Some 250 members of the wine blogging community descended on Corning NY this past weekend rocking the wine world in the Finger Lakes and also made the nightly news on the local TV networks.

We’ve been attending the conferences since they started 8 years ago with a two year hiatus for Penticton and Santa Barbara. So while I’ve been participating as the event evolved, the two-year absence gave me a unique perspective to see how it’s changed.

And indeed it has changed. One the biggest shocks I got was when the question was asked for first-timers in the group to raise their hand. It seemed like 3/4ths of the attendees did so.

So what?

My initial reaction is that WBC might be losing traction…I had been looking around for the old guard when folks like Joe Roberts and Greg Dal Piaz used to hold court. Boy was I wrong. It’s true that contingent were not there, but what I witnessed was an entirely new generation of bloggers picking up the baton. All were excited, curious, engaged and most importantly, hungry to connect and to share knowledge with their peers.

The star of the event was the Finger Lakes wine region itself. I remember touring the wine country when I was in college. We were drinking Catawba and Niagara, and that’s what I expected to see still. I got that totally wrong as well. Yes, there’s still some Vitis labrusca around as well as hybrids. However V. vinifera was the star with Riesling sitting on the throne. Even more surprsing was the widespread presence of what I had always thought of Austrian varietals: Gruner Veltliner, Blaufrankisch (aka Lemberger). Definitely different from the Osterreich products, but proof that cool climate varietals can thrive in upstate NY and produce fine quality wine.

In addition to the networking, WBC had a really interesting set of programs this year. Perhaps the most impressive one of all was the Women in Wine seminar moderated by Amy Corron Power. Women in Wine panelThe room was packed to hear what Karen MacNeil of Wne Bible fame, Stevie Kim who runs Vinitaly, and Meaghan Frank, 3rd generation at Konstantin Frank Vinyards, (and a Cornellian…go Big Red!) had to say.

Meaghan made a comment that hit home the strongest. I didn’t take down the full quote (sorry Meg Maker), so will paraphrase, but it had to do with guys in “Big Suits” and her feeling that she was somehow less relevant or qualified to literally and figuratively sit at the table.

Karen was following up on her keynote speech and shared some of the challenges she’s faced of being a female in what has to date been a man’s game. One thing she learned was that there’s a difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness.

Stevie Kim profiled the extraordinary list of events she’s created and runs including Vinitaly, Opera Wine, Hackathon, Wine2Wine, Vinitaly Academy, Vinitaly on the Road, Milan Expo et al. Stevie Kim at WBCHer stirring presentation really resonated with the audience and I could sense the level of self- confidence in the room rising.