I’ve been asked a lot lately by friends who are not on Twitter why I spend so much time ”Tweeting”. I joined Twitter close to a year and a half ago because I thought I needed to know more about the interworkings of social media due to my job in PR management. I logged on and had absolutely no idea what to do or how to navigate. I stayed in that mode until about three months later when I went back and collectively read my responses, or Tweets. I was ridiculously boring and I had only a handful of employees and loyal friends who were following me.

At that point, I decided I was going to focus and follow my passion of talking about wine. Slowly my community grew into an ecosystem of wine lovers, food lovers, wineries and wine logistics people. It was then that I understood the allure of Twitter – it’s about interacting with a group of people interested in your passion. It became fun – and somewhat of an obsession – just ask my husband who sometimes refers to himself as a Twitter widow. I started tweeting questions such as: What wine should I drink tonight? What wine pairs best with a certain food? Where can I buy the best sake in Dallas for a dinner party? Should I go to the gym or drink wine? Not only could I get an answer, but it was like having hundreds of wine experts available at any time to respond to my questions.

My network of folks continued to grow and I found myself beginning friendships with a core group of people. Those people lived all over the world, worked in all kinds of industries and had different lives than I did, but we all shared a love of the grape. These are the folks who encouraged me to start the Dallas Wine Chick blog. I sat back and learned from them for a year and they offered me a ton of (free) advice on how to make this site the best that it could be.

You may ask, “Melanie, how do you maintain friendships and connections with people that you have never met?” Through Twitter, I have actually had the chance to meet about 15 of those people. I have found that they are people I would have become friends with under “normal” circumstances. Also, I’ve had some really memorable Twitter experiences through those interactions. Here are some of the highlights – I’ve tried to hone in on experiences where I have actually met the person vs. friendships and interactions or this would column would go on forever:

• @donatifamily. I had never heard of Donati Family Vineyards prior to Twitter. But, based on my interaction with Brandi, who runs the wine club program on Twitter, I found out that she was coming to Dallas. I set up a lunch with some wine lovers at Lakewood Country Club followed by a wine blow out at our house that went into the late hours. The wine was wonderful and the people were better. I also had a new friend @amyperryhall who happened to be in town and came to spend the night for the festivities.

• @rickbakas. Rick, the director of social media of St Supery, and I shared a fantastic meal at my favorite restaurant, Abacus. Rick was doing a tour of Texas with St. Supery and we enjoyed some wonderful wine, food and fun. Rick also brought along some very cool folks from Dallas that I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting until that time.

• @cleavagecreek. Cleavage Creek was another winery that I was not familiar with, but I loved their story of donating proceeds of gross sales to breast cancer research. They quickly have become a good Twitter friend and someone I cannot wait to meet. I also have several bottles of their wine that I plan to open with some breast cancer survivor friends.

• @baconator. I met Ryan in Austin for a drink at a wine bar with lots of Austin charm. The wine list was interesting and global and we brought out the snarkiness in each other. It was a blast. I was also forgiven for being allergic to pork.

• @wineevangelist. This lunch was so much fun at a great wine bar in town, Dali. Barbara, a renowned expert on Pinot Noir and former vineyard owner, and her charming family ordered a crisp White Burgundy that complimented the food and fun conversation. I look forward to learning much more about Pinot from her.

• @lynnerae. A fellow wine lover and marketing person who lives in Punta Mita, my favorite vacation place. My husband and I had a fantastic time meeting she and her boyfriend. They even hooked us up with an in-town wine connection so I don’t have to always bring wine and have introduced us to all the great local places in town (including my surfing instructor).

• @winewonkette and @houstonwino.  I was invited to the Urban Wineauxs road trip to Dallas where we had a wonderful meal at Abacus (sense a theme) paired with wines that brought out the nuances of the food.  Because a flood caused us to move out of our house temporarily, we continued our evening at Veritas Wine Bar.  Another great night with great wine, food and people.

This doesn’t include all the virtual wine tastings or TTL (Twitter Taste Live) events where the wines might range from Oregon Pinots to Washington Merlots to California Cabernets.  Through Twitter, I signed up for the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington in June. I cannot wait to put names and faces to Twitter handles. I will get the opportunity to hang out with @writeforwine, a work colleage, estabished blogger and friend, who I have yet to meet in person. I’ll be the new kid on the block there, but I know there will be a supportive wine blogging community to show me the ropes.