Narcissists, Assholes, & Booze: Takeaways From the 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference

“When you come to see, what you want to see,

You come to see, but you never come to know.”

– From “Wild Man From Borneo” by Kinky Friedman


As hugs were being dispensed Sunday morning in the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott lobby, I was asked if I would be writing a review and reflection post similar to the one I did after Portland (a nice compliment, to be sure). Well, after taking some time to consider my experience, reading a few of you overachievers’ thoughts on WBC14, and going back to read my own thoughts on Portland, I discovered something: I have a lot of the same things to say about this year’s conference as I did about the last one I attended—only more so. For the purposes of fulfilling a request from a friend (and moving ever forward), there’s a list of WBC12 vs. WBC14 takeaways (and links to a couple of my awesome video parodies) at the end, but I will ask your indulgence in a few rambling paragraphs first…

We wine bloggers are a special breed: some of us focus our attention on specific regions, varietals, or price points; some of us simply enjoy drinking wine and want to share our experiences with others; some of us enjoy cooking with and/or pairing wines with food; some of us love the agricultural aspect of the wine industry; and some of us love the romance of making wine. Most of us love all of these aspects of wine to some degree. We obviously love wine, but we are also a diverse, self-selecting group who (mostly) do what we do because we want to do it.

But other than wine, what do we all have in common? I’ve managed to drill it down to two things: we are all narcissists and we are all judgmental assholes…

Me looking pretty badass with some rosé. This picture appeared in the San Jose Mercury News the day after the conference.

Me looking pretty badass with some rosé. This picture appeared in the San Jose Mercury News the day after the conference.

Now you may be thinking, “but Stub, I’m humble and love everybody! There’s plenty of room for all of us at the wine bloggers’ [speed tasting] table.” Well, I call shenanigans!

Every single one of us started our blogs because we were absolutely convinced we had something important to say that the world just had to hear, because not one other blogger who existed before us had said what we had to say (or at least hadn’t said it correctly). Narcissists! The whole damn lot of us.

And we all judge others’ work. Don’t give me this “well sure, some are better than others, but…” BS, because we all know we’ve thought to ourselves a few times when reading a post by someone else “I can’t believe she said that” or “what the hell is that guy thinking?” Call me a liar and I’ll be glad to come to your home or place of business with a mirror at your earliest convenience.

Now before you get all bent out of shape, let me say this: you’re not (or at least most of you are not) narcissistic assholes. But you do judge. And you do think you could have done a subject someone else chose to write about way more justice—hell, there’s a decent chance you’re thinking that right now (or at least will be thinking by the time you finish reading this post).

If you don’t agree that wine bloggers writ large are judgmental, read the numerous post-conference musings about the print wine writers panel (and the accompanying comment sections). Now don’t get me wrong, that was far from my favorite session at WBC14, but damn, people! Those poor guys have been all but crucified. I actually took a few notes during that session and the final note I scribbled was this: “I wouldn’t have minded a younger writer on the panel.” When I considered my comment for a bit, I found a glaring problem with my thinking: young “traditional media” writers don’t really exist (even though I’m sure at least one of you narcissistic assholes will be more than helpful and leave a list of young(er) wine writers in the comment section). That’s all I have to say about that.

I can’t be the only one of us who waits patiently every year for the conference agenda to be published before immediately deciding why each session or speaker is either absolutely perfect or the worst scheduling choice in the history of conferences (the fact that you’re giggling right now means I’m right). And I know I’m not the only one of us who meets with fellow bloggers between sessions to discuss how great or not so great a session was. But let me ask you this fellow bloggers: did you manage to take away at least one new thing from each session you attended? If you didn’t, shame on you!

This is me as Elvis. But don't tell me I have a "king" complex.

This is me as Elvis. But don’t tell me I have a “king” complex.

As a veteran of three Wine Bloggers’ Conferences, I say this: WBC14 was by far the best of the three conferences I’ve attended. Despite his Jason Mraz-y-like headgear, Corbett Barr was the best (and most relevant) keynote speaker I’ve listened to at a Wine Bloggers’ Conference. But that’s not what made the conference the best one I’ve attended. So was it the quality of the sessions that spoke so much to me? Maybe a little (but probably not). You see, I think the best way to get the most out of a Wine Bloggers’ Conference experience is to manage your expectations. As good or bad as a session or speaker looks on paper, they will likely never live up to everything you expect—because (like me) you’re a narcissistic asshole.

Now when I say you should manage your expectations, I am not calling out Allan or Zephyr on their speaker/session/location choices—I will leave that to surveys and personal interaction(s) if I feel so compelled (which, at present, I do not). What I’m trying to say is this: ask yourself before registering/attending the conference (or deciding which session to attend) what you hope to get out of it. For me, the answer is and always will be: hanging out with some pretty cool people I would not otherwise have had the opportunity with which to hang—be they fellow bloggers, sponsors, speakers, or some rando we met around the fire pit out back. The truth of the matter is: if you’re open to it, sometimes you get out of things something completely and positively unexpected.

None of us blog for ourselves. Some of us might have an itch that can only be scratched by writing and drinking wine (in no particular order, of course), but if our musings on wine and life were only for ourselves, they’d be handwritten in leather-bound journals hidden under our collective mattresses.

Personally, I started CorkEnvy because I love wine and I wanted to share my passion for wine with others. But a little part of me had the notion that I somehow knew something more about or approached wine differently than anyone else, so by not sharing my thoughts on the interwebs, I would be depriving the world of my greatness. And I’m right (narcissist!), because I know things others don’t—not all the others, but a lot of the others. And my perspective is definitely different than—and probably more correct than—anyone else’s (asshole!). But all that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy meeting, greeting, tasting, drinking, and generally conferencing with other wine bloggers who share the same view of themselves and have a similar love of the fermented grape; ’cause whether I get the opportunity to hear it or not, or whether I am open enough to hear it when presented, every single one of us—citizen blogger, industry blogger, professional writer, winemaker, brand representative, or whatever—has something to say that can benefit even the biggest of us narcissistic wine blogging assholes.


What I Took Away From Portland Santa Barbara

  1. A case of wine. Six bottles of wine.
  2. While we tasted several wines, this conference was more about people for me. Same. I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making new friends.
  3. Dundee ain’t just a crocodile from Australia. Seek out more Santa Barbara wine.
  4. Wine is the thing that brought us together, but the point was that we were together. Ditto.
  5. It’s a small world. I met people from places I know (and love) and even met Aphrodite’s neighbor! Managed to meet two “new to me” people that live in my neck of the woods.
  6. People make wine. Some people do it because they love it. Others do it merely for the work. Most at least start out loving it. Ditto.
  7. Wine bloggers are a self-selecting—yet diverse—group. Holds, but also: wine bloggers are narcissistic assholes of the best possible type.
  8. Sometimes, when you meet people you have looked forward to meeting or seeing, you’re at least as impressed as you hoped you’d be. Maybe even more so. Sometimes, you meet someone you didn’t necessarily expect to meet and he’s pretty cool, even if you only exchanged a few pleasantries and listened to him talk while he was pouring his wine (yeah, I’m talking about you, Larry Schaffer).
  9. Sometimes, people you look forward to meeting or seeing are disappointing in a pompous ass kind of way. Luckily, I did not meet or see anyone like this at WBC14.
  10. I look fabulous in a tiara! I don’t need a tiara to look fabulous.
  11. Sometimes you share a Scotch with a new acquaintance and it’s cool. Sometimes a friend brings Scotch and you help her polish off the bottle. And it’s yummy.
  12. The Pacific Northwest is the most beautiful area of the country. Ditto, but driving up the coast to San Francisco was pretty cool.
  13. I am amazed by how much I actually know about wine and the wine world—from vineyard to store shelf. That said, I really know nothing and can always learn something new about wine from others, regardless of their experience. Ditto, but more so. I did manage to wedge a harvest internship in between my last two conferences, so there’s that.
  14. Wine is the ultimate social lubricant and most romantic beverage ever. Yup.
  15. Craft beers of the Pacific Northwest are good. An IPA serves you well after tasting wine all day.
  16. Pacing is important. Two more birthdays and a stay in a Dominican hospital the weekend before only make this point more important.
  17. Always test the battery in your condenser microphone before filming. Snap a few pictures, but don’t do it to the detriment of enjoying the “here and now.”
  18. Despite what may end up being a rocky start, my independent film career will be legendary. Truth! Even though I didn’t win.
  19. In my next life, I hope to stumble upon a job as a winemaker by the time I’m 23. Based on meeting winemakers from the region, this is totally possible. And likely. And I will make great wine, despite my relative youth. Boutique video production for the wine industry available for hire. Hit me up if you have a need.
  20. The people that show up get to do the cool stuff. Same. But asking helps, too.
  21. I should work on not being such a wallflower. I have improved in this area, but I’m still a little shy at times.
  22. There’s a decent chance that KLG and Hoda will soon learn how much I heart them. I’ve moved on. Those feisty old broads aren’t calling, so I ain’t waiting by the phone anymore.
  23. And finally…

You can be serious about wine without taking yourself too seriously.

You can be serious about wine without taking yourself too seriously!

It is my mantra after all…