Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Bottle Brolly

The independent kitchen supply store down the street from my house is exactly the china shop a bull should never enter. Think antique store meets Sur La Table. With mountains of strategically stacked china, glassware, cookbooks and an impressive collection of cheese graters, one swift turn will result in shattered goods. If you break it you will be buying it! As usual, I find myself sucking in to pass the old auger oven at the same time as strategically twisting to my right to avoid a stack of iron skillets to reach, but of course, the bar section. Upon reaching the wooden hutch jammed full of corkscrews, wine glasses, martini shakers and finally, I see it: The Bottle Brolly. I did a triple take on this one! Was I reading and seeing this correctly?! This is a joke, right?! Where is the TV crew?!

With no 15 minutes of fame in sight, I decided for the sweet price of $5 I couldn't resist, I had to have this wine gadget! Made by Vinicool, which was based out of Surrey, England and for you non British speakers, a Brolly is what we call an umbrella. In other words, an umbrella for your bottle of wine. As the back label perfectly describes; "Open air parties are such fun but chilled wine and other drinks need to be shaded from the sun. Use the Bottle Brolly with its multi-position swivel/clip to give maximum shade and protection." I very much enjoy a picnic or "open air party" when the San Francisco weather permits, but I'm pretty sure this is the worst wine gadget ever invented. As the company has since dissolved (according to my research), I'm thinking they agree.

Understandably, lugging ice around to keep your whites chilled can be a nuisance and no one wants overly heated reds, but would you really be the person to show up with a bottle size umbrella at your next picnic? As much as this may have been a very proactive product for its time, I'm guessing it is not the most effective way to keep wines at the appropriate temperature. It is however, a great conversation piece and why not give your tasty bottle of wine its own personalized cabana?!

Due to the lack of availability, I am not going to recommend this product but I do recommend you invite me to your next picnic as a good giggle will be had! With all of this being said, if this product was still available, would you use it?

Happy Picnics!
Charlotte :)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Wine Bloggers' Conference 2011

First, let me apologize for falling short of my commitment to write every day while attending the Wine Bloggers’ Conference. With a jammed packed schedule, hundreds of people to meet, rich Virginia history to learn and copious amounts of wine tasting, there just wasn’t enough time!

The side effects of continually wine tasting for three days is slowly starting to wear off as I find myself still aerating both water and coffee in my mouth. It was a true delight to have attended such a magnificent event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thank you again to the Sponsors for making it possible. I feel re-energized and inspired to not only keep writing but to be challenged by the content I produce.

Being a bloggers’ conference, it is no surprise that social media tools such as Twitter played a significant roll in documenting all the fun. With Twitter feeds running throughout the main conference room driven by the largest amount of Blackberries, iPhones, and laptops, I have even seen in one room at a time. At first, I felt at a disadvantage due to the recent theft of my laptop and not to mention my anti-smart phone which, however, does glow pink when flipped shut. (Jealous?!) Then I realized, perhaps I am not at a disadvantage but witnessing a social media backfire.

Don’t get me wrong, social media and technology makes anything and everything more accessible any time we want access to information. According to the conference committee, 10,000,000 impressions were made by conference attendees and viewed by 1.2 million people via Twitter alone. That is a huge audience of wine consumers leaving an undoubtedly large impact on purchasing decisions, not to mention the shout-outs regarding Virginia’s wine industry (Yum! More on that to come). Additional, I am convinced this conference and others like it, would not exist if it wasn’t for such online communities. But my issue lies within here, if face-to-face interactions are being constantly interrupted by retweets, DMs and status updates, blog posts, etc., where is the balance with actually engaging with the person next to you verses crafting 140 character opinions addressed to the person across the room with whom you Tweet daily? Wasn't that the point of the conference, to meet each other?

This was increasingly evident during my idol’s keynote speech. When Jancis Robinson, a mentor from afar, took to the podium she must have seen a room full of hunchbacks dialed into an online community talking quietly amongst themselves. A presenters worst nightmare if you ask me! Understandably, everyone wanted to share their experience immediately and were excited to be there to hear her wise words. But why can’t we just be present and listen instead of turning and burning information so quickly?

One of Janicis’ main points can be summed up by saying: the written word is not dead, just the forum with which we share it has changed. So why is there a sentiment to regurgitate all information we are being told right away, why don’t we write it down, think about it and question information more often? Bloggers, are but self published authors so why as wine writers don’t we question our sources of information more often? Why aren’t we investigating our stories instead of just spouting opinions and tasting notes off immediately into various forums?

When it comes down to it, asking more of the right questions and being investigative journalists will makes us all better writers. Perhaps there wasn't a social media backfire but instead we need to practice and establish some social media etiquette.

With all of my questioning and theories of backfires aside, I must congratulate my fellow bloggers on attending this conference from a place of passion. I was very impressed with the lack of competition. I never once felt there was a sentiment of “my blog is better than your blog.” Even the wine blogger’s awards were not the center of the conference but rather received as a pat on the back for a job well done.

Now, I’m sure you are asking, “but what about the wine?!” It was an outstanding showcase. Ultimately, I hope that as an active writing community we were able to highlight the excellence of the Virginia Wine Industry and bring attention to the fact that they are the 5th largest wine producing state in the United States, making some damn fine wines if I do say so myself! With that being said, there were a number of producers that really stood out for me and I want to give them the attention they deserve by following up with more individualized posts.

So as a wine tasting Millennial moving through this information age I am happy to take on a new challenges as a writer and hope that my fellow writers continue to take responsibility for all content produced and ask questions before feeding it through various platforms.

I hope to attend the conference again next year in Portland, Oregon, perhaps with smart phone in hand, but then again, that could distract me from some quality people watching. ;)

Now if I could only stop swirling this beer in my glass...