Join Us in Paso Robles, SLO County!

We are very pleased to bring the Wine Tourism Conference in its fourth year back to California. An estimated 250 wine and tourism leaders are expected at the November 12-14, 2014 conference in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County. Registration for WTC14 is open now and space is limited due to the size of the conference facility.

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A Snapshot of Paso Robles Wine Country

The Paso Robles wine region in California is in the middle of a renaissance.  Or, rather, the Paso Robles wine tradition is now on the radar of many wine enthusiasts and travelers who are looking outside their normal haunts for authentic wines and locales.  The 2014 Wine Tourism Conference will be held in Paso Robles this November 12-14, 2014, and we are enthusiastic to convene in this exciting wine region.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 2.06.14 PMThe history of the Paso Robles wine region, like many great wine areas in the world, has religious roots.  The Franciscan Friars who served at various missions in the area in the late 18th Century are originally responsible for planting grapes for sacramental wine production (although they did make brandy for export, too, and perhaps just a little for personal consumption).  These vineyards were abandoned after Mexico secularized the missions in the 1830′s and it wasn’t until the 1850′s that wine production in the area was revitalized and after California’s statehood.  Many Europeans arrived in the 1850′s and with vinifera plantings from their home countries, including imported Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is the region’s heritage wine grape variety.  The Paso Robles AVA is well known for its Zinfandel prowess although Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties make up 55% of the total planted acreage in the AVA.  There are over 40 different varieties produced in the AVA and proprietary, non-traditional blends of Bordeaux, Rhone, Zinfandel and Spanish varieties are also particularly well regarded.  Curiously, the genetic origin of “California Zinfandel” has been a bit of a mystery until recently – the Wine Institute reports that the grape used in California Zinfandel probably originated in Croatia.  Cheers to this Balkan country for giving us Zin!  And thank you Paso Wine for all the great information on your AVA.

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The Paso Robles AVA was officially designated in 1983 with just a handful of charter wineries and 5,000 vineyard acres.  Fast-forward to today:  it is California’s fastest growing American Viticultural Area, with over 200 licensed and bonded wineries and over 32,000 acres in winegrape production.  Because of the maritime influence over the AVA, there is a distinct variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures.  This affords fruit maturation during the day and balanced acidity levels at night. Paso Robles itself is just 40 minutes from the ocean and the westernmost boundary of the AVA is just 6 miles from the sea.

The AVA roughly forms a rectangle 35 miles from east to west and 25 miles from north to south.  It’s proximity to the ocean and the sheer variability contained with the AVA give the Paso Robles wine region the ability to produce a dynamic set of wines and all with their own unique expression.  The AVA encompasses 614,000 total acres.  Within these confines are:  30 distinct soil series (primarily bedrock derived marine and volcanic from the Miocene Age Monterey Formation), many microclimates, and topography that includes river bottoms, rolling hills, flat lands, and mountains.  11 sub-AVAs have been proposed for distinction within the Paso Robles AVA; the region awaits final word regarding these proposed sub-AVAs.  Experiencing the wines from this region is exciting – so many different styles and varieties!


Nestled halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along California’s Central Coast, the “City of Oaks” is charming with a population of just 32,000.  But don’t let the small-town feel fool you:  the wines and wineries are sophisticated, the dining options are hip and delicious, and the region’s more laid-back approach to their wine industry is awesome.  We are pumped to host the Wine Tourism Conference in this sizzling, original wine region!

Registration for the Wine Tourism Conference is open and we look forward to seeing you in Paso Robles this November.



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New Community Manager of the Wine Tourism Conference

We at Zephyr Adventures, organizers of the Wine Tourism Conference, are changing up roles of some of our employees and assigning a new Community Manager.

Cindy Molchany, who is currently the Community Manager, is moving to the tour side of Zephyr Adventures to handle our tour marketing. As you might know, Zephyr Adventures is also an adventure travel company with a specialty in active food, beer, and wine tours. We are doubling up on this by creating a whole new travel company brand, Taste Vacations, that will launch in early June. Taste Vacations will run food, beer, wine, and spirits tours around the world – without the active hiking and biking component.

Both Zephyr Adventures and Taste Vacations will have a program for the wine industry where wineries and other organizations can host private tours for their audience – if you are interested in this, please let Cindy know.

Sarah Wolcott will be the new Community Manager of the Wine Tourism Conference.  Sarah has a wine marketing background, is already one of the Zephyr Adventures team, and attended the Wine Tourism Conference last year. You will get to know her as she handles the WTC social media and sends out newsletters and emails about the conference. She will also be at WTC in Paso Robles in November.

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Wine Tourism Industry: List for Your Success

Early this year we announced we have compiled and published a list of wine tourism related organizations. This list is curated and managed by Zephyr Adventures, and we offer it as a free resource for the wine tourism industry.

The following are the three lists we have collected and published:

  • Wine Tour Operators
  • Wine Associations
  • Tourism Associations

We hope these lists help you collaborate with others in the wine tourism industry and helps consumers find these key resources. You can access these lists via our Industry Page.

WTC Industry Graphic1

There is no charge to add or edit your listing to these directories and we encourage you to make sure you’re listed by searching within your category. Since January, we have added over 50 wine tour companies, wine associations, and tourism associations. The lists are manually updated and checked for accuracy before being posted (and to limit spam).

Also offered for free to the wine tourism industry is an invitation to participate in Wine Tourism Day. Wine Tourism Day is scheduled for November 8, 2014 this year, and we encourage you to visit the website and add your events to the growing list.

Wineries, hotels, restaurants, and other wine tourism businesses across North America are offering special events to the public on this day to celebrate the importance (and fun) of wine tourism.


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Wine Tour Operators Expect 21% Increase Worldwide in 2014

In a survey of wine tour operators located throughout the world, responses indicated they expect a 21.4% increase in customers served in 2014. 70 tour operators from 12 separate countries took part in the survey conducted December 30 – January 3 by Zephyr Adventures, organizers of the annual Wine Tourism Conference and Wine Tourism Day.

In fact, all but one operator predicted an increase in the number of customers, indicating the optimism for growth in organized wine tours is pervasive.

At the same time, when asked “what is the biggest challenge you face as a wine tour operator?”, 56% responded “Finding Customers”. One anonymous respondent explained “My sole concern lies in marketing, in finding the proper clients who have the time, interest and money to participate.”

The world of wine tour operators is diverse. Zephyr Adventures currently has a list of 280 wine tour operators around the world on the Wine Tourism Conference website broken into the sub-groups Wine Tour Vacations, Day Tours, Custom Wine Travel, and Wine Area Transport. The tour operators on the list are located in 20 countries and 26 US states.

Other tidbits from the survey include:

  • When asked to label their customers’ wine knowledge, tour operators say 30% are “oenophiles”, 48% are “wine fans”, and 22% are “novices”.
  • Most wine tour customers travel as a couple or with friends; there are slightly more females than males; and the bulk of participants’ ages is spread equally among the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
  • The average wine tour company was founded in 2006, meaning it is entering its eight year of doing business.
  • 86% of wine tour companies are owner operated and 54% have no full-time employees.
  • The size of wine tour operators ranges dramatically, from a few per year on high-end personalized tours to over 50,000 customers taken on day tours or simply winery transport services.
  • Vacation Tour Operators cite “Location” and “Quality of Wineries” as the two most important factors on how their customers choose a tour.
  • The average group size of wine tour vacations is only seven-eight persons and 85% of these operators will take a group consisting of only one or two people.

55% of respondents indicated an interest to attend the 2014 Wine Tourism Conference, so consider reserving your spot today to meet these front line advocates of wine tourism!

Full Disclosure: Zephyr Adventures runs wine, beer, and food tours around the world in addition to organizing the Wine Tourism Conference, Wine Tourism Day, and Wine Bloggers Conference.


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Wine Tourism Conference – Call for Content Suggestions

It is time to start planning content and speakers for the 2014 Wine Tourism Conference in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County!!

WTC call for content imageIf you have suggestions for topics and speakers, please complete the form below by February 14, 2014.

Suggestions can be for you to provide content yourself or for other speakers or topics. Please complete one form per suggestion.

Below are the types of sessions we will be having:

Keynote: This is your conference and we want you to suggest who should provide the one conference keynote.  Our Advisory Board and staff will review all suggestions and select the best speaker for achieving the goals of the conference.

Pre-Conference Workshops: Back by popular demand, these 2.5 hour sessions will be offered as a complement to the conference main agenda on Wednesday morning and afternoon (additional registration is required).  Is there a topic into which you would like to more deeply delve?

Breakout, Group and Panel Sessions: These 50 minute sessions are the chance for you to hear from experts in the field. We will assemble for some of these sessions as the entire conference and break into smaller groups for others.  Do you have suggestions for breakout session/panel  topics and speakers?

To provide suggestions, please use the submission form below. If you have any questions, please contact Dennis Agnos at

Registration for the 2014 Wine Tourism Conference is open. Click here to secure your spot.

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Presentations from the 2013 Wine Tourism Conference

Thanks again to everyone that attended and participated in the 2013 Wine Tourism Conference. Below are PDF versions of presentations from the this year’s conference, which wrapped up on November 15.

Planning is already underway for 2014′s conference in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, CA, and registration is open. In the coming months we will be working on establishing content for next year’s events.

Below is a collection of presentations from this years’s conference. Note – not all sessions had presentations, so those sessions have been omited. If you attended either workshop on Wednesday, Nov 13, those presentations have been emailed to you separately.

The Current State of Wine & Culinary Tourism in North America – Laura Mandala


Survey of Wine Tourism in Oregon - Byron Marlowe

Wine Tourism in Oregon

Live Website Critiques - Andy Hayes

note: most of this session was live critiques, so the presentation is limited

Website Critiques

Virtual Tourism – Promoting Outside your Region – Lisa Mattson & Camron King

Virtual Tourism

Strategic Partnerships and Why They Are Important – John Cooper & Michelle Boyer

Stategic Partnerships – Deck

Strategic Partnerships – Handout

Who Are Wine Bloggers and How Can You Work With Them? – Thea Dwelle & Cindy Molchany

Working with Bloggers

Yield More Returns From Wine Tourism - Donna Quadri-Felitti, Ph.D.

Yielding Returns – Deck

Yielding Returns – Internal Audit Chart


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2014 Wine Tourism Conference Scheduled for November 12-14 in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo County, California

We are very pleased to bring the Wine Tourism Conference back to California for its fourth year. An expected 250 wine and tourism leaders are expected at the November 12-14, 2014 conference in Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County. Registration for WTC14 is open now and space is limited due to the size of the conference facility.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine recently named Paso Robles the 2013 Wine Region of the Year. The magazine explained “This California region has reinvigorated itself with new blood, creativity and rapidly improving wines. … few places exhibit the spirit and can-do positivity of this Central Coast appellation. It’s not easy for a wine region to reinvent itself, but Paso is doing it with flair.”

Sounds to us like a perfect venue for the Wine Tourism Conference!

Visit San Luis Obispo County is our main host for next year and we appreciate their hard work in making the conference possible. SLO County boasts the separate San Luis Obispo wine region in addition to the Paso Robles area and, all told, the county has around 230 wineries.

Our host hotel will be the Paso Robles Inn. The conference will again kick off on Wednesday evening with a Regional Wines Reception hosted by Touring & Tasting Marketing and Media. We will have optional events including a pre-conference excursion, pre-conference workshops, and evening dinners. Prices are still only $350, unchanged since the first conference in 2011.

The Wine Tourism Conference is an excellent opportunity to gather concrete information on how to improve and grow your own wine tourism operations, network with your peers from throughout the world of wine tourism, and experience a fun few days in wine country. We hope you can join us! 2014 WTC Registration

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Willamette Valley Vineyards – Crafting Experiences

For our post conference dinner we’ll be headed to a winery currently celebrating its 30th year anniversary. What makes our visit so appropriate is that the winery is also in the process of opening one of Oregon’s newest visitor experiences.


Willamette Valley Vineyards, founded by Jim Bernau in 1983, clearly is on a path to crafting a visitor experience that pairs with their award winning wines.

New WVV Tasting - Prior to move in 1The new space – overlooking the estate vineyard and newly constructed barrel storage facility – is large, with warm and dark tones that may remind one of being deep within a barrel room.

The design is such that it lends itself to create multiple smaller, more intimate spaces within the overall large room. This lends to flexibility of use; there is a tasting bar, a pairing bar, a mezzanine level, and a private club room.

As the new space comes into full operation (not expected until early 2014) visitors to the winery will get to enjoy a wine tasting, a wine and food pairing, tutored tastings, and can reserve a private space for their own entertaining needs. For bigger events, the space can be converted into a larger, single-use space while still retaining the feeling of intimacy and warmth.

Behind the scenes, the space is carefully designed to accommodate wine storage needs, is efficient to staff, and is easy to work - all important considerations when designing a tasting room!

Whether your tasting room is the top of a barrel from the back door of the winery or if you offer a multi-use space and a number of programs for your winery guests, a winery experience can be many things to many people. It is up to you, the winery, to craft that experience for your guests. Wine and visitor experience – the ultimate pairing.

The post conference dinner to Willamette Valley Vineyards is sold out.


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Social Media Workshop Wednesday – Bring Your Laptop

On Wednesday, Nov 13 from 1:30-4:30pm there is an optional pre-conference workshop being held on Social Media.

Andrew Healy of 3 Rock Marketing is leading this hands-on workshop where you will not be learning the “why” of social media, but learning the “how”. Everyone knows that their business needs to be involved on/in Social Media, and this workshop aims to show attendees the right steps to do it properly and effectively.

1671-businessThe workshop will cover Facebook (including ads and promoted posts), Twitter (including ads), 3rd party app management tools like Hootsuite, Google +, LinkedIn, Youtube, Instagram, Pinterest, Geo Location, and user review sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor). The workshop will also cover structure and strategy.

In order to get the most of the workshop, attendees are encouraged to bring their own laptops. There will be wifi so that you can get online.

If you are not registered for this optional workshop, but would like to attend, there are still some spots available. The supplement for the workshop is $125 (or $200 for post AM & PM workshops). You may register here:


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