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Fearlessness is NOT a thing.

Fearlessness is Bullshit. It's not a thing. By Leeann Froese

I have had fearlessness on my mind for several months now. A new year seemed a fitting time to let my thoughts out, and as a #winelover, I thought what better day than a Wine Wednesday?


It all started last August in Finger Lakes, New York State, during the Wine Bloggers Conference pre-excursion.

An event held at Ventosa Vineyards showcased women and wine – who gathered to speak and illustrate the varying roles of women in the vines, cellars and labs of this cool climate region. The theme of their event was Bold. Fearless. Original.

We heard from Marti Macinski, from Standing Stone Vineyards, who is arguably one of the pioneering vintners in the Finger Lakes wine region. She spoke of the roles she has played in the past and the ones she now plays as a farmer, hospitality manager and vintner, and how her work to establish a wine industry in an unproven region, combined with being a woman winemaker, required fearlessness.

By contrast in age and experience, Jenna LaVita is the 29-year-old winemaker and vineyard manager of Ventosa Vineyards. She has been earning numerous accolades at an early point in her career, working in a field ever-dominated by men. She shared how she had to behave in a fearless way to show her peers and also herself, that as a young woman winemaker she has the capability…

Liz Leidenfrost, the assistant winemaker and tasting room manager of Leidenfrost Vineyards, spoke of the importance of having a champion. In her case, her father is her cheerleader – he advised her that she could do anything, and she will make mistakes, but that is OK. His backing gave her to confidence to face her fears.

The partner and general manager of Three Brothers Winery & Estates, Erica Paolicelli, is also a young woman, and one of the only females on her winery team. She has to show confidence and bust it on a daily basis to make her way with the boys.

Chef Heather Tompkins is a chef serving Finger Lakes wine country, and co-owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar. A pioneer herself, she was one of the first interns to open The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, in St. Helena, California.

From these Finger Lakes ladies, they share the traits of passion, being a risk taker, and reinventing rules on their terms. But are they fearless? But I'd prefer to NOT use that word.



“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” - Maya Angelou


Towards September, the fearlessness theme continued for me; this time, I turned it inward.

A good girlfriend of mine, Ingrid, wanted to celebrate her birthday by doing the death-defying act of zip lining across a canyon in the Okanagan Valley. She asked me and other friends to join her. The idea of doing this was quite scary and took me out of my comfort zone. When I shared my nervousness, Ingrid said she didn't expect me to be afraid; because I am the most fearless person she knows. She said that it seems like I'm never afraid to do anything.

And even my own team members tell me they see me as somebody who is fearless; Sujinder at one point tweeted something about me being the fearless leader at Town Hall.

I found it so interesting that people saw me this way.

I think a friend of mine could relate. Lynda Steele, a Vancouver broadcaster, made a bold move by leaving a high-profile on camera consumer reporter role at CTV to take on an equally high-profile job with her own show on CKNW news talk 980. Lynda had no formal radio experience to speak of and the thought of making this bold career move after three decades in television was something that she publicly expressed great trepidation and fear about. In the week leading up to her big change, she shared on her Facebook wall that she had a restless night thinking about her move to radio. She said when she finally got up, that seemingly out of nowhere, this image rolled though in her iPhotos:


Lynda said this had to be a message from above. This led to a symphony of comments to follow, with Lynda’s friends cheering her on, stating how they felt she is bold and fearless, and also commenting about worry and fear and how it is healthy and can give you energy.

Lynda’s friends aren’t the only ones who feel that fear can fuel you. Dame Judi Dench has been quoted on this topic.



Within all of these anecdotal examples of strong women an amount of bravery was required, but to me, that is not what fearlessness is.

I actually think the idea of fearlessness is not a thing. It's bullshit. I think people are generally terrified when they get outside their comfort zone, and despite the fear they strive to move forward.

This fear: of failure, vulnerability, of evaluation by others, can be turned inward into an energy, a fire in your belly, that can help push you forward. This could be perceived as fearlessness, but I think it is just fear manifesting itself as strength.

We use the energy generated from fear to give us strength and propel us forward, despite the fact that what we are facing is terrifying, either on a physical, emotional or spiritual level.

In all of these examples of women that I shared, they talked about how they were pushed beyond their comfort zone in order to make some sort of a change; is the bravery required to do this considered to be fearlessness?

I don’t think so. I think fear is real, tangible, gives one physical symptoms, and in some cases can paralyze.

But no matter what we do, even when we are terrified, we need to come to the realization that we need to take risks, do something we are afraid of, so we can stretch and learn and grow.

So as a new year is upon us, and so much has yet to unfold, I recognize that I am terrified every day. Am I doing the right thing as a parent? Is my young business going to be OK? Will my clients be happy? Is my team going to stick with me? How do others see me? All these things creep in as fear and self doubt. There is no way I am fearless.

Despite all this my approach is to feel the fear, and do it anyway. I'll rise to the challenges life hands me, knees shaking, and do the best I can.

And with that in mind, I wish you all a great year, filled with fun, courage and optimism. As I love to say: #gogetit!

Wine Bloggers Conference: It’s more than a conference. It’s a community.

By: Leeann Froese

The Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) is more than a workshop and a meeting place to discuss everything wine related. It is a gathering of people from all over North America who convene to celebrate each other’s passion, expertise, wine region and most importantly, friendship with one another.

WBC 2015

Hosted at a different wine region each year, the WBC lasts for nearly a week and invites bloggers, industry professionals and the host region's vintners to participate.

Sure, there's definite content: workshops and panels in board or conference rooms with a gamut of wine-centric presentations, AV materials and education, but unlike other wine trade conferences, there's so much more that happens on the periphery.

Attendees include those from visiting wineries and representatives from various wine regions that travel to the event to bring a taste of their wine country to the Wine Bloggers Conference.

Outside of conference rooms, attendees participate in field studies that include: excursions to the host region's surrounding wineries for a meet-and-greet with winery principals. As well, an exclusive sneak peek and tasting of newly or soon-to-be-release vintages. Always, the red carpet is completely unfurled and a grand time is had by all.

One of the best parts about WBC is the “after-hour tastings” hosted in various hotel suites. This is a perfect time for WBC participants to get together, be social, and taste wines that are off the program. As everyone is keen to learn about each other’s wine region and to share a taste of their own, these hotel suites become crowded quickly and force people to literally rub elbows and interact as they mingle and taste.

But no one minds because we are all united by the desire to experience and share as much we can, especially in limited time.

It's a unique community. Even if it means being sleep deprived, the group doesn’t stop stop learning, tasting and socializing for the duration they are at WBC. (And sometimes if you've had too much wine, you might find yourself facing the content of the following day with a headache...)

Happy bloggers rub elbows tasting Canadian wine. Clockwise, from back, center: Ben Heskett, Christine Campbell, Michael Pinkus, Jeff Kralik, Madeline Puckette, April Yap-Hennig, me and Robert Larson

From Portland, Penticton, Buellton and now Corning, this has been the fourth consecutive conference that I've attended WBC. As much as I appreciate and am blown away by the effort, hospitality and welcoming spirit that the host region puts into hosting this conference, the most special part about WBC is its people.

The people that assemble the program from each gracious and passionate region can be summed up as one thing: amazing.

Case in point: most recently in Finger Lakes and Corning NY, we were coordinated by Paul Thomas of Seneca Lake Wine Trail and Beth Peluse from Zephyr Adventures for the pre excursion in Seneca Lake, and Laury Ellen Poland from Finger Lakes Wine Country led the charge with Zephyr for the main conference in Corning. Each of these people successfully "herded cats" to ensure those of us that made the trip were not disappointed.

The workshop content varies each year and so do the wine regions (showing the thumbprint of where they were made), but what's common is the hard work and passion in putting the conference together.

And truthfully, to me all of that does not actually even really matter at its core, because it's what happens outside the bottle that is the most important.

The bond and socialization that wine invites is the most important part for me. I love that this conference experience is shared by like minded individuals.


This conference offers the ability to get together with the same people annually, as we collect from different corners to learn and be united by something we all love. Year over year, social bonds strengthen and long distance friendships blossom, to be nurtured by the in-person gathering WBC invites.

Wine is inherently social, so it's no surprise that the social aspect is a major part of this conference.

I cannot wait for the annual opportunity it gives me to connect with my friends from San Francisco, Portland, New York, and all points in between. Real in person bonds are strengthened and then we stay in touch socially throughout the year before we reconvene at the next year's conference.

After shyly navigating my way through the first conference that I attended in Portland, where I didn't really know what to do or who to talk to, after four conferences I now feel like I have some legitimate, real, strong, and lifelong friendships, and that these people will be with me, and I'm part of a community. And I am very thankful for this. My life is that much richer for it so thank you for that, WBC.

And while I want to express how great it feels to annually see those who are very strongly growing into 'my people’,  it's also worthy to note that there are many new friends joining this amazing community each year.

If you see a face that's not familiar, be sure to go and say hello to them. They might be a seasoned blogger or they might be someone who is encountering the conference for the first time. A friendly face and someone who can help with the lay of the land is appreciated.

And as I settle back into being back at home, I reflect on the notes of others:

Meg Houston Maker noted there is no substitution for in person smiles, and Christine Campbell of Girls Go Grape says, "I love that wine, learning and friendship are all part of the Wine Bloggers Conference."

I could not agree more.


And I am not alone. April Yapp Hennig of Sacred Drop took the picture above and called us her crew, and just today Christine Campbell posted this tweet:


Yes - activate friendship indeed! Until 2016, the #WBC friendships continue to blossom online.

I feel so blessed to have this conference as an annual opportunity to taste and learn, and also continue to build those friendships and the community that is WBC.

Sujinder and I thank you #FLX #WBC15

See you in Lodi #WBC16 #GoWBCCanada #withTownHall!

Compare and contrast: Finger Lakes Wine and BC Wine

by Sujinder Juneja #TownHallOnTour

#FLXWine vs #BCWine

We have been lucky enough to attend the 8th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of bloggers (naturally), industry professionals and wine lovers. This year, the event was held in Corning, New York with a focus on the great wines, producers and the people of the Finger Lakes AVA.


A diverse, progressive and passionate industry, the Finger Lakes wine region shares many similarities with that of British Columbia, where we are happy to call home. Here are a few of our observations on the connections between the two regions, for your reading pleasure:

Cool Climate Viticulture

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia are both described as ‘cool climate’ wine regions and on average, share a similar amount of degree growing days. However the Finger Lakes region experiences a highly variable climate, with cold winters, cool to warm summers and a short growing season. While there is diversity of climate within the five main BC wine regions (Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, Gulf Islands), the climate is less extreme overall and degree days are higher on average.


Planting Grapes To Site

The most established wine regions in the world plant grape varietals that are best suited to that particular site or climate. The most planted grapes in the Finger Lakes are Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc along with a selection of lesser known Vitis vinifera (Blaufränkisch, Saperavi, Sereksiya Charni), native Vitis labrusca (Catawba, Niagara) and French-American hybrids (Traminette, Vidal, Seyval Blanc, Valvin Muscat) that suit the climate and produce balanced and delicious wines. By contrast, the top white grape varietals in BC are Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. Other crosses and hybrids such as Ortega, Marechal Foch and select Blattner Hybrids are also planted to produce successful wines. The Finger Lakes and BC wine industries began with native and hybrid varietals with the belief that they would better suit the climate, but consumer preferences in the Fingers Lakes and British Columbia are favouring the more popular vinifera varietals.

Bottled sunshine within the Ventosa Pinot Noir.

What’s Wrong With Hybrids Anyway?

Nothing. If a hybrid grape is grown on a site which allows it to mature to full ripeness, and in the hands of a talented winemaker, they can produce wines that are both balanced and delicious. It’s worth noting that hybrids sell for significantly less by the ton, compared to vinifera varietals, which can affect a winery’s bottom line. Add to that the fact that hybrids are generally less well-known and often hard to pronounce, and therefore market to consumers. One of the most vocal debates during Friday’s Introduction to Finger Lakes Wine Country panel discussion swirled around the contentious use of crosses and hybrids in the region. Consider this: if a hybrid varietal, developed specifically for a particular climate, can produce tasty wines, should they not be celebrated, granting uniqueness to the wine region as a whole? Not all winemakers are convinced. But if you ask someone like Art Hunt at Hunt Country Vineyards, he’ll tell you that his varietally-labelled Seyval Blanc and Valvin Muscat are among their most popular wines. “Millennials want to try new things,” he says. “You can taste 100 Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, but wine drinkers want experience something unique.”

Judy Wiltberger at Keuka Spring Vineyards is proud to show off her Vignoles, a French-American hybrid that sells out every year. In her experience, the key is to market regionally, get people into the tasting room where people can try the wines in person. 70-75% of her sales are through her cellar door and challenging her guests with distinct varietals is a way to excite their palates with something new.

A view towards Seneca Lake.

A Sense of Community

Unlike other more competitive regions in the global wine world, the Finger Lakes and British Columbia both enjoy a strong sense of community and partnership. I know firsthand that winery owners and winemakers in BC regularly collaborate and share information and ideas that make the region stronger as a whole. The same is absolutely true for the wineries of the Finger Lakes. If you had the chance, for example, to taste the Tierce Riesling, made by Fox Run, Anthony Road and Red Newt, you’ll know that the wine – and the wine region – is greater than the sum of its parts.

A Window to the World

The Finger Lakes and British Columbia wineries both face the double-edged sword that most of their wine is consumed in their local areas. The challenge offered by the locavore movement in North America means that major cities such as New York and Vancouver consume most of the wine produced in each respective region. Add to that the high tourism rate that each region enjoys means that most wine is sold via the cellar door, limiting the chance for export and global distribution. What this means is that fewer consumers internationally have the chance to taste the wines and understand what the region is all about. At this point, allocation to outside markets becomes a critical path to increasing the prestige and recognition of the regions as a whole.

Fox Run  Vineyards owner Scott Osborn & Town Hall's Sujinder Juneja.

With Open Arms

At the end of the day and at the end of this conference, the greatest impression left on us about the Finger Lakes wasn’t the wine. It was the people. It wasn’t just the wineries and winemakers that opened their arms to welcome us, but also the restaurants, shops, hotels and the community at large. From our first day in Keuka Lake, throughout the expertly-organized pre-conference excursion and to the last day of the conference itself, there was an excitement and overall warmth that was impossible to ignore, and wonderful to be a part of. When the wine bloggers visited Penticton, British Columbia for #WBC13 it was a similar experience as well. Community, a sense of place, and the celebration of diversity were as much a part of the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference as they are in 2015.

See you in 2016 in Lodi, California.

Bob Halifax, April Yap-Hennig, Leeann Froese, Jeff Kralik at James Melendez at Wine Bloggers Conference 2015.

Meet Kristina Manning #withTownHall

By Leeann Froese It’s a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. In time for the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference this week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Kristina Manning.

#withTownHallKristinaManningKristina is the director of customer relations at and in 2013 created the blog for The International Wine of the Month Club. She regularly contributes to the blog sharing her travel experiences, recipes and tastings. Her love affair with wine has been going on for years which has led to a nice collection of wine.

Kristina loves food, wine, beer, and travel and shares her experience with them through social media.

Kristina is currently at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Finger Lakes, New York where she is on the scholarship committee for the conference.

Please help us say hello to Kristina?

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter.



Meet Kayla Koroush With Town Hall

By Leeann Froese It's a new week to introduce you to one of the fabulous personalities in the world #withTownHall!

This does not mean they work as part of our team, or are our client (although sometimes they are).

We just interact with so many amazing people that we want to expand networks and introduce them to you, and you to them. This week #withTownHall, we introduce you to Kayla Koroush.


Once aiming to be a preschool teacher, Kayla works in the marketing department for a winery in Napa Valley, and she blogs for herself at Barrel Thief, a wine blog (a barrel thief is a glass tube that helps vacuum wine out of bottles so vintners can have a taste.) Her blog is a place where she can document her encounters while she explores the world of wine.

We met Kayla at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Buellton, in 2014, where she was a scholarship recipient to attend the conference, and we will see her at the annual Wine Bloggers Conference again in a couple of weeks when the conference takes place in Finger Lakes New York.

Watch our social media for a hello from Kayla when we meet her again in a few weeks, and in the meantime, please give her a hello, as we did when she recently visited Vancouver's Granville Island.

Leave a comment below – or go give this post a like or share on Facebook or Twitter.