When we learned that the 2013 conference for Drink Local Wine was to be held in Maryland, our home state, we were happy that we didn’t have to travel far for the conference. We had just returned from Europe for a conference so distance was on our minds. I did wonder how Maryland wines would be seen by the media core that would attend the conference. Wine media can be an anxious group of individuals, some with impressive credentials while others are just beginning. A media group can have quite individuals as well as overly loud individuals. Some in the media can be mean spirited toward each other and towards the wineries and wine. Some in the wine media only want to bash wines, winemakers, growers and regions. So I wondered how Maryland would be perceived by the DLW13 media group.
After two days with this group, I would use the word “respectful.” This has been the first time I was with a group of wine media where this term could apply. They were respectful toward each other and towards the winemakers, owners and wines. Sadly this wasn’t case in my previous media group appearance a month earlier, nor was it the case with the DLW12 media group last year.
What happened to gain their respect and gentle handling? I believe the Friday media trip to three Maryland wineries sealed the fate for this group of writers. The Maryland Winery Association organized the trip, and quite frankly, blew them away. Our first visit was to Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard. There was a beautiful food spread and wine served by Sugarloaf Mountain and Elk Run Vineyards. One activity was to taste four wines and choose the one the group liked. Sugarloaf Mountain was going to use the media group’s input to determine the blend to make. Our second winery stop was Blank Ankle Vineyards. The Black Ankle wines were paired with a multi-course lunch that was perhaps the best meal we all have had in quite awhile. Lame, done three ways, was barbecued outside the tasting room. There were oysters on the shells presented two ways. The food just kept coming. You know you captured a group when they comment on how good the potatoes were in addition to the other foods. At this point, Maryland could do no wrong.
Our third stop was Boordy Vineyard where they served their wines along with Fiore and Cygnus. There was such a diverse selection that everyone tried several items. Boordy also had 2012 barrel samples for the group to try. Fiore brought their grappa, some of the best in the country, and limoncello. If there was a small distraction for the day, it would have been the wine glasses used at our first stop. After that, everywhere else used fine stemware. That evening the media group had another meal in Baltimore at the Waterfront Kitchen.
The next day we had conference sessions and the Twitter Taste-Off. The conference was held at the Tremont Suites in Baltimore. Although undergoing construction of the reception area, the conference room, breakfast room and room for lunch were the most elegant of any Drink Local Wine Conference sites. The site of the Twitter Taste-Off was the warehouse at Camden Yards. We had marvelous views of the ballpark that included a game, not the Orioles, and a wedding. The room the wines were served was long and well lit. The brick walls gave a sense of the oldness of the area. If we had to search for a negative, Internet access was spotty at times.
Maryland did the conference right. The state should become the poster child for the Drink Local Wine Conference and provide a blueprint for future conferences. They calmed a potential beast of a wine media group.