Yesterday, I googled “wine and food blogs” to get a sense of what other writers were doing, and a couple of clicks later I found myself reading Alder Yarrow’s blog at

Yarrow is from, relatively, nearby in San Francisco and writes very regularly on wine. I like his writing style. Yarrow clearly knows wine, has access to all the cool wine writer descriptors but doesn’t come off stuffy. With writing that is accessible, and a confidence that allows for a little self deprecation, Yarrow’s wine blogging makes for an enjoyable and informative read.

One entry I found, posted Dec 10, was titled “So You Wanna Be a Wine Writer?“, and as I do want to be a wine writer, I clicked and read about The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley being held four days, February 16-19, 2010.

For four days and four nights, approximately sixty wine writers will “meet, teach, gather, eat, drink, learn, and celebrate their craft in the heart of the Napa Valley”.

The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

Yarrow describes chatting and learning from the best wine journalists and writers in the English speaking world, a real immersion takes place; we’ll sit together with, chat and learn from people I look up to. Past aspiring writers who attended the Symposium have gone on to “land a major story for the [San Francisco] Chronicle wine section; another got a string of stories in a major wine magazine; still another just launched his own wine magazine; and several more published their first books. Perhaps most impressively, one or two even started blogging”.

Now, the cost of attending is about $1,600, and is quite fair for the cost of the Symposium, hotel room, food (catered by Michelin starred chefs at Meadowood) and wine; but it is beyond my ability to pay. I am not a paid wine writer, a professional, but an aspiring wine writer. I write because I have to, something inside of me gets antsy if I don’t put finger to keyboard.

My goal is to write about wine. I would like to take my penchant for blogging and rudimentary skills as a writer, combined with my experience in wine marketing, my degree in marketing, and turn it all into a career in winery social media marketing. I could really use the professional boost that the symposium offers. The opportunity to write and be critiqued, guided, by established, successful wine writing professionals is incredibly valuable to me personally and professionally.

About halfway through Yarrow’s piece, he mentions scholarships, more formally described as fellowships. Last year 15 Napa wineries underwrote the costs of the Symposium for 15 fortunate wine writers, fellows. This year, 16 fortunate fellows will receive fellowships.

The wineries who covered the costs of attending the 2009 Symposium were Blackbird Vineyards (fellowship included an invitation to Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley), Chimney Rock Winery (fellowship included a tasting of Chimney Rock wines), Emilio’s Terrace, Franciscan Estate (fellowship included an invitation to tour with Director of Winemaking Janet Myers followed by lunch or dinner), Judd’s Hill (fellowship included an invitation to dinner with the winemaking family owners), Far Niente (fellowship included invitation to taste estate wines including current and select Cave Collection vintages), Peju (fellowship included invitation to tasting, lunch and tour of the winery with co-founder Herta Peju), PlumpJack (fellowship included an afternoon with winemaker Anthony Biali and General Manager John Conover, tasting at the winery), Raymond Vineyards, Robert Mondavi Winery, Rubicon Estate (fellowship included overnight stay on the property and private tour of the estate, followed by a tasting of Rubicon and other estate wines), Saintsbury, Shafer Vineyards, Silverado Vineyards, Terlato Family Winery (fellowship included a tasting of Terlato Family Vineyards wines), TOR Kenward Family Vineyards (fellowship included selecting of a special bottle from an extensive wine cellar and lunch with the Kenward family), and Tres Sabores (fellowship included a night or two of lodging at the winery’s Rutherford guesthouse and use of a Tres Sabores vehicle, and tour the areas farms and talks with organic growing movement leaders, and dinner with community members).

The fellowships came from tiny wineries like Emilio’s Terrace, with production of under 1,000 cases, to industry giants like Constellation (owns Franciscan and Mondavi above) and Terlato Wine Group (owns Chimney Rock and Terlato above).

Applications for one of the 16 fellowships for 2010 had to be postmarked yesterday, the same day I chanced upon information about the Symposium and fellowship opportunities.

I was to mail a simple entry application listing my name, address, phone, e-mail, website, media outlet/employer, and a bio of no more than 150 words. I was also required to provide five legible copies of each of two writing samples published within the last year. The maximum number of pages for the submission was to be eight. The two pieces I submitted were Wine…here’s what I want to share. and A tale of two Merlots and together they came to exactly eight pages.

So on the last day possible, I stumbled upon an incredible opportunity, and have submitted a (I think, I hope) winning entry. The packet was mailed yesterday. I took the large envelope up to the post office counter to have it be postmark dated in my presence. The postal employee said that first class, Ukiah to St. Helena, takes just one day.

Five judges, professional wine writers all, will score submissions, judges scores will be compiled and averaged, and fellowships will be awarded based on the highest average scores.

I will know, one way or the other, by January 8, 2010.