• Brad Johnson

Pairing Shyness and Wine

Dosed with 20 ounces of coffee and two additional shots of espresso I entered the busy southbound I-405 on-ramp in Bothell, WA (a northern suburb of Seattle) only pausing momentarily as the traffic signals spaced out the cars. That was last Thursday. It was me against nine thousand other vehicles with all of us racing toward Snoqualmie Pass on a dreary, overcast day but over the pass there would be sunshine more importantly there would be wine – lots of wine in Walla Walla - my destination for a few days as an attendee of the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Ever since I began writing about wine while I was in wine school back in 2007, making wine at home, and later working at a winery in the cellar I’ve considered attending the Wine Bloggers Conference. Never thrilled with the name – Wine Blogger, mostly because it seems to me that “blogging” doesn’t fully capture what many of us are doing, that is writing about wine, writing about the experience of wine and the wineries, creating buzz, being online influencers, social media boosters, driving traffic and likely increasing sales to our wine industry brethren.

Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into going to one of these things, and being on the shy side and traveling solo created more anxiety in me than I'm happy to report.

After taking a deep breath I bought the ticket, found a snazzy hotel (since I was late I got my 2nd choice hotel: Motel 6 – actually, it was fine), and made my plans.

The drive was long, about 5 hours. After arriving in Walla Walla and checking in to both the hotel and with the conference folks I wandered around downtown and began exploring. It had been a while since I’d visited Walla Walla and the last time I did was about 15 years ago during Christmas break and since then the winery scene has blown-up!

Strolling around downtown I passed by Otis Kenyon Winery and stepped in for a tasting. I’ve been a fan of OKW wines for a long time and I’d met Muriel, the manager, in Woodinville a year earlier so I was happy to reconnect with her and revisited a few of their wines and chatted. Super friendly and very tasty wines. Very highly recommended.

The first evening was a meet-and-greet with the conference room full of wineries, vendors and wine writers. Note to self: remember to sip and spit. The evening flew by as I visited with winery representatives, tasted a lot of good wines, and met some of the attendees. One of the highlights was an opportunity to try the Mullan Road Winery wine being poured by Dennis Cakebread. The wine was incredible!

There are a lot of interesting and sometimes strong personalities in the wine world and frankly that’s one of the things I both love and hate about it. Most of the wine industry folks I know, the ones that actually make wine or work in the tasting rooms, are hardworking fun and interesting people. It’s easy to chat with them and I don’t need to posture or pretend; it’s the wine posers that I find most irritating and have for a long time. Of course at a wine bloggers conference, such as this, it’d be hard not to encounter a few pretentious wine snobs - typically they are the boomingly loud-talkers that dominate conversation – and it only takes a few moments to know the air in the room is being sucked out by them, so I quietly slip away and breathe. But, it’s all good because there are many more thoughtful, nice and friendly other people to get to know.

My take away from my first moments of this conference are these: 1) remember to sip and spit (can’t over-emphasize that), 2) there are some really wonderful wines being made in WA, 3) great grapes can be made into great wine; but not always – a few sad encounters with amazing grapes gone bad, 4) I like nice people, 5) the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant was amazing!, 6) Bacon and Eggs Restaurant is my new favorite breakfast place, 7) next time bring a friend.

Shyness feels like a serious disadvantage in the world of outspoken people and this conference allowed me another opportunity to stretch my comfort. To those that took the time to chat with me, thank you. Your stories were interesting and I look forward to reading your writing and hopefully chatting with you on my podcast. Until then, cheers wine friends!

Full Disclosure Policy: In keeping with my policy of full-disclosure this posting is part of the agreement with the 2018 Wine Bloggers Conference (Zephyr Conferences) as a citizen blogger, discounted admission in exchange for 3 blog postings. This is the first of those postings.

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