If you happen to be a wine blogger, you’ve likely heard of the annual Wine Bloggers Conference. Although the conference is a great place to try lots of wine, it’s really about much more than just sipping and spitting. It’s also about getting to know some fabulous fellow wine-obsessed colleagues, discovering a new wine region, and hopefully taking away some inspiration to improve on your wine blogging. It’s a great time. If you’re not yet a wine blogger but have ever fancied becoming one, consider this incentive: you’ve got nine months until the next conference.
WBC 2013 will be held in Penticton, British Columbia from June 6-8. This is the first time the conference will take place in Canada, and I have to say I’m pretty excited about that.
I was recently charmed by the beauty of Penticton and the surrounding Okanagan Valley wine region during a pre-conference scouting mission, a trip that was sponsored by Penticton & Wine Country Tourism. (Whether you’re a wine blogger or not, for some general travel tips for a wine-themed vacation to Penticton, see my article for Urban Expressions.)
Besides the wine (more about that soon!), here are some reasons to make the trip to Penticton.
Given the dramatic mountains and shimmering lakes, driving through the Okanagan Valley kept my jaw muscles working as I craned my neck to take in the view. Simply stunning. Penticton is in the southern Okanagan, nestled in between two lakes, Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake. The soothing waves will serenade you to sleep at night. And if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll catch a coveted glimpse of Ogopogo, the local lake monster.
In case anyone reading this remembers the infamous heat wave of WBC 2011, rest assured that Penticton will be decidedly cooler. The area gets a lot of sunshine, so save your preconceptions about rainy West Coast weather for Vancouver. And that crisp mountain air only makes the food and wine taste better.
If our meals at the Vanilla Pod, Hillside Estate bistro, Lake Breeze, Hooded Merganser, and the Bench Artisan Market are any indication, the food is also a definite draw. The emphasis is on fresh, local ingredients that are creatively executed and somehow wholesome yet incredibly flavorful. One restaurant chef we spoke with even has his own garden on site. The Okanagan is also known for its fruit (delicious apricots, cherries, and peaches), and Penticton is also called “The Peach City.” The conference in June may be just in time for the beginning of cherry season in the southern Okanagan.
Compared to past conferences, the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference should have more opportunity to get out of the hotel and burn some of those wine calories. When you register for the conference, you can choose among excursions to wineries that involve hiking, kayaking, or biking. And, provided the weather is warm enough, I’ve got the perfect post-conference relaxation idea: float the Okanagan River Channel on an inner tube, maybe with a refreshing beer (you may be sick of wine) in hand. Or, for something a little more conventional, just relax on the beach.
Pre and Post Conference Vacation Stops
If you want to make a vacation out of it, there are plenty of options. You could fly into Vancouver, a city with a unique urban-meets-green-space vibe (and a much larger airport), and spend a couple of days there. From Vancouver, Penticton is about a five-hour drive east. With more time, I would venture over to Vancouver Island, and to some of the smaller islands like Salt Spring Island, to experience some of B.C.’s unique island culture. There are lots of fantastic hiking opportunities on the islands if you’re into that sort of thing.
I had to miss WBC 2012 due to a scheduling conflict, so I really hope to see you at WBC 2013!