California Dreamin’, the US Winebloggers Conference ’08

California grapes, last of the summer vines

Just back from the US Winebloggers conference in Sonoma, CA and what a fabulous weekend. It was so nice to be in the California sunshine.

Having attended both the European Winebloggers Conference and the US conference, I couldn’t say which was better. It’s like asking a mother to pick her favourite child, impossible. They were both fantastic in their own way.

First off, both were in beautiful country but then again wine country just has to be beautiful. The US conf. started out with a hilltop lunch and tasting at Kick Ranch vineyards, where we had the opportunity to try wines made by various producers using both their own grapes and Kick Ranch grapes.

There were quite a few events on the first day, not only did we have the hilltop tasting and lunch, immediately after we had a live blogging event, then a blind tasting challenge which I didn’t get a chance to attend because I had palate fatigue by then and I wanted to be ready for the NZ winetasting. I should have gone to the tasting challenge because I was disappointed by the NZ wines, especially since I know how good their wines can be (Vidal Wines post).

We had two keynote speakers, Gary Vaynerchuck from Wine Library and Alice Feiring. Gary was an amazing keynote speaker, very motivational. After his talk, I wanted to go out and kick some ass!! Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with Alice’s work (but no one knew who Jancis Robinson  was so I didn’t feel too bad, not knowing my American cousins, so to speak) apparently she called out California on their big reds, something I totally agree with, but she was funny and gave a good speech. Dinner at Sebastiani Winery was good but really it was all about the social interaction. Before dinner we had a Sonoma wine tasting with some great stuff on offer.

The last day was  the unconference, an opportunity for us to have roundtable discussions about whatever caught our fancy. I thought this was one of the best parts of the conference because it allowed free flowing interaction and exchange of information.

It all ended too soon with a luxe Sonoma wine tasting, some great stuff from Jordan Winery, Flower Winery, and the Siduri Winery accompanied by a sandwich lunch. The best thing about the conference was all the great bloggers I met. Bloggers like Dennis and Julie Grimes (Eagles Nest Winery in San Diego) Joe and Amy Power ( Larry Lapides ( Robin Gheesling (, Neil Crain ( and so many more.

All in all a great time and totally worth the time and effort to get from London to California. I can’t wait for the next one!


  1. Hi Dennis, Actually if you read one of the earlier comments,Ron from NZ wines suggested that the wines that were shown were from big producers and what we were getting was produced for the mass market. Either way, I think that they could have showed better wines. My advice is to stay away from the big boys and go for the boutique producers. If you want a list, I can send you some rec’s. Cheers! Denise

  2. Denise: Agree WBC 2008 was simply fabulous – as were all the folks we met there (including you 🙂 ). We too were disappointed with the NZ wines presented, giving them the benefit of the doubt, possibly they were not handled properly in shipping and storage?

  3. While it’s true that the big players are the ones that export there is still plenty of room for boutique wineries to get out there. Living in London, and working in the wine trade, I’ve had the opportunity to try and buy plenty of the smaller NZ guys. I say, don’t give in, stick with producing and exporting quality wines and the consumers will find you. I think for a bloggers conference it would have been a better strategy to show off the premium wines, even if they are from small producers, just to show what NZ can do. Don’t underestimate exclusivity and niche appeal, esp. in the wine world. You don’t want to become another Australia which is now trying to promote it’s premium wines and having a hard time of it (at least in the UK)because of it’s past rep as a bulk producer of cheap and cheerful wines.

  4. You are right New Zealand has a wide range of wines. I find it interesting and informative to view New Zealand from a production standpoint, over 85% of the producers make less than 25K cases per year and only a few leave the country.

    It is the big players that have the funds to be active in overseas markets and maybe this was part of what you experienced.

    I am biased and know finding the New Zealand gems requires a little extra effort.

    Thanks for writing about one of them.

  5. I was disappointed because living in the UK I have had some fabulous NZ wines and I just thought that the NZ growers dropped the ball at the tasting and, I hate to say it, I wasn’t the only one. I’ve had some amazing SB, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir from NZ. Perhaps they were trying to appeal to the North American palate but I know that you guys can and do produce better than what was presented to us at the conference. See my post on Vidal wines if you’re still not convinced.

  6. Curious to know why the New Zealand wines were a disappointment?

    Overload or maybe the wines were better suited to sitting down and enjoying with food?



  1. Final Thoughts on WBC 2008 | Caveman Wines - [...] Sleuth [...]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.