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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Keep out! - The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

Unfortunately, Napa Valley cannot attend the Symposium
What: The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley

When: February 22 - 25, 2011

How come I should boycott this event? You may not have a choice, actually. The Symposium does not allow entry to anyone who is employed in any capacity in the wine industry. Really? I mean, really? 

So, if I am a writer but I work in a tasting room, deliver cases of wine, or work for Vinquiry I am not welcome? Correct.

To maintain the intimate peer-group environment of the symposium, winery employees, winery communications, sales and marketing people, and full-time wine trade professionals are not eligible to attend.

So, I want to make sure that I understand this. If I quit my winery job tomorrow, I, as a writer,  could attend? Looks like it. One of the fellowship awardees, W. Blake Gray, who's writing I enjoy very much, was a past negociant, and several of the attendees have been in P.R./communications capacities in the past. Certified sommeliers have also attended.

Is there any obvious conflict between the fact that it takes place in the heart of Napa Valley and Harlan wine is famously poured? Obviously not.

Should I feel confused that my professional journalist friends find this "exclusivity" laughably archaic and cynically myopic? How come I can't think of another writing symposium (there are plenty out there) that do not have employment requirements? Uhm, yeah.

If I am a wine-writing professional,  and I work in the wine industry, can't I be trusted to act professionally? No.

So, in a period when traditional publications and journalism seem to be collapsing or merging with web channels, in an industry where very very few professionals have just one job (say, as a full-time salaried journalist), the Symposium wants to retreat into a defensive stance of exclusivity in the heart of the beast rather than reach out and try to affect productive guidance and maintain journalistic standards through mentorship and communication? Yes.

Sour grapes? Absolutely.


Terry Hall said...

I hope you will follow up with corrected information as there are lots of errors in this post.
The Symposium is straight forward in its mission and has been for the seven years it has been convening. The writers are there to hone their skills as professional, published wine writers, as well as network and share insight and challenges facing their work. There are a lot of other avenues to learn about writing that are open to all, this gathering has a very specific intent.
The Symposium is NOT $1600, it is $475 to attend. There have always been attendees and presenters who are professional, editorial wine writers from the Napa Valley.

Pietro Buttitta said...

Hi Terry, thank you for your follow up, however I have nothing to correct. I am quite aware of the "mission" of the Symposium and nowhere claimed otherwise. I am also quite aware of the speakers as I read them all the time and they are clearly presented on the second site page. The Symposium's mission is precisely why I want to attend and am so angered that I am told no.
As for your imaginary fee, the Symposium does NOT cost only $475 to attend as the $250 lodging fee per night (4) is inseparable from the registration fee - I know because I tried twice. $1475.= is the cost. (I was a bit liberal adding half the deposit as well - will change.) When you register they automatically deduct a room deposit of $250 in order to register - this is clearly stated on the registration page.
Terry, please read the post. I am a published (if that makes a difference) wine writer aspiring to move forward in my writing but I am not allowed to attend because I am employed by a winery. Please think about that. Please. Please read it instead of restating the obvious press bits that I am already plenty aware of. I can see the website as well as everyone else, and I have communicated with Jim Gordon about all this as well. If I can ask one thing, it is that you change your policy to allow industry people in - they write too! That is the whole point. Thanks.