Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WBC11 Preview: Reno Walsh of Zephyr Adventures

Here's our next installment of our preview of the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference (July 22-24 in Charlottesville Virginia) courtesy of Reno Walsh, one of the chief organizers of the Wine Bloggers Conference, the International Food Bloggers Conference, the Beer Bloggers Conference, the Wine Tourism Conference, the Fitness & Health Bloggers Conference, and wine tours by Zephyr Adventures. Yes, all those conferences, and he was kind enough to find time to answer a few questions regarding the conference. Thank you Reno.

1) This will be the 4th Wine Bloggers Conference. What was the original rational for organizing a national convention of wine bloggers? Originally we simply wanted to meet the wine blogging community. Zephyr Adventures also guides active wine vacations to wine regions of the world. We thought if we could get to know the bloggers a little better we might find a way to market our wine adventures via their blogs. After researching the wine blogs and the the wine bloggers, we quickly recognized that wine bloggers were a community that had never actually met in person. There was no conference or one thing they had in common besides their passion for wine and sharing their views via wine blogging. The conference created an opportunity for that community to meet face to face, to discuss their role in the wine world, and to learn more about wine and wine blogging. Incidentally, we never did find a way to market our wine adventures via wine blogs – not yet.

2) Was the intent to always hold the conferences in different locations? Yes.

3) How was Virginia selected as the host for the 2011 conference? This is the fourth year of the Wine Bloggers Conference. We very much try to listen to and take suggestions from the wine blogging community. We heard or read enough comments and suggestions for us to host a conference on the East coast and agreed that it was time.

4) Will this be a conference discussing national wine issues that just happens to be located in Virginia or will the content and agenda focus on Virginia and Mid-Atlantic wine production? Content will not be entirely focused on Virginia and Mid-Atlantic wine production but due to the location and our hosts, there will be an opportunity to hear, see and taste a lot from the region.

5) Tell us a little about the agenda. Who are the keynote speakers? Will there be any excursions? Topics of Discussion? Please see the agenda:

6) How familiar are you with the Virginia wine industry or Virginia wines? Personally I am not very familiar with the VA wine industry or its wines. I don’t think I stand alone in this group. This is one of the greatest benefits of the conference. Together the wine blogging community can travel and learn about these important wine regions and their wines.

7) Is the general public allowed to purchase tickets or is the convention limited to wine bloggers and other media? The cost of the conference is $95 for citizen wine bloggers (those unaffiliated with a business or organization), $195 for industry wine bloggers (those whose blog is affiliated with a winery, retail store, or other business or organization), and $295 for non-blogger participants (industry, media relations professionals, friends and family, etc). $95 for citizen wine bloggers is an incredible deal and a hopeful incentive. We strive for 70% citizen or industry bloggers at all conferences.

8) I understand there is a scholarship opportunity for bloggers who otherwise would not be able to afford the expensive of traveling to the conference?

9) In general, how have citizen wine bloggers benefited the overall wine industry? They’ve given a more personal voice and introduction to wine for many people who may have otherwise never chosen to pick up a copy of Wine Enthusiast or the Wine Spectator. The plethora of wine bloggers and their personalities assures anyone who is interested in doing so they can find a blogger personality that matches their own personal style and the wines to along with it. This is a good thing.

10) Are there any circumstances where citizen wine bloggers may actually hamper the wine industry? I personally don’t think so. There are certainly some interesting debates on this subject but in the end only time will tell. Like a good wine that is created with the intention of getting better with age I believe the same holds true for wine blogs.

11) There are probably two dozen Virginia-specific wine blogs. Are there any that you follow or try to read on occasion? Personally, I started following a few VA wine blogs when we decided to host the conference in Virginia. I’m excited to meet these bloggers and their wines in person.
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