Penticton aims to make an impression on wine bloggers

Wine bloggers are going to be in for some new experiences when they arrive in Penticton for their annual conference next June.

Wine bloggers are going to be in for some new experiences when they arrive in Penticton for their annual conference next June, starting with the scenery.

Though the conference has been happening since 2009, this will be the first year that it has happened right in the centre of a wine region.

“This is the first time this conference is going to be pretty much right in the middle of a wine region, where you can look out your hotel window straight out to the vineyards,” said Alison Markin, one of the organizers of the event. “That’s something I think everybody is excited about. We’re right here, in the heart of wine country, instead of in the middle of a city.”

However, that’s not to say it’s going to be a cakewalk to impress the 300-plus bloggers expected to show for the event. Markin has just returned from the 2012 event, which was held in Portland, Oregon. “They did a really excellent job on the conference, so we have a lot to live up to for next year. The Oregon wines were, across the board, quite lovely,” said Markin. “It was a great place to be and the hotel went out of its way to do whatever they could to accommodate special requests, to make sure everybody had wine glasses and everything you possibly needed in your hotel room if you wanted to pour wine.

“The easier you make it for bloggers to enjoy themselves, the more positive the content becomes online. It’s our challenge now to elevate it even further next year.”

Markin said they already have plans to shake things up, but it is likely to be a new experience regardless for many of the participants.

“Most of the bloggers that are coming are U.S. based and haven’t been to Canada or haven’t been to B.C. wine country,” she said. “The overall feeling when we made the official announcement on Sunday was can’t wait to come, can’t wait to try the wines, even though they can’t necessarily get them at their stores wherever they are from in the U.S. But they are looking forward to trying a new region and new wines.

“That’s their passion. These are people who, for the most part, are lawyers, dentists, teachers by day, wine bloggers by night and they want to learn, they want to experience new things and this is brand new to the majority who are going to be coming, so they are super excited.”

While previous conferences have had sponsored dinners, WBC 2013 in Penticton will also have a sponsored breakfast.

“The reason we’re doing that is on Saturday morning, everybody is going to be looking straight out the hotel at the Farmers’ Market. So when I announced we were going to do a breakfast in the park, everyone was excited by the idea,” said Markin. “They are already tweeting me to ask ‘Can we have a champagne breakfast and eggs Benedict?’”

But she has also received another challenge that might not be so easy to accomplish. While hosting a couple of guest bloggers recently, she said they discovered the channel and challenged her to figure out how the bloggers can take a ride down the channel and drink wine.

“I said perhaps it might be a little cold, but I will see what I can do,” joked Markin. “How do you license the entire channel parkway? That’s the challenge.”

The conference has grown considerably since it started in 2009. Last year, the goal set by Portland organizers was set at 350, which they managed to beat.

“The goal in Portland was 350 and they let in 360 in total. I think we’re going to aim for 350 and see if maybe we can push it to 400,” said Markin, who is working with Wine Country Tourism to plan and market the event.

“That would be the biggest conference they’ve done,” said Markin who adds that there was already a good response in the 48 hours after the 2013 location was officially announced in Portland. They do have some people that register right away, Markin said, but not so many within a few hours of the conference. “The last report I got is there are more than 30 people already registered. That’s kind of unprecedented.”