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Hang Out With America's Top Wine Writers. For Free.

One of the great perks of having been at this wine writing thing for some time involves my association with the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, for which I am now a member of its board of advisors (just by way of a disclaimer in advance of the plug which follows). And one of the great pleasures of this association is getting to spend a few days every year attending the convocation that occurs under this association's banner, nestled into the luxurious surroundings of Meadowood Resort in the Napa Valley.

I've been to all of these Symposiums in the last eight years, save one, and I can tell you that for anyone who writes about wine, or dreams of it -- or anything in between -- the symposium.jpgconference represents an unparalleled opportunity. An opportunity to learn, to practice, and just as importantly, to celebrate wine writing and the people who are passionate about it.

This year's lineup of speakers represents the typical caliber of professional with whom you can spend a few days hanging out, drinking wine, and attentively listening: Elin McCoy, Guy Woodward, David Rosengarten, Karen MacNeil, Jeannie Cho Lee, Linda Murphy, James Conaway, Jon Bonné, and more.

But in addition to such accomplished professionals, there are always a lot of people who are in much earlier stages of their careers, including some who have just begun their journeys as aspiring wine writers.

Perhaps one of those people should be you.

The main point of this announcement, other than to get fellow wine writers to consider blocking off your calendars in late February, is to make you aware of the fact that the Symposium gives away 10 fellowships each year to aspiring writers. These fellowships cover both the modest cost of attending the Symposium, as well as the cost of lodging at Meadowood, which even at discounted rates isn't negligible.

The fellowships are awarded based on quality of writing, and all you have to do is submit your work.

While I certainly can't say that the competition for these fellowships is sparse, I can say that it is not so fierce that the winners are always accomplished wine writers with a lot of bylines on their resumés. For the past two years, I'm proud to say that relative novices, encouraged by this annual posting, have won a fellowship to attend.

I've watched magazines get launched from this conference. I've watched amateurs with a few blog posts to their name blossom into serious wine writers that write regularly for major print and online outlets. And I've both watched and participated in the continual renewing of the intimate sense of community that the world of wine writing enjoys in part thanks to this Symposium.

And did I mention that the whole thing is catered by the same kitchen that operates the Michelin Three-Starred Meadowood Restaurant? Oh, and don't forget that every meal after 11 AM is flush with wine from the libraries of the Napa Valley Vintners Association. The food and wine alone are worth the price of admission.

The week I spend in Napa as a speaker and attendee at this conference is one of the best weeks of each year for me, and I hope you'll consider joining me (and lots of other folks who are more worth getting excited about) at the event, either as a paid participant, or as a fellowship winner.

The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers
February 19-22, 2013
Meadowood Resort
St. Helena, CA

The fee to attend is $575 per person, and that will go up to $625 after December 1, 2012. Participation is open to those who write about wine and food in some professional journalistic capacity, and in any medium. This means that if you make your living, or part of it, doing PR or Marketing writing for wineries or the wine industry, you may not qualify.

Fellowship applications are DUE ON NOVEMBER 1 and can be completed using the instructions available on the event web site. Yes, I know, it's a little weird in the digital age to force you to send 5 copies of a story printed on dead trees to enter, but trust me when I say I've complained about this to the proper authorities without much success.

I am, of course, happy to answer any questions you might have about the symposium.

Hope to see you there.

Comments (33)

Emily H wrote:
10.25.12 at 8:42 PM

I think it most unfortunate that members of the wine trade are excluded from attending. I do a bit of wine and beverage writing in independent publications and for the retail store that I work for, and I feel that the interaction that I have on the retail level is invaluable to my writing. It's all fine and well to write nebulously about wine, but our customers bring you back down to earth and connect you to the "average" wine consumer.

Alex wrote:
10.26.12 at 10:17 AM

I'm thinking about applying for the fellowship, but I'm wondering if I'm lacking in the credibility department. I'm frantically editing my submissions, but I'm worried that my personal blog, basically created so I can apply for this fellowship, won't be enough to deem me 'professional.' Is acceptance solely based on writing merit, or does my level of achievement come into play as well? Thanks so much for the post!

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.