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Go Go Gadget!

Here we are!  It’s prime WBC Scholarship season, and we couldn’t do it without you.  For those that have supported our Scholarship in the past, we salute you.

After 7 Wine Bloggers Conferences, and six successful Scholarship years, we have learned a lot.  One thing we have learned is that hotels have pretty sad hospitality glasses for big tastings.  While I understand that it’s hard to have 300+ Riedels or other glasses on hand for these large tastings, I also know that as a wine professional and wine lover, I demand a certain level of stemware when I’m tasting wine and evaluating them. The hotel glass is something of a curse at these conferences, and after hearing many comments (and seeing it, as well as my own thoughts) about the lack of appropriate stemware, we have decided to offer a new fundraising feature this year.

 

For the fisrt time, we have WBC Scholarship logo glasses available for sale for $5, and as a thank you gift (think PBS Pledge Break) for anyone who donates over $50.

 

So get to it!

 

185 days until WBC14 in Santa Barbara!

The Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship was founded in 2009 to provide well established “citizen bloggers” with a stipend so they can attend the wine bloggers conference, further their knowledge, their network, the wine blogging community and the wine industry as a whole.

 As, unfortunately, not all who wish to attend can afford the costs associated with the conference, the scholarship was established to assist in this effort.  The citizen blogger scholarship recipients are bloggers who are not affiliated with a winery or other company in the wine industry with a demonstrated financial need. Specific attention is paid to bloggers who post regularly, have never attended the conference before and who might be students with a particular focus in wine.

The weekend of July 11-13, 2014, hundreds of wine bloggers, social media educators and leaders, and wine industry members will gather in Buellton, California for the seventh annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) the premier conference for new media and the wine industry. For the first time the WBC will cross international lines as it travels to Canada’s newest wine growing region for this three-day symposium that builds on our past successes and brings attendees a unique opportunity to learn about and discuss the intersection of wine with the world of new media including blogging, social media, and more.

Applicants are asked to describe their blog, their financial need pertaining to the conference, and why they are deserving of sponsorship. Stipends are awarded through a committee selection process based on the above mentioned focus criteria.

Funds are generated by donations from participating wineries and other industry entities as well as generous individuals. In 2012, the scholarship fund assisted wine bloggers in attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia.  This international event brought wine writers from all over the world, bringing new light to the wine industry in the region, and creating wine tourism memories to last a lifetiem.  One hundred percent of the funds supported the scholarships and bloggers received an average of $1000 to attend the conference including registration, travel costs and accommodations.

Thanks to a partnership with Enobytes, the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund is accepting donations as a US based 501(c) non profit organization. This means, that you can donate to the scholarship fund TAX FREE (subject to your tax professional’s advice of course). Donations are accepted via our donor page personal or corporate check (please let us know if you prefer this option as there are some specific rules for the 501c).

What we need:

We are looking for donations, of any size, that will go in to a fund to be awarded to bloggers based on need, length of blogging history, and written statements of why they qualify for assistance and wish to attend.

 

We give preference to established citizen bloggers, students in wine (MBA, BA, enology, viticulture, business administration), and bloggers who have never attended a Wine Bloggers Conference before.

 

We ask that corporate sponsors donate a minimum of $95, which covers the registration fee for a citizen blogger (though we gratefully accept ANY donation, large or small!).

 

What you get in return:

Premier Sponsors (donations of $1,000+) will receive free advertising on both Enobyes (banner ads) and my personal blog, as well as the WBC Scholarship site. These are to be formatted and scheduled dates will be chosen at the agreement of both parties.

You will also receive a write up on the WBC Scholarship Fund blog outlining your business and why you believe in bloggers and the conference.

 

In addition, we ask each winner to write a post stating what the WBC meant to them, what they learned, and personally thanking each donor.

 

In 2012, for the first time, we will be hosting a Sponsor table, where the WBC Scholarship Committee and former recipients will be available to answer questions, pour your wine or share your business information, and interact with the attendees.  This is a fantastic opportunity for you to present your company to over 300 industry & blogger attendees during the “Meet the Sponsors” event.

 

If you attend the WBC, you will also get a flashy new “Corporate Sponsor” ribbon for your badge that identifies you to our attendees as someone who supports bloggers.  Each recipient will also have a badge identifying them, and they will be seeking out sponsors and individual donors for personal introductions.

 

For more information, please contact info@wbcscholarship.com or visit http://wbcscholarship.com/america.

 

Housekeeping

There have been a lot of conversations lately, back alley, direct, and otherwise, that have brought some things to my attention concerning our little scholarship effort.

First, I would like to take the time to remind everyone who is participating, either as a donor, a selection committee member, or an applicant, as well as former recipients, that this scholarship is entirely run on passion juice and volunteers.  We are not paid for our time or otherwise; we simply believe in this idea.  We are not a legal entity nor are we legally bound to the Wine Bloggers Conference.  We have a close affiliation with them and they are extraordinarily helpful in assisting us but it is not a tie that binds.

We are a grass roots effort.  This is learning by doing and the doing takes a ridiculous amount of work to accomplish.  This is also an honor system.  As the chair, I – as well as the selection committee – can only rely on the information provided to me by the applicants.  We do not have any direct visibility in to the financial records of any applicant.  We cannot make any decisions based on information that is not provided.  Furthermore, we cannot make any decisions based on any outside influence, such as recipients attending press events, or trips planned by other agencies.  We simply do not have visibility in to this.

It is an extraordinarily difficult task to both raise enough funding and to find the appropriate recipients for that funding.  I myself, as the chair, do not score any applicants as I am responsible for finding out how to best allocate funding based on the scores provided by the committee.  While we do give preferential thought to those bloggers that have not attended a WBC before, this does not always guarantee a scholarship grant.

Because there are several factors that go in to the final decision, a person with a higher score might not secure a spot before a person with a lower overall score.  For example, we start with the highest score first.  Next, we look at total financial need.  We also look at if they require accommodation assistance.  Based on these factors, we then try to maximize the funding available by slotting in as many people as possible.  If you request $300, and three additional people request $95 each, it is possible that one or more of the three people requesting $95 each would secure a spot prior to the person requesting $300, solely based on the available funding.  Additionally, we look closely at accommodation requests.  As we purchase rooms on behalf of the recipients, we need to fill a double occupancy room.  Let’s say a male with a score of 750 (let’s say that’s the highest out of all applicants) gets the first slot automatically, by virtue of him being the highest score.  If there are 4 females and 1 male left on the roster, the next male gets that spot first as we need to fill the room.  Failure to do so results in a funding deficit as we are paying for an empty bed in a room.

However, while every effort is made to ensure that we can fund as many applicants as possible, sometimes, the selection process has to sacrifice quantity for quality.  Many high scoring and high financial need requests might result in fewer scholarship recipients as we try to look for bloggers that are new to the community, and new to the conference.  As we have no idea what is going on outside of the Scholarship, this can be a judgement call but it is based on the information provided.  Again, this is strictly an honor system.  If Joey went to Pluto on a press junket, we aren’t sent the newpaper clipping so we have no way of knowing this; nor should this factor in our decision.  Prior or planned press trips have no bearing on financial need as stated by the applicant.  As these trips are funded by the agency or brand, the blogger is not financial responsible.

We also do not personally know the applicants.  While there may be some prior friendships amongst the committee and applicants, as the committee is formed prior to the applications being received, we cannot make that determination ahead of time.  We do our best to be impartial and if a committee member feels strongly that they are not able to be impartial, they are free to and encouraged to recuse themselves.  There are thousands of wine blogs out there.  We have seen over 100 applicants over the last 4 years.  In the beginning, I knew one applicant.  Now, I know most of them from past years.  This year I know 3.  It’s an impossibility to know if our friends, enemies or family will apply until after they do so.  This is why we have at least 6 committee members scoring, to average out the numbers.

It is an imperfect system but it is the best we can do and similar to any judging scenario.  Moving forward we will shake this up a bit.  If and when there is a WBC 2013 Scholarship program, which due to economical and emotional reason may not happen, we will weight first time attendees more heavily than in previous years.  This does not exclude repeat attendees however.  In the interest of transparancy, please see our selection criteria here.

Additionally, the question has been posed if we should disqualify any blogger who has previously received a scholarship.  I will not vote on this as it’s more important what YOU the blogging public and donors think, so please let me know.  If you have received funding (any at all?  Maximum allowed lifetime amount?) should you be barred from applying again?  PLEASE VOTE HERE  Do you have additional feedback about the Scholarship?  Please use the form above to submit your questions, comments, and concerns.

Sincerely

The Management

 

Portland, here we come!

It’s hard to believe but this year marks the 5th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference.  How time has flown!  It feels like yesterday that I started my blog, and the first small gaggle of die hards gathered in Santa Rosa for the first WBC.

Here we are, in 2012, and we’r eheaded up to Portland to celebrate the biggest Wine Bloggers Conference yet!

This year, we welcome keynote speaker Randall Graham of Bonny Doon fame, and author of Been Doon So Long.  Randall is a rebel in the wine industry who knows what he wants and goes for it.  While the 2nd keynote hasn’t been announced yet, you know it will be amazing.  There will be content galore, and lots of visits to local wineries to celebrate what makes Oregon unique.

as you know, we couldn’t run this Scholarship with you.  This is the 4th year that the WBC Scholarship has been in existence, and while it is certainly hard work and takes many hours of organization, thought, and blogging, it’s well worth it.  To date, we have 6 applications and  7 donations, many of which are repeat contributors.  We are well on our way!  Over the last 4 years we have sent over 30 bloggers to various Wine Bloggers Conferences around the country.

If you’re wondering why you should consider donating, consider this.

  • Donations are subject to tax deductible rules of a 501c foundation, with the help of our partner Enobytes.
  • Bloggers do influence the wine world, and there will be a specific breakout to discuss this topic.
  • Bloggers are morphing in to online media specialists.  While we may or may not be journalists per se, the retail world in general is taking notice and making sure that we are heard, via blogs, twitter, facebook, and other social media channels.
  • There are over 5000 wine blogs around the world.  The fortunate few who are able to attend the WBC will be able to learn from the best, share experiences, and network with industry experts.
  • You will have the undying admiration of myself and all the scholarship recipients!

Thank you to our generous donors, who I will be highlighting in the coming weeks.  We appreciate your support!

Virginia is for… Wine?

The 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference is set for July 22-24th, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Now, when I think of Virginia, I don’t think about wine.  I think about Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., and hot humid summers.  I was one of the naysyers that thought this would be a folly in to a strange wine region, but I was wrong.  One of the exciting things about the WBC is that you can see well known wine regions in a different way, or discover new regions that you might not have appreciated (remember Walla Walla?  Color me surprised).

Wine has been an industry in Virginia since Jefferson’s time, and you might not know that Virginia’s wines are subtle and elegant, offering a taste that is more similar to European wines than bold California varieties. The number of wineries in Virginia has tripled in the last 15 years to over 140, placing it fifth on the list of US states, and the geography boasts six separate AVAs: Eastern Shore, Monticello Northern Neck, North Fork of Roanoke, Rocky Knob, and Shenandoah Valley. For a good analysis of the Virginia wine scene, see the article in Virginia Business.

To help get citizen bloggers to Virginia next summer, the WBC Scholarship is proud to announce a partnership with Enobytes.

Enobytes (“Eno” – short for Enology: a science that deals with wine and wine making, & bytesA collection of organized bits of information) was founded in 1996 by Marc Hinton and Pamela Heiligenthal, who provided consulting services for the wine and restaurant industry in the San Francisco Bay area. In 2006, Enobytes went online and expanded to educated and share thier passion for wine.

With over half a million hits from 52 countries every month, Enobytes reaches a wide audience!  They pioneered the use of Google Earth based wine region maps, and offer a weekly VinQ twitter wine quiz that educates and humors the wine public.

With their help, the WBC Scholarship is p0leased to announce that we are now accepting donations TAX FREE through Enobytes.  That means that your dollars can go farther, as you will be able to claim them (up to a certain amount, please consult your tax professionals for any specific advice) as a tax deductable charity.  This is great, right?!?!?  So please, dig deep and think about who helped you get to your first WBC.  Wouldn’t you like to do the same?  No amount is too little (or too much).  Every penny helps a blogger who wants to get to Virginia but might not know how to get there.
If you’re wondering why Wine Bloggers are important, how does one measure their value, or the value of an inanimate object?  Value is subjective, and it is difficult to measure innately.  That said, as bloggers continue to spread the love about wines and stories they publish, if YOU my reader are paying attention, my blog and that post become valuable.  If you read a blog, or blogs, and you find value in what the writer is saying, then you are contributing to the value of that blog.  Most bloggers write for the pure love of wine (or whatever they happen to be writing about) and are not in to make money or sell a particular wine.  We dont’ get paid, we occasional get wine sent to us (which I might add is not ALWAYS good wine), and we have day  jobs.

The key in understanding wine bloggers is to know they are sharing information that they want you to know.  If a blogger reviews your wine or winery, they are effectively evangelizing your brand to their reading public.  That is the very definition of word of mouth marketing, in a new format.  For you, this is free advertising that gets more traffic to your site, and quite possibly more bodies in to your establishment.  The power of instant access tools such as twitter allow wine drinkers to review the experience as it happens, and spread that to their followers in real time.  For group tasting, or for people that follow twitter streams but may not be personally aware of your brand, that could mean an unscheduled trip in to your tasting room to check out what the buzz is about.

If you belive in bloggers, twitter, or social media in general, won’t you consider donating to our effort?  There are many bloggers that are unemployed, or simply cannot afford to make a trip to the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, washington.  OUr Scholarship aims to select bloggers who wish to learn more about blogging, develop their writing style, and network with other bloggers and industry professionals in a  creative fun enbvornemtn for three days.

We’re open for business, so click on the little donate button below!  It’s the holidays.  C’mon, be generous!  And remember to file your taxes in April

~The Management



Now, don’t forget THE RULES.  Applicants may submit their applications starting January 1st!

 

Blogger Profile: Notes from the Cellar

In Steve’s own words:

In the seemingly-limitless journey that is a life enjoying wine,
sometimes roadsigns are roadblocks, and other times we need wayfinding
markers along the way, illuminating our path like the
nigh-indestructible lights that line airport runways. In the
time-honored tradition of the blind leading the blind, I do my best to
keep from steering people off cliffs as we travel–together–along the
vine-lined pathways of existence. So, yeah, in other words, I review
wine.

His blog, Notes from the Cellar, Notes From The Cellar is Steve’s personal journal of tasting notes and wine reviews, where he explores his passion.  Like many of us wine bloggers, he is a tech geek software developer, and spends his time and resources seeking out wines that inspire him.  His latest project, which pairs wines with TV shows of the 80s is sure to have you in stitches, particularly if you are of Generation X who grew up with these shows.

Steve’s motto is to taste a lot of wine, good bad and downright scary, and post the ugly truth on his blog as often as possible.  In a world where there have been questionable ethics, Steve pushes for honesty and detailed critiques, making his blog one of the go to resources for information for many wine lovers.

Steve started blogging about in 2009, an d wasn’t able to attend the previous Wine Bloggers Conference.  As he supports his wife’s path through graduate schoool, and (like most of us) does not get paid for his blogging efforts, he was unable to attend the WBC this year without your support.  Please stop by and visit Notes from the Cellar, and follow Steve on TWITTER.  This will be Steve’s first Wine Bloggers Conference, and he is very excited to share information and techniques with bloggers with some time under their belt, professional writers, and wine lovers of all persuasions.

See you in Walla Walla Steve!

Blogger Profile: Southern Oregon Wine Blog

Chris Jiron is our last student blogger, who will be completing his Enology degree this summer from the Northwest Viticulture Center in Salem, Oregon.  Chris currently writes about his experiences in Southern Oregon for Southern Oregon Wine blog, and also sharing his journey of starting his own wine label on his second wine blog, Wineopreneurs.

It is Chris’ mission to educate wine enthusiasts about the undiscovered areas of southern Oregon, which is the lesser known step sister to Willamette and an up and coming area in its own right.  As a Millenial, Chris is fully integrated with social media, and looks forward tot he WBC to add to his current toolbox and learn new ideas from us Gen Xers, as well as traditional wine writers and industry pros.

We look forward to hearing Chris’ perspective as a newly educated wino, and how his new project is coming!

Blogger Profile 5: Well Red, White, and Rose

Erika Szymanski is the second student scholarship winner. This month, she began the PhD graduate program in Enology at Washington State University, where she will concentrate on microbial enology. She is new to wine blogging, but has combined her love of wine and love of writing in to her blog, Well Red, White, and Rose. where she expands on her tasting notes and prepares for the career of an academic.

Erika calls herself a serious amateur, and spends her time preparing for the PhD program by learning the details of winemaking from a scientific perspective. As writing is a large part of any academics career, she will be able to write about wine and continue her education. Erika looks forward to attending the conference to expand her local angle, and build a network on contacts while learning more about the art of blogging on her blog,

We look forward to meeting you!

What is this social media and why do I want to sponsor a blogger?

No, blogging is not the end all be all when it comes to marketing and media relations.  It is, however, a powerful tool that enhances word of mouth marketing efforts.

Did you know that word of mouth marketing is the number 1 way that many products are sold to day?  Tell a friend you like something and they will tell 10 friends.  Those 10 friends will tell 10 more, and so on.  Tell someone you DISlike something, and the effect is multiplied tenfold.

How does blogging tie in to this?  Blogging is, effectively, word of mouth marketing to an audience of your friends, only they are readers.  Blog browsers are looking for more information, and many are coming across blogs via search engines and other seemingly unrelated terms.  Many readers to my blog for example, come there via search engines regarding a particular wine brand, and they stay to read the article to learn more.

The reason I mention this is that we, as wine bloggers, are in need of support to help send those who can’t quite find the extra pennies, to Walla Walla.  I am asking you to consider a donation to the scholarship fund because it will help a wine or food blogger attend the show of the century, where we share, learn and educate the wine community on what a blogger is.  And there are many kinds!

In return, we will spot light your company on this blog as well as our individual blogs, and we ask each scholarship recipient to write a biography of themselves as well, and encourage them to reach out to thank the sponsors.

This year, we are travelling to a new wine region in Walla Walla, WA.  Give your brand a chance to shine!

If you would like more information on how you can donate, or anything else, please don’t hestitate to email us at wbcscholarship at gmail dot com.

Here we go again…down another road!

Hello and welcome! The purpose for the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund is to sponsor selected recipients with funding to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference next June in Walla Walla, Washington.

Through a committee selection process, applicants are asked to describe their blog, their financial needs pertaining to the Wine Bloggers Conference, and why they are deserving on sponsorship.

The selection committee consists of the following individuals:
Thea Dwelle @winebratsf – wine blogger and social media champion

The 2010 WBC Scholarship Committee is still being formed.

All of the committee members have paid for thier own fees associated with the Wine Bloggers Confernece and are participating in this panel in order to encourage the sense of community among wine bloggers, and allow more attendees to participate in this years confernece who might otherwise not be able to.

Funds are generated by donations from participating wineries, PR agencies, wine business industry members, and individuals. If you wish to donate to this fund, please contact us! We accept donations from all wine industry companies, as well as individuals.

Skip that morning latte and donate to a needy blogger! No amount is too small, and every effort is appreciated, though we do request that if you can, a minimum $95 donation which will register a citizen blogger.

Funds are awarded based on the committee selection process, and are pooled. No one donation will be given to a specific individual.

So, you’re a winery or a wine industry business, and you want to send a needy blogger to summer camp, but you’re not really sure how you can justify the cost expenditure, or why you should.

The wine industry is rapidly becoming involved in this new media of blogging and social media, which is slowly, if not entirely replacing the traditional print medium as the information source of choice.

With events like the Wine Bloggers Conference, Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS), and Web 2.o increasing in popularity, blogging is here to to stay. The Wine Bloggers Conference offers an extraordinary opportunity for bloggers and industry reps to learn about the industry, about wine, and gain further understand of each other. As most bloggers are blogging for love and not for dollars, in can be extra challenging, to go the extra distance, and find the extra dollars, to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference. Likewise, the blogging community also suffers without the contribution of valuable members who can’t afford to get there. It seems totally reasonable to offer support to this fledgling collective…without a quid pro quo, to support its growth. Wine Blogging is here to stay. With even the b ig players in the industry starting to take note, for better or for worse, online social connections are enhancing traditional media.
As Bill Legion, President of Hahn Family Estates recently said:
I believe that the blogging community is a vital part of the future of the industry. In the many debates of what is or isn’t ethical in regards to the winery/wine blogger relationship what seems clear to me is that the best, most ethical thing we as a winery can do is provide the blogging community with quality products, quality information and quality wine experiences regardless of race, sex, color, creed or brand of wine. We are using our vineyards because that’s who we are. I believe that the more the blogging community learns about wine, the better it is for all of us.

It is a vital connection; just like the winery/wine writer connection; the winery/wine buyer connection; and of course the winery/consumer connection. It does us no good to create great wines if no one knows about it. I just can’t drink that much. The wine business is a relationship business. We must create an emotional connection to our consumers. We do that through many means and I believe Social Media is a major part of creating that connection.

The wine business is one of relationships. You sell wine to people, one bottle at a time. No matter how big or how small the order might grow to be, it’s a connection that sells the wine. As Bill said:

The internet and Social Media allow you to … establish a relationship and an emotional connection to someone in Germany that I have never met face to face. It allows me to create connections with multiple people in multiple countries simultaneously and in a very personal way.

I couldn’t have put it better myself! From our perspective, donating to the fund provides valuable exposure not only here on this blog, but also to the bloggers who are the recipients of those funds. While there is not a 1 to 1 relationship from sponsor to blogger, they will be aware of who the general pool of funds was created by, and who is helping them achieve their WBC goal.

To further expound on this point, I’d like to quote Joe Roberts from 1WineDude. Joe ,who was recently back from TasteCamp East on Long Island, a similar event to the WBC.

Joe describes wine bloggers and the online wine community in general as vibrant group, with an increasing relevance that grows every day as the next generation of wine consumers (and those older generations that are increasingly influenced by them) demand new, more immediate ways of learning and interacting with wine. New wine drinkers care less and less about wine credentials and diplomas and experiences as they are shown on paper. This fresh crop of wineux care about transparency and that we are consistant and reliable. They care the we know what we are talking about and that we are passionate about our subject, and want to help them improve and enjoy by giving solid advice.

If these consumers are looking to us for advice and inspiration, wineries and wine industry professionals would be wise to take note. Generation X, Y and those pesky millennials are nipping at the heels of Facebook, Twitter and blogging, seeking information. The death of the traditional newspaper should be a wake up call for all. The SF Chronicle recently lost it’ dedicated wine section. Why? Because we can get this information online. With both paid and unpaid publication simultaneously growing on the internet, consumers are looking for wine buying advice in alternative locations. Wine Bloggers Conference, where bloggers, professional writers, and wine industry professionals network and learn together, allows us to bridge any perceived gaps while supporting each other and discussing our mutual benefit.

Wine bloggers like wine. We write about wine. We write about the industry. Contributing to this fund, which will in turn encourage more bloggers to attend this groundbreaking event, is a valuable idea for anyone who can see the long term future of the industry and has a forward looking glance.

Those individuals or companies that donate will have their businesses spotlighted on this blog, and we will make every effort to encourage the winning scholarship recipients to blog about you as well.

-Special thanks to Lisa de Bruin for contributing to this op-ed piece!