It didn’t take me long to find the local Italian restaurant. I sat at the bar, ordered a nice cool glass of rosé and an antipasti plate, which the menu said consisted of handcrafted Italian salami, cheese, olives, and veggies. It did not say: the most delicious aromatic Italian truffle cheese you’ve ever tasted in your life. Wait a minute, where was I?
The next thing I knew, the owner, Jim Murdaca, gave me a tour of the vegetable garden, which produces most of the fresh produce used at Pietro’s Trattoria, a Lodi establishment since 1957. We didn’t tarry long in the garden – the temperature that day was upwards of 100 degrees fahrenheit. As we headed back inside, Jim stopped to pick a plump tomato.
I returned to the bar to finish my glass of rosé from local winemaker LangeTwins, and minutes later, a waitress served me a caprese salad made with the recently plucked tomato, basil (also from the garden), and a balsamic vinegar. Buonissimo!
That was my introduction to Lodi, California, (one of California’s largest wine regions), where I had landed just an hour prior to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference. The next two days were filled with surprises, as the city of Lodi and everyone connected with the conference rolled out the red carpet for all the conference attendees.
I didn’t know much about Lodi but was interested to discover an unfamiliar wine region, meet people, try new wines, and learn from many of the best wine writers and bloggers in the winosphere. This adventure was made possible by a scholarship generously approved by the Wine Bloggers Scholarship Fund. Adventures of a Carry-on has always been a project of the heart and the recognition by the scholarship committee and conference sponsors was a real honor.
The two and a half day conference was a whirlwind of workshops, wine tastings, excursions, speed blogging, and networking. And yes, we had a little fun too.
Welcome To The Wine Bloggers Conference 2016
The conference was a virtual who’s who of people in the wine world. Master Sommelier, chef and author, Andrea Robinson, delivered the keynote address. Andrea is a 100 pound powerhouse of enthusiasm and motivation. The opportunity to not just listen to her speak but actually speak with her, was worth the trip. Her keynote opened with this question, “What are you doing to create value?” A good question that should remain in the forefront of any blogging or business plan. To learn more about Andrea’s keynote speech read blogger Julien Miquel’s article. He summed it up so well I don’t have to! Thanks Julien.
A few conference highlights
A highlight of the conference for all of us (I’m sure I can speak for the 200 other conference goers), were the excursions. There were pre and post conference excursions, and there was a Friday night surprise excursion which I wrote about in my article, The Wine Abides.
The purpose of the excursions was to give bloggers the opportunity to really get to know Lodi and Lodi winemakers — to dig in the dirt even, pick grapes, and drink the juice of those grapes. There was food, wine, dancing, barrel tasting and more wine drinking. We came to understand why last year Wine Enthusiast named Lodi, Wine Region of the Year.
In addition to the workshops, wine tastings and excursions, the opportunity to meet people that I knew in the virtual world was a lot of fun. I made some new friends and there are a number of people I look forward to connecting with face-to-face in the future.
What about the wine
As you may imagine the wine was freely flowing during the conference. Many bloggers (I was one of them) expressed their delight and surprise at the high quality wines being produced in Lodi. Not only that but there are over 100 varietals being cultivated. Zinfandel is Lodi’s signature wine but we also discovered delicious white wines made from Southern Rhone varietals like: grenache, grenache blanc, viognier and rousanne and marsanne. These wines have won numerous awards including the 2016 Sunset Magazine International wine competition.
Ripken Vineyards and Winery was one that really stood out for me. Their motto, “No boring wines! We make wines of conviction.” This 2008 Vintage Port at only $20.00 a bottle is a steal, as is every wine in their portfolio. They grow a wide variety of grapes from France, Spain and Italy to produced very small lots, usually only 100 cases or less. I’d love to hear from you if you’re a fan of Ripken.
Not all the wines I tasted in Lodi were local. Drink Alsace, a conference sponsor hosted a breakout session and tasting. I was familiar with some of the wines prior but after the workshop I can say I’m a die hard fan. Alsace is a region in France known for producing very aromatic white wines. You can read more about Alsace in my article, A Consumer’s Guide To The Wines of Alsace.
Yes I have wine knowledge and experience
I think attending conferences is not only about learning but learning what you know. A highlight of the conference for me was the discovery that all of knowledge and experience I already have, it counts. Beginning with hosting tastings and working with wine in a retail environment to passing my WSET exams with merit last summer, to all the wine related travel I’ve done over the past few years, all of that is part of my resume and what I have to offer. In short, attending the conference boosted my confidence.
I also had a chance to do a popular live stream radio show on Vin Village Radio. Vin Village Radio is the number one “wine & dine” show broadcast on the wsRadio Network. I’ve included a link to the show.
Starting with keynote speaker Andrea Robinson and ending with an excellent class on social media delivered via Mary Cressler of Vindulge, the Wine Bloggers Conference was a learning and growing experience from beginning to end.
Many thanks to sponsors Rodney Strong Vineyards, Laurel Glen Vineyards and #SonomaChat, for supporting the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship fund. Until next time, Cheers!