Friday, August 24, 2012

Doon, Been, What, Huh? - Matters of Experience

The wine bloggers conference is a lot of things to a lot of people, or it should be. No matter what bent gets you fired up to attend the paramount issue is that you really live the experience. Too much note taking, snapping of photos and digital discourse and the risk of missing the moment increases. Too little time out on the trail and limited socializing can leave one with a sterile experience. The balance is different for everyone, but the pursuit of this balance is a worthy goal for all.

Sentiment about the value experience was presented clearly and without nuance (well, a little) by Randal Grahm in his keynote to open the conference. For my readers who don’t know who Randall Grahm is the information in hisbio will introduced you to this talented, interesting, thought provoking and real voice in the wine world. Grahm has engaged and inspired people with both his wine and his writing. A mélange of both can be found in Been Doon So Long, Grahm's James Beard Award Winning book, and blog of the same name.

I first recognized an old friend in the theme about experience as Grahm posited that wine writing is less about the wine and what the wine evokes in you the writer. His quote that made this point with absolute clarity was “show up for the wine.” Hell yeah! You can’t expect to really have any experience if you don’t show up. Showing up is visceral. Showing up requires senses and is all about the physical. This is not a digital or virtual pursuit. The method of capturing and sharing your thoughts afterword can be digital, but you can’t put that cart in front of the horse that you need to ride to the party.

I captured this section of his keynote on video and posted it to the conference stream a day later. Since returning home the full video, shot by Austin Beaman with whom I enjoyed dinner later that day, has been posted. I’ve embedded it below. Thanks Austin! Grahm has also shared the fulltranscript of his address in a blog post, which is seeing meaningful comment traffic as one might expect.

One of the other perspectives from Grahm’s keynote was the idea that wine writers could take things to another place by focusing on capturing and expressing the beauty in the wine they drink (or also make in many people’s cases), enjoy and write about. I couldn’t agree more, but I’ll admit that I’m not the guy to pontificate on that. I am still working on that part in my own world. What I can say is that the reason I led off with experience and really living in the moment is that without that you can’t expect to begin to experience, recognize or express beauty.

Grahm touched on a lot of other points and the only reason I’m not covering them here is because what I shared above resonated the most for me. The experience I had immediately after the keynote brought these points full circle in that most serendipitous of ways. Watch the video to see what else he said and take from it what makes the most sense to you!

Right on the heels of the keynote was the first round of speed tasting which has the potential to be the least experiential format for wine, but not always. Sokol Blosser poured their Evolution White for my table. I don’t really know what people think of this wine, and I don’t really care. I like it. It makes me happy. This wine and I have history and that history makes me feel all funny when I get to relive it with each new sip. You see Sokol Blosser Evolution was the first Oregon wine I recall having.

That first experience was before I knew anything at all about wine. I picked the Evolution off a wine list while out to dinner with my wife Margot (married maybe 3-4 years at that point) and solely based on the description fitting my anxiety over selecting something that both she and I would enjoy. And we did. The success of the wine came from its work in both elevating our dining experience AND the boost to my confidence in further integrating wine into our lives. It was the very beginning of something that I have come to cherish. As I was sipping this wine I was thinking about my wife, how young we were when we got married (23&24), how much has changed since I first had the wine and how incredible our journey has been since. This all came back immediately and with an energy I could feel.

Relating the above to Alison Sokol Blosser, who poured the wine during speed tasting, brought my experience to a new place. She smiled, thanked me for sharing my personal connection to her and her family and thus my experience was made grander. At the next break in the action I did go find my wife, gave her a big kiss and explained the experience. This wine is even more special for me now. I have fond memories and have connected my experience with the story of the family who makes it.I will be forever connected to this wine. That’s real life and that’s living one’s experience.

( Margot and I enjoying a day trip to the Oregon coastline post-WBC12. )

Several conference attendees (physical and virtual) have begun to share their thoughts on Randall’s keynote. So far the posts have primarily been the journalistic type, here is who Randall is, here is what he said and maybe in their own word why it is important. I suspect more posts will go up, and I sincerely hope everyone will look to see a reflection of his statements in their own lives to decorate their writing; it really would make it so much more interesting.



1 comment:

Michele Francisco said...

Great way to take Randall's suggestions to heart! Wonderful to meet you at the #WBC12 & keep up the excellent blog posts.