Last weekend I was extremely proud to see my home state of Virginia roll out the red carpet as host of the fourth annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia (also home of my alma mater University of Virginia). The three-day event brought together wine bloggers and wine industry leaders giving them the opportunity to see there’s lots of wine to love in Virginia, the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. with over 193 wineries.

This was my first year attending the conference and I had some great experiences. My highlights from the 2011 Conference…

* The Wine

As you can imagine the wine was plentiful! Over the three days, I sampled 126 wines, at least that’s how many I captured in my notes.

My favorite wineries continued to be my favorite…Blenheim Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Horton Vineyards, Virginia Wineworks and King Family Vineyards in Virginia and King Estate Winery in Oregon. It was great to see others enjoying them as well!

I also discovered some new favorite wines…

* The People

Mixing and mingling, networking… there was plenty of it from morning until late into the night! It was very cool to hear from and meet wine speakers/authors I regularly read like Jancis Robinson (even got her to sign my World Atlas of Wine), Eric Asimov of the New York Times, Dave McIntyre of The Washington Post. They shared insights and tips for those of us in the wine writing/blogging world.

It was also cool to meet and/or reconnect with people that work with or make some of my favorite wines…

  • Kirsty Harmon, the super cool, knowledgable Winemaker and General Manager of Blenheim Vineyards,
  • Luca Paschina, the famous Italian Winemaker from Barboursville Vineyards,
  • @Kobrand_Wine, @aburich, @fermented, @RachelTaylor Chi, @NewHorizonWines, @gwendolwine, @camilaxavier, @TheGoodWineGuru, @epicureanways, @ReverseWineSnob, @1WineDude, @DrinkWhatULike, @WCWineGuy, @winecompass, @OddBacchus, @suburbanwino, @vitisdivine, @GregoryDalPiaz, @Diane_Letulle, @Tabarrini, @WinebowWine, @WineHarlots, @VaWineInMyPkt, @Stevenraye, @mariepayton, @SwirlGirls, @palatepress, @WinesofCroatia, @melanie0, @krischislett (used their twitter handle so you can check them out),
  • and I was THRILLED to meet Gabriele Rausse, Father of Modern Virginia, and drink his wine with him!

* Into Wine Country

Charlottesville is the center of the Monticello Wine Trail, one of 22 in the state, and the Monticello appellation. It is here that it all started for Virginia wine with Thomas Jefferson planting his first grapes in 1807 at Monticello. So it was only appropriate that Friday evening’s Virginia Wine Reception was held at Monticello. We sampled wine from 32 Virginia wineries on Jefferson’s lawn (he even made an appearance ;) ) and checked out his newly reconstructed wine cellar. (We also did a lot of sweating in the 100+ degree heat.)

On Saturday morning, attendees boarded numbered buses not knowing their destinations to visit one to three wineries on the Monticello Wine Trail. I got on Bus 3 … the BEST…with a great group of people AND the chance to visit two of my favorite wineries, Virginia Wineworks/ Michale Shaps and Bleinheim Vineyards, who gave us the royal treatment, and a new discovery in First Colony Vineyards.

* Aromas of Wine

In this interactive session we learned ways to sniff out the differences in wines from different regions through a blind tasting of Winebow Wines. Sheri Sauter Morano MW talked to us about how our sense of smell is much more acute than our sense of taste and in wine there are thousands of scents to uncover. I’ll write a full post on this cool session.

* Live Wine Blogging

This was a first for me. It’s like speed dating…you stay at one table for one hour and 12 wineries come by your table for five minutes each to tell you about their wine. It was a lot of fun. Check out my posts on the two sessions… Live Wine Blogging on Reds…it’s like speed dating! and Live Wine Blogging on Whites & Rosés…ready, set, go!

A BIG thank you to organizer Zephyr Adventures and premier sponsors Virginia Wine Marketing Office, Virginia Tourism Corporation and Charlottesville/Albemarle County Convention & Visitors Bureau. And thank you to my sponsor Snooth, a revolutionary web-based social wine shopping experience, who held a Wine Itinerary Writing Contest for conference attendees that I won!

In upcoming posts I’ll share more on my favorite wines, wineries, our wine country tour and the Aromas of Wine seminar.

Cheers to Virginia![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]