A season of wine conferences: Santa Rosa or Dallas anyone? Lisbon maybe?

Next Friday, July 24, 2009, the second edition of the Wine Bloggers Conference will get started at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California (again). Last year’s inaugural conference was a sold out event, with some 170 participants, and this year is sold out again, at an increased capacity of 250.

The conference program brings back the best stuff from last year (like the Live Wine Blogging) and adds to it, with the presentation of the American Wine Blog Awards, and a day in Napa Valley. Keynote speakers include Barry Schuler of AOL fame (and Meteor Vineyard) and Jim Gordon, editor of Wines & Vines, and after parties will feature wines from Russian River and Portugal. Wish I could attend, but late July is family vacation. I’ll wave hello from the shores of the Great Lakes.

Can’t make it to WBC and still looking forward to a wine conference? How about heading to Dallas, Texas, on August 15, for the first DrinkLocalWine.com conference? The goal of the one-day event is to showcase the evolution of the Texas wine industry, which now boasts some 177 wineries. One more proof that you really shouldn’t think of California wine and American wine as synonyms. I’ll miss that one too, but will try to follow the tweet-up/live blogging event featuring 40 of the Lone Star state’s best cuvées, which is set to conclude the event.

The one conference I’m still hoping I can make it too is the second European Wine Bloggers Conference, taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, October 30 to November 1. I certainly wouldn’t mind polishing up and updating my knowledge of Portuguese wines, and meeting with the very interesting, multinational group of bloggers who gather there (the word “European” refers to the location of the conference, but bloggers can come from anywhere). The program includes a visit to the cork forests, guided by natural cork producer Amorim, which in itself should be worth the trip for any wine geek.

And if I don’t make it to this one either, there will be other gatherings in the new year. TasteCamp should move to the Finger Lakes, while the American Wine Bloggers conference will be heading to Washington State. More opportunities to discover wine regions and their production. Last year, at the first Wine Bloggers Conference, I loved the opportunity to learn more about Sonoma Wines, and especially Dry Creek, where I had the chance, during and after the conference, to visit Preston and Quivira, two very solid producers of sunny, intense, well-defined wines. Just that made the trip worthwhile.

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Registration open for North American Wine Bloggers Conference 2009

2008 was the year the wine bloggers decided to come together. Literally. By meeting in not one, but two conferences: one in Europe (more precisely in the Rioja, in Spain), and one in California, at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, at the Southern end of the Sonoma Valley (see a whole bunch of blog posts listed here).

Both conferences filled to capacity and were a great success, featuring winery visits, lots of great tastings and interesting keynote speakers – notably Gary Vaynerchuk and Alice Feiring, who roused the wine blogger community in Santa Rosa by stating that it should be nothing less than a force to change the wine world.  

Thanks to that initial success, the conferences are back for a second spin. Details for the European Wine Bloggers Conference remain to be made public, but the North Americain Wine Bloggers Conference is already open for registration. The event returns to The Flamingo, and will be able to welcome some 250 people, on July 24 to 26. Beyond Sonoma, which was already explored last year, a trip to Napa is part of the planning, to expand horizons a bit.

Obviously, the Sonoma conference is returning faster than one year after the first edition. Apparently, the wineries made the point that an October conference made their lives difficult (with the small matter of harvest, crush, and such), and so the dates were changed to the summer. Bummer for me, I won’t be able to make it. 

But a lot of people should make it. Apparently a few dozen people have already registered, in only a few days. If you’re planning on attending this professional (and very much fun) event, don’t wait too long to make up your mind.