Moderator L.M. Archer (far right) and panelists (from left) Jessica Thomas of Sweet Cheeks Winery, Craig Camp of Troon Vineyard and Christine Clair of Willamette Valley Vineyards discuss Oregon sparkling.  ##Photo provided

Matter of Media

Writers, podcasters convene in Eugene

By L.M. Archer

Over the course of three days, Aug. 5–7, the Wine Media Conference gathered in Oregon after a 2020 pandemic postponement. From the base of Eugene’s River Valley Inn, I joined some 150 participants worldwide for in-depth discussions and camaraderie, too.

Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test was required and federal and local mask mandates were followed.

I was there to moderate a panel discussion on Oregon sparkling wine, but as the convention carried on, I learned so much along the way. Here are my top three takeaways:


There’s strength in numbers. Allan Wright, founder of Zephyr Conferences, organized the first Wine Media Conference (formerly known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) in 2008, connecting nascent bloggers with wine regions. Today, the conference includes a broader spectrum of communications professionals.

“I think it’s important to know that this conference brings together a lot of people,” says Wright. “It’s not the individuals that is the important thing … it’s that power of all of them together, in one room.”

Event sponsor Oregon Wine Board recognizes this power. “The fact that it came to Eugene and part of the Willamette Valley was really important to the Wine Board,” says Sally Murdoch, OWB director of communications. “It’s much more effective at introducing Oregon as a sense of place, than it is just to be sending a press release or talking to people over e-mails.”

London-based Amber LeBeau, author of blog SpitBucket and manager of, concurs, “One of the lovely things about the wine industry is its community, and particularly the wine blogging [and] wine writing community. And so, I made it a priority to get here.”


Diversity showed up loud and proud. “I think I am one of the few Asian-American wine bloggers who knows about the WMC and has participated over the last few years,” says Pinny Tam, author of the blog Chinese Food and Wine Pairings.

“I believe that representation is very important, as the wineries need to see more Asian faces from the wine writing community who, like other WMC participants of diverse ethnic backgrounds, love their wines and are capable of telling their stories,” Tam continues. “I’m also so thankful for Zephyr Conferences to have invited speakers who covered topics of diversity and inclusion in the wine world, which are sensitive-but-important topics in today’s political climate.”

“I was drawn to the conference because of the diversity of wine writers, wine bloggers, wine podcasters and collective list of publishers, PR companies and wineries that would be attending,” says Elaine Luxton, author of blog Drink In Life. “Everyone brings something new to the table with their knowledge of the wine business, and the discussion within the sessions are not only interesting, but they help wine writers learn how to improve our writing skills and get informative stories to our readers.”

“I’ve been coming to the wine bloggers conference since 2015,” says Connecticut resident Reggie Solomon of Wine Casual. “It’s nice to have the focus on you — rather than you focusing on your reader — to help you be a better producer and a better writer.”

A sunlit luncheon awaits on Cottage Grove’s historic Chambers Covered Bridge, with wines from area wineries Bluebird Hill, Brigadoon and Iris. ##Photo by L.M. Archer

Talks, tastings, tours

Kari Westlund, president and CEO of Travel Lane County, kicked off the conference with a fast-paced introduction to Eugene, a significant craft beer and winery city. “One of the things we’ve been working on over the years is to bring in conferences that support other industry sectors that are very strong in other areas, food and beverage being one of them,” Westlund explains. “We try and line up ‘the sweet spot’, bringing in affinity groups that value what we value, and innovate in that area.”

Breakout sessions ran the gamut, but my personal favorites included “Photography Tips for Making Your Wine Blog Pop” with legendary wine photographer George Rose; “The Art of Storytelling for the Wine Industry” with writer Jill Barth; and a panel discussion on “Advice from Professional Media.” All addressed honing craft, each from varying angles.

Tasting loomed large, too, from live Twitter white, rosé and red tastings, to “discovery sessions” such as Velenosi Wines from Italy’s Le Marche, The Charming Taste of Europe, Sweet Bordeaux and Vini d’Abruzzo.

Additionally, pre- and post-conference excursions delved deep into several AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), including Umpqua Valley, Southern Oregon, Ribbon Ridge, Yamhill-Carlton and Columbia Gorge.

I attended the one-day Southern Willamette Wineries Association tour, exposing me to an exciting wine region. First, a foray to wall murals made possible by Eugene’s Cultural Services’ public art program and the redesigned Hayward Field at the University of Oregon; then, a stop to smell the roses at Owen Rose Garden. Next, a sunlit light luncheon on Cottage Grove’s historic Chambers Covered Bridge, with wines presented by Bluebird Hill Cellars, Brigadoon Wine Company and Iris Vineyards.

Postprandial, we visited King Estate, with “North America’s largest Biodynamic vineyard,” followed by a trip to Sweet Cheeks Winery for a talk by Cascades Raptor Center about the value of vineyard raptor programs. Finally, a sunset toast in downtown Eugene at 5th Street Rooftop with Ray Walsh of Capitello Wines.

Ultimately, the conference left me feeling grateful for the opportunity to connect with other members of the community, teach and learn from my colleagues, and experience Southern Willamette Valley first-hand.

Life outside the confines of COVID tastes sweet, indeed.

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