Over 400 hobby winemakers descended on beautiful Monterey, California on May 17 & 18 for our sixth annual WineMaker Magazine Conference. The conference featured an all-star cast of local professional Monterey County winemakers, WineMaker writers and top hobbyists leading 26 different seminars over two days covering the full spectrum of the hobby. The attendees came from over 30 different states and provinces and as far away as Sweden to Monterey and enjoyed the chance to trade advice and stories with fellow winemakers.
This year we again ran our popular pre-conference boot camps with five-hour, 35-person, hands-on classes. We added two new boot camps on Wine Chem 101 and Wine Troubleshooting to the mix on top of past favorite boot camps focusing on wine testing, winemaking and growing grapes.
The main conference had four different seminar choices each time period for attendees to choose from across a broad variety of topics. From kits to grape growing to techniques for the fresh grape winemaker, there were subjects for every level and style of winemaker. Each day attendees also were treated to a conference-wide group workshop that emphasized a hands-on learning experience. Friday featured Pat Henderson, Senior Winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards in the Sonoma Valley, leading attendees through a "Wine Deconstructed" class with a chance to taste 16 different wine samples highlighting differences between acid, sugar, alcohol and tannin levels. Saturday's workshop was our first "Speed Wining" event giving participants a structured way to get feedback on their own wine from 5 different fellow hobbyists in one hour. Participants enjoyed the experience so much we'll be bringing this event back again in 2014. Two keynote presentations anchored each day. Alison Crowe, WineMaker's own "Wine Wizard," shared her own wine, a Garnet Vineyards Monterey Pinot Noir, during Friday's lunch while delivering some of her winemaking "wiz-dom" (as well as introducing the audience to her newest vintage release, 3-month-old baby Bryce.) Saturday we were lucky to have all six current WineMaker columnists together in person for a live Q & A with the audience. Daniel Pambianchi ("Advanced Winemaking"), Chik Brenneman ("Varietal Focus"), Bob Peak ("Techniques"), Alison Crowe ("Wine Wizard"), Tim Vandergrift ("Wine Kits") and Wes Hagen ("Backyard Vines") all fielded questions during the second day's lunch.
After Friday's seminars ended a tasting party kicked off with attendees bringing hundreds of their own bottles of wine to share with other hobbyists. Over a dozen commercial wineries from Monterey County joined four California home winemaking clubs to pour samples of their wines for attendees as well.
Saturday evening attendees found out first who won medals in the 2013 competition and all winners in the audience came forward to get their medals along with some well-deserved applause from the audience. It was great having some of the top winners, including "Best of Show Red" Ed Szubielski, members of "Club of the Year" Sacramento Home Winemakers, "Winemakers of the Year" Rex Johnston and Barbara Bentley, and "Grand Champion" Dave Deters, all in attendance for the big night.
The 2014 WineMaker Magazine Conference will head east again taking place in Virginia. Our seventh annual conference will be located at the Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg in Northern Virginia just outside Washington, D.C. and a short drive from the region's 40+ wineries. We are already working hard on next year's program on June 6 & 7. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker and posted on winemakermag.com November 1. Past conferences have sold out so don't wait if you are interested in joining us next year in the growing wine country of historic Virginia for our seventh annual conference!
For more great photos from the conference check out our Facebook Page!