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Wine Bloggers Conference

Book Reviews

Wine Folly – The Essential Guide to Wine

February 18, 2016
Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine book

One of my favourite presenters at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference was Madeline Puckette, better known to wine lovers as the blogger behind Wine Folly. I was very familiar with Madeline’s work because her blog style, which merges her graphic design skill with wine facts, has taken the blogosphere by storm. It was a great go-to when I was taking wine classes (I even had instructors suggest it) and I found the format of using graphics to illustrate both simple and complex wine concepts really engaging and easy-to-understand.

Her presentation at the conference endeared me to her even more—she was funny, enthusiastic and honest. I took away so much information and left the session feeling excited to get back to blogging. I also couldn’t wait to pick up a copy of her new book, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine (co-written with Justin Hammack), which I bought soon after its release and recently read cover-to-cover.

The book itself is more of a reference guide, using the Wine Folly format of explaining wine concepts with a few words and some well-designed graphics. Having studied wine for several years, there wasn’t anything new or revelatory in this book, but I’m clearly not the intended audience. This is a book for newbies, for those who want a general understanding of wine and to feel confident at a tasting. And in that area, it does its job well.

The book breaks down wine info and gives you all the basics: what glasses to use, storage temperatures, how to taste, the hallmark grapes of some major wine styles and an overview of wine regions. It’s helpful and easy to follow. I can see picking it up when I want a quick reference for a factoid and for someone new to wine this would be really helpful.

Because this isn’t a deep dive into wine, there were omissions I was disappointed about (Canadian wine is nowhere to be seen, for example), but I think that came about because the book wanted to keep things simple and stick to the biggest grapes in the largest-producing regions. Given the intended audience, that made a lot of sense.

Throughout my read, I kept thinking how helpful this book would be for anyone who had just discovered wine or someone who was a more visual learner. I know that the wine production methods (though somewhat simplified) made a lot more sense in Madeline’s graphics than they did when my instructor went through them in my first wine class. I remember going home and looking for a video because, while I got the theory, I really needed to see the process to truly understand it. This book would have been a handy guide to have then and I’m sure I’ll recommend it often in the future.

Have you read Wine Folly’s book or visited her blog? Share your thoughts in the comments or on social.


The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference: Lessons Learned

October 14, 2015

This year, Shawn and I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in the Finger Lakes. It was my second time attending the conference and Shawn’s first. As always, it was an exceptional event. We learned so much about the region and had the opportunity to attend a number of excellent seminars and activities. So what were some of the main takeaways?

* I want to be a better writer. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my experiences with wine. Since then, it has grown exponentially and I often find myself rushing to keep up. Even with Shawn helping, running this blog takes a huge amount of my time – time I often don’t have. I think that affects the quality of the writing sometimes.

As someone who writes as part of her career and is the proud holder of a journalism degree, that’s not something I’m happy about. Listening to W. Blake Gray and Meg Houston Maker’s exceptional session on wine writing, I realized that I need to ensure I never forget that quality will always trump quantity. You can read Meg’s inspiring words to wine bloggers here.

* The facts are far more important than my opinion.      W. Blake Gray is one of my favourite wine writers and bloggers and getting to meet and interact with him at this conference was hugely inspiring. One of the points he shared during his presentation was the above and it was a good reminder that I need to use my research skills more – less ‘I think’ and more ‘I know.’

Finger Lakes Wines
Exploring Finger Lakes wine
* Trust my voice. Keynote speaker Karen MacNeil is another wine writing inspiration who I was able to meet at the conference. Her keynote was a spot-on reminder of why I do this and how I can improve. And now I can’t wait to read her new edition of The Wine Bible, one of my absolute favourite resources for wine information. A huge thanks to the conference organizers for bringing in such strong speakers this year – they all left me inspired and informed.

* I love being part of the wine blogging community. When you find your people, you want to spend time with them. And the Wine Bloggers Conference is full of people I want to be around. They are engaged, funny and just as geekily obsessed with grapes as I am. This event feels like one giant five-day conversation and I truly hope that it will continue on throughout the year in other forums.

Finger Lakes Vineyard
The beauty of the Finger Lakes

* The Finger Lakes area is fabulous. We live just a few hours away and it’s a shame we had never been before. That’s going to change. I have spent the last few weeks telling everyone I know they have to visit the Finger Lakes. It’s a beautiful place, the wines are well worth tasting and the people are lovely. And the Corning Museum of Glass will blow your mind. Seriously. Part of the charm of this conference is getting to really experience the wines of a region, this year I feel we got the chance to really immerse ourselves in so much more. It’s a special place.

Were you at the conference? Share your takeaways in the comments or on social! Feel free to post your own WBC15 wrap-up post links as well.