DrinkLocalWine.com conference: Sip, spit, Tweet

The Wine Curmudgeon is a Chicago Cubs fan. Which means, to paraphrase the immortal Steve Goodman, that we expect the worst and aren’t surprised when worse than that happens. Or, as Goodman wrote:

You know the law of averages says:
Anything will happen that can
That’s what it says
But the last time the Cubs won a National League pennant
Was the year we dropped the bomb on Japan

So when I tell you that the first DrinkLocalWine.com conference was a huge, massive, unqualified hit, I’m not just spewing PR. It really was. And I’m kind of surprised — pleasantly, but surprised nonetheless.

The event ran smoothly, the wireless Internet connections worked (not as easy as it might seem, as the recent Wine Bloggers conference will attest), the panelists were smart, funny, and sharp, and everyone had a good time. Which, for me, was the most important thing. What’s the point of bringing 75 or 80 people together if they don’t enjoy themselves? And we will be back next year in another regional wine state, if only for that reason.

Dave McIntyre and Russ Kane have well-written reports about the two-day event on their blogs, and we’ll post even more links at DrinkLocalWine.com over the next couple of days as the blogs and stories filter in. I’m even going to try and edit the video we shot into a movie. But, until then, here are my impressions:

• The quality of the Texas wine we tasted was uniformly excellent. This surprised many of the visiting bloggers and writers (as well as the consumers, oddly enough). The visiting media came with an open mind but with perceptions about what they expected Texas wine to taste like. How impressed were they? We stopped at a well-known grocery store on Saturday night so they could buy Texas wine to take home.

• My favorite wine was the 2006 Brennan Vineyards syrah. It was fruiter and less dark than a Rhone syrah, which made it New World. But it wasn’t nearly as over the top or as ashy as a Californian syrah or an Australian shiraz.

• The most interesting wine was a dry blanc du blois from Tara Vineyards in East Texas. I’m a big fan of blanc du bois, a hybrid grape that has a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve. When it’s done right, as it was in this case, blanc du bois produces an inexpensive, crisp, tropical, food-friendly wine.

• Texas winemakers are becoming smarter, savvier and more sophisticated. Which means they are making better wine. I asked Pat Brennan about his syrah, and he was candid: “It’s the quality of the grapes, and I don’t know that we can get the quality we need every year.” This is a far cry from the old days, when too many Texas winemakers figured every vintage was going to taste as good as the previous one just because they wanted it to.

• I dont Twitter and I don’t use my Facebook account all that much. But I saw the potential of social media on Saturday afternoon during our Texas Twitter Taste-Off. We had 40 or 50 people, hunched over computers and iPhones, sipping, spitting and typing away. We’re still counting the various Tweets, re-Tweets, blog posts, and the like, but the number may eventually be close to a thousand turned out to be around 200,000. Stunning, huh? Which means, for the cost of dinner, some hotel rooms, and the venue rental, Texas wine probably got more publicity in a day and half that it received from the mainstream wine media in its 30-year history.

3 thoughts on “DrinkLocalWine.com conference: Sip, spit, Tweet

  • By Matt [BoozeMonkey] -

    With events such as this, I find it increasingly frustrating that so many winemakers (though obviously not those in Texas) just don’t “get” social media: many are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see what happens. But it’s already happening. And they’re missing huge opportunities to make a serious land-grab for brand awareness.

  • By Jeff Siegel -

    The wine business doesn’t understand social media for two reasons. First, the people in charge are mostly my age (51) and even if they “know” social media is important, they don’t believe that it is. When you remember doing business with typewriters and carbon paper, it’s difficult to make the transition.
    Second, they have trained their customers to learn about wine in a strict, hierarchical way, using points and the Wine Magazines to tell people what to drink. Ironically, they are prisoners of that process, and think that that is the only way to market wine. Social media, being democratic, goes against everything they have done for two generations.

  • By Clay Eals -

    Great to see your column that invokes Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.” Goodman often doesn’t get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, “Steve Goodman: Facing the Music.” The book delves deeply into the genesis, context and effects of “A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request” and its semi-sequel, “Go, Cubs, Go.”
    You can find out more at my Internet site (below). Amazingly, the book’s first printing sold out in just eight months, all 5,000 copies, and a second printing of 5,000 is available now. The second printing includes hundreds of little updates and additions, including 30 more photos for a total of 575. It won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography.
    To order a second-printing copy, see the “online store” page of my site. Just trying to spread word about the book. Feel free to do the same!
    Clay Eals
    1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
    Seattle, WA 98116-1958
    (206) 935-7515 home
    (206) 484-8008 cell


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