Penticton scores with wine bloggers

This month's Wine Bloggers Conference rates highly with those attending

Coffee was the drink of choice for Rebecca Rader and other diners at breakfast Saturday at Gyro Park for the 2013 North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton. Organizers say licensing an outdoor event in a public space is too difficult in B.C.

Coffee was the drink of choice for Rebecca Rader and other diners at breakfast Saturday at Gyro Park for the 2013 North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton. Organizers say licensing an outdoor event in a public space is too difficult in B.C.

All the votes are tallied and the results are in: Penticton has set the standard to beat for the Wine Bloggers Conference.

“Because most of the bloggers had never been to Canada, or the Okanagan, and they had very little experience with B.C. wine, well, I hate to use the term blown away, but that is what is happening now,” said local organizer Allison Markin.

“Their expectations were fairly moderate and when they got here they were just incredibly impressed with the region, the scenery, the food and the wine.”

After polling the conference attendees, Zephyr Adventures said the sixth annual Wine Bloggers Conference, hosted earlier this month in Penticton, was the best so far. Though the conference was locally organized, Zephyr owns the rights to it, along with the beer bloggers conference, the food bloggers conference, the fitness bloggers conference and others.

“The conference scored a 4.13 on our 1-5 scale in which four equals very good while five equals outstanding,” reads the release from Zephyr. “The first conference in 2008 in Sonoma scored 4.12 while the 2010 conference in Walla Walla scored 4.11.”

One of the highest rated events at the 2013 WBC was the opening reception at See Ya Later Ranch, scoring 4.81.

“Having them come out and that be their first impression of the Okanagan, with that spectacular view and great wine, did a lot to help our score,” said Markin.

The Saturday breakfast in Gyro Park, she continued, was another inspiration.

“No other conference has done a sponsored breakfast. I wondered how many people would show up, because they had been out late the night before,” said Markin, who was surprised by the enthusiastic response. “The five restaurants and the coffee station and our juice station just about all ran out of food.”

The compact nature of Penticton lent itself well to the breakfast concept, according to Markin, serving as a starting point for the bloggers to explore the farmers’ and community markets and other places in the city.

“Quite often the conference spends a lot of time in the hotels. We kind of hesitate a bit about taking people out of the hotel too much, because they do have a lot of content and a lot of sessions to absorb,” said Markin.

“Having them come out of the hotel and go to receptions in vineyards, out seeing the landscape and getting to know the region outside was something that worked out very well.”

Having received such a distinctive score from attendees goes beyond wine bloggers or that particular conference. Markin said that it’s kudos that any organization looking at bringing in a conference of any kind can make use of.

“We can say that we had one of the best food and wine conferences and this is why you should come and bring your business here,” said Markin.

It may be a year or two for the full effects of the conference to be fully known. But Markin said some of the WBC feedback has already been used by some of the organizations to put into future bids, including ones she is working on.

“It’s not us saying we were the best, it’s the people who actually voted to come here, experienced it, that’s their opinion,” she said. “We could not, in any way, pay for that kind of advertising for Penticton.”