Inaugural NC Wine Blogger Summit brings Winemakers and Bloggers together
By Jennifer Primrose & Dathan Kazsuk
On a cold, drizzly and gray Saturday March morning, we packed up our bags, laptop, iPad and cameras and headed out to Hanover Park Vineyards in Yadkinville to attend the inaugural North Carolina Wine Blogger Summit hosted by the NC Wine Guys on March 24. A day where winery owners and wine bloggers alike came together to discuss the state of NC wine and how we can help each other promote the industry – sure to become the Napa Valley of the East – or so we hope to see one day.
The group of around 30 discussed topics in wine ethics to wine vocabulary and just how to describe that latest glass of Cabernet – something we sometimes find ourselves struggling with from time to time. Then came social media tips and the importance of using those pesky hashtags and finally an afternoon of collaboration between the bloggers and wineries on promoting this fast-growing industry right here in our own backyard.
During lunch we were able to sample wines from some the wineries in attendance. These wines, such as Addison Farms' Barbera and Daveste Vineyards' Rkatsiteli, gave us a sample of some of the wineries we have yet to visit for our "Road to 100 NC Wineries" this year. This also gave us an opportunity to talk to Becky Muhlenburg, co-owner of Haze Gray Vineyards, who plans to open in 2019. But there was one winery that might change our minds about some Muscadine wine, and that is Wagram's Cypress Bend Vineyards. Chatting with Andrew Nauss and learning more about how the winemaker crafts her wines makes this a winery we'll be visiting in the near future.
The summit featured a total of 9 wineries as well as 7 blogs represented. Not to mention members of NCWine.org, Surry Community College and UNC-Greensboro. Some of our discussions were very lively and informative. Murray Catton, an avid wine drinker and supporter of the industry, was pretty impressive, having visited all but three wineries here in the state. Catton goes so far as to use the ABC permit listings to find some of those hard-to-find wineries, but even with this additional tool, the numbers remain skewed. We, too, have taken this route to try to dig up data on why NCWine.org says there are over 180 wineries, but only list a total of 134 on their website. Maybe we were hoping to get some insight as two members were present, but we were left holding our wine glasses in our hands.
Many of the wineries admitted they struggle with their own blogs and looked to us bloggers for advice while we offered up suggestions on how they can follow us and share what we post. The bloggers also offered up tips on using the hashtag #NCWine and to reach out to us to share events or if we publish a blog that perhaps does not fit their brand, please let us know. We are here to help.
Discussing the state of the industry and how we can all pull together to help promote and market NC Wine did get lively with some great discussion … and a little frustration. During one topic on how to better highlight the industry, Dathan turned to Jen and said, “should I mention the discussion we had yesterday with Jöhan?” Jen nodded and said, “Go for it!”. Playing devil’s advocate, Dathan asked the winemakers in the room how wine shops can carry their wine when store owners say NC wines are too expensive to carry. We just had this conversation the day before with a local store owner in Raleigh. He really enjoyed the wine and was impressed with what this state is turning out, yet said he could not afford to stock it on his shelves at this time.
Jen suggested doing more tastings and education, but the struggle remains that when put up against a $10.99 California Cabernet, where will the consumer turn first? Even if that California Cabernet is mass produced versus small, local boutique wineries. We feel that it's safe to speak for all the bloggers in attendance, that we want to help change the stigma of the wineries here in North Carolina. Having visited close to 80 wineries, we can personally speak for the quality of the wine being produced here in the state and would love to see it offered more in local bottle shops and restaurants.
At the end of the summit, we think we all walked away feeling a little more motivated, with new connections and ideas. From a blogger perspective, we covered a good part of the state with bloggers from Raleigh, the Triad, Charlotte-area and even from Virginia.
The next day, the bloggers were treated to wine tastings and tours from Raffaldini Vineyards, Piccione Vineyards, Laurel Gray Vineyards, Shadow Springs Vineyard, Windsor Run Cellars and Dobbins Creek Vineyards – all in the Swan Creek AVA.