Regular readers of my blog know that I applied for one of sixteen fellowship opportunities being offered by Napa wineries to attend the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley next month. I received the following letter this evening from Jim Gordon, editor of Wines & Vines and director of the Symposium:


The fellowship winners for the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley have been decided. I am sorry to report that your entry was not given an award. There is certainly no shame in it, however, because we had a very strong field of 53 applicants and only 16 fellowships to award.

I do encourage you to strongly consider registering for the symposium this year, with or without a fellowship. The 2010 speakers are a powerful group of writers, editors, coaches and informed experts, and they come to the conference with a true mentoring spirit, ready to share and learn during the forum-like program. Please read more about the program here, headlined by best-selling travel author Frances Mayes.

I strongly believe in the value of this symposium for the attendees. I know it’s a tough time for many of us wine writers, but remember that the symposium is an investment in yourself (and tax deductible for most people). You will make connections that can last for the rest of your career, with other writers, with the coaches, with editors and wine experts who speak, that will pay off in terms of friendships, referrals and, in many cases, assignments or jobs.

The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers pays for itself with just two or three freelance articles that it might generate for you, or with a promotion in your current job because of your enhanced content ideas, with a book contract (which has happened more than once), with a strategy for reshaping your career after company down-sizing and so on.

For your $475 fee plus lodging, you get four days of thought-provoking seminars, tastings of Napa Valley wines, stimulating writing exercises, one-on-one coaching, and all your meals but one — including two great dinners from Meadowood’s Michelin 2-star kitchen.

Plus, an extra benefit this year has been offered by the Culinary Institute of America Greystone for paid registrants. The CIA is extending free admission to a CIA wine course of your choosing. Details to be posted on next week.

I understand that it’s disappointing not to have won a fellowship, but I do hope that you will still join us for the Feb. 16-19, 2010 Symposium. Go to our website here to register .

I congratulate you for seizing the opportunity to enter the fellowship competition and encourage you to do so again in the future. Please mark your calendar to send in your 2011 application by Dec. 1, 2010.

I also encourage anyone with questions about the symposium to call or email me. I will be happy to provide any further information or other help.



Jim Gordon

Editor, Wines & Vines

Director, Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley

I responded with the following note expressing my gratitude for the opportunity:

Dear Jim,

Thank you for taking the time to craft your letter about not being able to award a fellowship opportunity to me.

I would love to be able to take your advice and register for the Symposium without a fellowship, but that is just not feasably possible.

Perhaps next year, my work will have improved and the judges will find it more deserving, or perhaps I can write some pieces with judges in mind for next year. Hopefully, next year, I will be employed, not between jobs, and able to shoulder the costs associated with attending the Symposium, fellowship award or not.

Thank you for the opportunity to compete, I really do appreciate it. I look forward to reading about the Symposium.

John Cesano

Seriously, I found out about the opportunity the last day that I could apply. With another year of writing, I will be able to submit superior pieces of wine writing for judgement. I thought I had a decent shot, but I was competing with professional wine writers and editors of major print publications like Wines & Vines and Wine Enthusiast , the judges are from the same schools of writing, and my submitted pieces just did not conform to what was expected. I have almost an entire year to generate some better pieces.

I wish each of the fellowship awardees, and Symposium attendees, a rewarding and enriching experience.