I just returned from a weekend at the always entertaining, yet still educational, Wine Media Conference. This conference was put on the backburner in 2020 because of Covid restrictions. This year, we saw a smaller conference, but it wasn’t scaled down in terms of quality content.
I *loved* the slower pace of this conference. After attending the wild & crazy conferences of the past, where you roam the halls of the Corning Radisson listening for voices and looking for propped open doors, or play raucous rounds of “Cards Against Humanity” and have 30+ bottles of wine on a desk at the Buellton Marriott, it was nice to have this one be more relaxed. Yes, there were room parties, but they were smaller, more intimate gatherings of old and new friends alike. And of course, the amazing, welcoming crew from Troon Vineyard opened their suite to us so we could socialize and enjoy their wines during the lunch break one day.
As always, there were some great snippets to take from the conference.
1. Roll with the Punches
The past year and a half has felt apocalyptic in nature. The wineries we all know and love weren’t immune to the blows that Covid dealt. In fact, as a branch of the restaurant industry, they were hit *really* hard. This was evident in the participation that we saw. In years past, there were more wineries, wine regions, etc. than I could fathom who participated. This year, there were a handful. This conference served as a good reminder that businesses are still struggling and if we want them to survive, we need to support them.
There were hiccups with both excursion dinners. The hiccups were no fault of either the wineries, or the organizers. The hiccups were a glaring beacon, complete with strobe lighting and sirens, of the challenges the hospitality industry as a whole is facing.
2. Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself (aka Check Your Privilege)
One of the main complaints I saw from the hiccups in the excursion dinners was the fact that the locations were either not prepared for us, or not honoring our industry privilege. Yes. I said privilege. We’ve all come to enjoy our ability to stroll into wineries, receive free tastings, an elevated experience, or something to that liking. The conferences of years past gave us generous pours, great food, and memories to last a lifetime.
This year, it didn’t happen to our liking. One thing to keep in mind is that by the time the conference came to town, Oregon had been fully open for a month and change. Places are severely short staffed, because the industry is still recovering from the roundhouse kicks that hit the industry square in the solar plexus.
Am I guilty of having this privileged mindset? You’re damn right I am. However, we need to place ourselves into the shoes of those in the hospitality industry right now. Now isn’t the time to bitch and moan about what went wrong. Instead, they need to be hyped up for what they did *RIGHT*. So instead of ripping someplace apart because they didn’t give you a free tasting, say, “(insert place name here) was fabulous in accommodating us on an already busy, beautiful Friday night, that was made even crazier by us conference attendees darkening their door!”
3. Offer Up Your Strengths
A common theme throughout the conference was “How can we, as media professionals, help our favorite wineries and/or wine regions?” Austin Beeman gave a fabulous presentation that covered this point in depth.
As content creators/bloggers/influencers, we have a set of skills that can be turned into some form of a revenue stream for us or, at the very least, shared with the places we frequent. We’re social media marketers by trade. We know the ins and outs of Facebook and Twitter algorithms, what hashtags to use, what times to post to get the optimal amount of engagement, etc. Why not turn that expertise into a service provided to a smaller winery that is struggling? Even if it’s just a simple, “Hey, what I can I do to benefit you?” Your favorite spots will, at the very least, be thankful you offered.
4. Be Authentic and Show Your Work!
Cyril Penn, Editor in Chief of Wine Business Monthly, was our keynote. During that time, he reminded us that authenticity is king, and that it never hurts to show our work.
As bloggers, we’re often lumped into our own separate category apart from “traditional” media. Cyril’s keynote encouraged us, as bloggers, to step up and “show our work” as being of value and that we are worthy of the sounding boards and resources that the traditional media has relied on for years and years.
5. Appreciate Our Resources and Advancements
In order to gain access to the conference, you had to have one of two things. Proof of vaccination status or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the conference start. It was announced that almost everyone attending had been vaccinated for Covid-19. This served as a chilling reminder that we are lucky to live where we do in the world today.
All in all, the conference was well worth the money spent. The opportunity to reunite with old friends and make new connections was priceless.
For more conference content from myself and other other participants, you can search #wmc21 on social media platforms such as Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.
*Disclaimer* In exchange for a reduced conference registration fee, I agreed to write a minimum number of posts regarding the conference content, sponsors, or host area.