National Wine Blogger’s Conference Will Take Place 7/22-24 at Charlottesville Omni

May 29

The National Wine Blogger’s Conference will take place in the heart of Virginia wine country, at the Omni Hotel on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, July 22-24th. Wine bloggers, industry bloggers, and other wine and social media professionals will gather from throughout North America and beyond to meet, learn, and share.

Jancis Robinson MW, editor of the seminal Oxford Companion to Wine, will be the keynote speaker, while New York Times wine columnist and blogger Eric Asimov will give another keynote speech.

Organized and sponsored by Zephyr Wine Adventures and Joel Vincent Productions, the conference will feature a wide range of sessions and wine tastings.  The official program starts Thursday 7/21 with an international wine tasting night, followed by sessions and tastings on Friday and Saturday 7/22-23.

Organizers explain that “learning about new wine regions is one of the reasons the conference location rotates each year.” Accordingly, Virginia is not just host to the conference but features prominently in the program. In addition to wine and blogging seminars, 25 “citizen blogger” attendees will have the option to tour Loudoun wineries prior to the conference. On Friday, the day begins with an optional walking tour of the University of Virginia Grounds, and finishes with a Virginia wine reception at Monticello. On Saturday, the first session focuses on Virginia wine industry’s history, geology and business climate, followed by a visit to local wineries and vineyards.

Other regional U.S. wines are featured at “The other 46” tasting Friday evening, sponsored by the Indiana Wine & Grape Council, the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, the Maryland Wineries Association and Breaux Vineyards (of Loudoun Co. VA).

Other major sponsors of the event include: The Virginia Wine Board, Virginia Tourism, Charlottesville CVB, Winebow Wines, Vibrant Rioja, Wines of Navarra, the Wine Tourism Conference, Artesa Vineyards & Winery, Visit Loudoun, Palate Press, Rodney Strong, Cognac, Wines of Chile, Wines of South Africa, Aveniu Brands, and Planet Bordeaux.

Who Should Attend

  • Citizen Bloggers who write about wine or the wine industry on their own.
  • Industry Bloggers who maintain a blog to support their winery or other wine-related business.
  • New Media Innovators who work in the world of blogging and social media.
  • Wine Industry members who would like to learn about new media or interact with bloggers.

Cost, Payment, Cancellation, and What is Included

The cost of the conference is $95 for citizen wine bloggers (those unaffiliated with a business or organization), $195 for industry bloggers (those whose blog is affiliated with a winery, retail store, or other business or organization), and $295 for non-blogger participants (industry, media relations professionals, friends and family, etc). Payment is required in advance by credit card.

For more information including online registration, visit

Virginia Wines Win 14 Medals in 2011 Decanter World Wine Awards

May 18

Virginia wines from  wineries brought home an impressive array of  14 medals in Decanter magazine’s World Wine Awards.

Even more impressive, all the U.S. entries only produced 43 silver medals, and Virginia wines won four of those; nearly 10% of the country’s total.

One of the largest and most comprehensive wine competitions in the world, the DWWA judges wines from one country (or major sub-region) in the same flights. The U.S. is judged as one region, and as over 90% of the wine volume in the U.S. comes from California, any other states producing wines judged against those from California and winning medals, are competitive with California wine standards.

Another issue settled by the 2011 DWWA is that of relative expense or value for Virginia wines. Wine quality costs, but top Virginia wines in the same medal class still compare favorably in price to California wines. The Barboursville 2006 Octagon, for example, retails at $40, but the Benziger Family Winery Signaterra, Bella Luna Vineyard 2008, also a silver medal, retails at $53.

Hats off to Potomac Point Vineyards, which also won silver for their Viognier Reserve 2010 in London’s International Wine Challenge, and to Williamsburg Winery, for whom this is the second consecutive year their Petit Verdot-dominated meritage blend Adagio won a silver medal in the DWWA.

In other news for Virginia wine awards in major competitions, Veramar Vineyards (northern Shenandoah valley) Norton wine garnered one of the highest Awards ever from the 2011 New World International Wine Competition, being named BEST NORTON, also PLATINUM and BEST OF CLASS (their 2008 Norton Shenandoah Valley VA Estate Bottled wine).

Here are the 2011 results of the DWWA, in order of medal rank, for Virginia wineries:

SILVER MEDALS (all red Bordeaux blends)

Barboursville Vineyards Octagon 2006

US price: $40.00

Boxwood Winery Topiary 2007

US price: $25.00

Breaux Vineyards Meritage 2007

US price: $32.00

Williamsburg Winery Adagio 2008


Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007

US price: $32.00

Potomac Point Winery Richland Reserve Heritage 2009

US price: $27.00

Rappahannock Cellars Cabernet Franc 2009

US price: $26.00

Williamsburg Winery Late Harvest Vidal 2009

US price: $28.00


Barboursville Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2008

US price: $22.00

Bogati Bodega Malbec 2009

US price: $18.00

Breaux Vineyards Viognier 2010

US price: $24.00

Veramar Vineyard Riesling-Vidal NV

Shenandoah Valley AVA

US price: $17.00

Veramar Vineyard Rooster Red NV

Virginia, Usa

US price: $18.00

Williamsburg Winery Gabriel Archer Reserve 2006

(Red Bordeaux blend)

US price: $26.00

Congratulations to all the winning medal Virginia wineries!

Sweely Foreclosure Auction Cancelled

May 11

The foreclosure auction of the Sweely Estate Winery, on Wolftown Road in Madison County,  that was scheduled for 11 a.m. May 11 at the Madison County Circuit Court office, was called off at the eleventh hour.

Six months ago, foreclosure was imminent but was then avoided. Prior to today’s cancellation, co-owner Jess Sweely declared foreclosure would be avoided today and a deal will be worked out; the auction was indeed cancelled.

Reached at his office, Sweely confirmed the cancellation but said he could not comment on the situation “for another sixty days.”

Stay tuned for more details.

Wine Made Simple Store Now Open in Charlottesville

May 02

Wine Made Simple, a new specialty wine retail shop, officially opened Saturday April 9th, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 5th with the Charlottesville Chamber of Commerce.  Wine Made Simple was featured on NBC’s Channel 29 News broadcast on Thursday April 21st. Located in the Townside complex at 2214 Ivy Road (Suite 108), the store features affordably priced wines from Virginia to around-the-world; gourmet food items including olive oil, cheese, tapenades and crackers, and wine accessories such as cork screws, bags and stoppers.  Custom gift baskets are also available at various price points. Wine Made Simple specializes in carefully selected wines of excellent quality and value, for less than $20.


“The concept of the store is to make it simple for customers to purchase a variety of interesting quality wines at good price points in an atmosphere that promotes ease of selection through style descriptors, customer service and education.  Tastings with wine makers, distributors, artists and local talent will help connect area wine aficionados and those eager to learn about the wonderful world of wine,” said Joyce Watson, owner and manager.      

Watson is pleased to have Richard Leahy on staff. Together they will select and oversee the store’s wine selection as well as conduct wine tasting events.  Leahy has been writing about wines of Virginia and the East since 1986 and has been regional editor of publications such as Kevin Zraly’s American Wine Guide, Mid-Atlantic/South Editor for the Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America and East Coast Editor for Vineyard & Winery Management. He has been involved with the Virginia Wine Experience in London and Wineries Unlimited trade show, and is a member of the Society of Wine Educators and the Circle of Wine Writers.  Richard has lived in Charlottesville since 1989 and teaches wine courses at Piedmont Virginia Community College.  He has a website/blog  at

Watson and her husband, Robert, have had a lifelong interest in wine.  After two Virginia summer vacations in 2004 and 2005 spent visiting area wineries they purchased a home in Ivy in 2006 in order to live near the vineyards and the wine community.   With 30 years of business experience in public relations, communications, marketing, and event planning, Watson is pursuing her dream of owning a wine shop.

More information can be found on Facebook or at  Contact the shop at 434-296-WINE or send an e-mail to: