makes great wine, and unless you live here you might not get to taste it. That’s not because we’re a bunch of jerks – honest. We’re really nice people. We can’t share much of what we make because this is the land of small production, and we have some hefty provincial and federal legislation issues that make it challenging to trade within our own country – not to mention outside of it. Yes, we export some wines. But not nearly as much as we make and keep here. We have fewer than 10,000 acres under vine in the province, and more than 200 wineries. Do the math.

4. The dude who rocked the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with spoken word? He lives here. Yes, he travels a little more now – but Shane Koyczan calls Penticton home. I’ve seen him everywhere – from art openings to having a beverage at a local diner (the diner has a sweet collection of lava lamps, but that’s another story). Shane is really nice, buys local art, and supports our small music scene. If you see him, say hello.

5. We have turtle crossing signs, because we love our turtles. Originally, well-meaning individuals put up hand-drawn signs to help drivers become aware of sharing the road with our hard-shelled friends. Recently, the Ministry of Transportation (and probably the tourism folks, I’m not entirely sure) added official signage on Road 22 between Osoyoos & Oliver. That totally rocks.

Sloan rocks the stage at Tinhorn Creek, September 2012

6. Sloan. Yes, they’re an iconic Canadian band that every indie group outside of Canada lists as one of their obscure musical influences. No, they’re not playing at WBC. Yes, they DID play at a local winery last summer (Tinhorn Creek). And yes, I have a serious addiction to them – so they’re on every list I create, regardless of the theme. I’ll love them for the rest of my life. (I also have a significant radio crush on CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi – again, that’s another story)

So, get here. If you can. My friends and I would really like it if you did.

~ Jeannette

best third glasses

As I shove my arms through sweater sleeves and cling desperately to the notion of wearing Birkenstock sandals, I realize summer has printed its online boarding pass and is at the departure gate. le sigh…

This means a new season approaches, and while I’m ready for the onset of fall – and love it dearly – I must take a moment to reflect on what the best third glasses have been of this waning summer season. Here they are, randomly selected from my muddied memory banks.

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wrapping art for a client – and loving every minute of it

new spaces

I started a business this year. It’s been two months, and I’m still having what-the-hell-have-i-done moments. Friends advise me this will last a long, long while. A few sips were had at my  new space, M gallery | book. We drank plenty Tinhorn Creek wines, thanks to Sandra and Kenn Oldfield; chowed down on ridiculously tasty treats made by Chef Paul at Local Lounge, thanks to Cam and Christa-Lee Bond; kept caffeinated with delicious beans from Good Omens Coffee, thanks to Jamie and Jason Embree (who got married this summer – congrats!). It was a cornucopia of magnificent tastes, and I’m truly grateful to have had a few sips with such fabulous people.

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1600 wines, and far too little recognition for the people who make it happen – be they volunteer, staff, judge

1600 wines

The Okanagan Falls Winery Association invited me to dine with them as they hosted the judges from Wine Access, who were in town to evaluate 1600 wines entered from across Canada. Roland and Hagen at Wild Goose hosted a great night at their new wine shop; Dana of Joy Road Catering fed us with the most incredible (fresh, local) food; the Association wineries warmly welcomed the judges (and me, the hanger-on) to their distinctive region. An invite to check out behind-the-scenes at such a massive wine competition = unparalleled joy on my part. And really, no envy. That’s a LOT of wine.

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so many wines, so much deliciousness

hops, and hospitality

350+ wine bloggers walked into a conference room…and a bar, and a hotel, and basically took over part of Portland over four days. The 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference was a highlight of new friends, old acquaintances, and getting sidetracked. From an overwhelming opening reception by Oregon Wines, to a captivating keynote speech by Randall Grahm, a detour by Sideways author Rex Pickett to a Bonny Doon tasting, and an exploration of Oregon and area IPAs by Wes of Dobbes Winery (he went above and beyond, that one), this year’s conference was hands-down a brilliant experience. Fun fact: I like hops.

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Canadian indie-rock-uber-musicians Sloan, playing at Tinhorn Creek in Oliver (I know!)

musical interludes

There were a number of third glasses this summer set to a musical score, most of them within a five minute drive of my house. Lucky me, indeed. Strategic placement aside, the best way to explore a few glasses is barefoot on a warm summer night, dancing, surrounded by friends. That’s what I did – several times, strictly for quality control purposes and research. (and I stand by my earlier claim that it takes 3 glasses to get a Canadian audience on the dance floor/lawn)

PS: SLOAN!