It was back to school this June for over 460 hobby winemakers arriving on the campus of New York's Cornell University, home to one of North America's top viticulture and enology programs, for the sold-out WineMaker Magazine Conference. This fifth annual conference in the heart of the Finger Lakes wine region was our first-ever on the East Coast and featured an all-star cast of local professional Finger Lakes 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 Australia to Cornell University and enjoyed the chance to trade advice and stories with fellow winemakers.
This year we again ran our popular pre-conference bootcamps with five-hour, 35-person, hands-on classes focusing on one of three subjects: 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 Anna Katharine Mansfield of Cornell University's enology program leading attendees through a wine sensory analysis class with a chance to determine who in the audience was a "super taster." Saturday's workshop run by Chris Gerling, also from Cornell's enology program, featured doctored wine samples so attendees could better identify common wine faults.
Two keynote presentations anchored each day. Peter Bell, winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards in the Finger Lakes, delivered Friday's address and on Saturday we were lucky to have four current WineMaker columnists together in person for a live Q & A with the audience. Daniel Pambianchi ("Techniques"), Chik Brenneman ("Varietal Focus"), 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 swap and share with other hobbyists. Over a dozen commercial wineries from the Finger Lakes joined the Rochester Area Home Winemakers club to pour samples of their wines for attendees as well.
Saturday evening attendees were treated to the Cornell University Pep Band marching right through the awards dinner for this year's WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition and leading them out to the auditorium for the awards ceremony. Attendees found out first who won medals in the 2012 competition and all winners in the audience came forward to get their medals along with some well-deserved applause from the audience.
The 2013 WineMaker Magazine Conference will take place in Monterey, California. Our sixth annual conference will be located at the Monterey Marriott right downtown within walking distance to Fisherman's Wharf, Cannery Row and other sites and a short drive from the region's many world-class wineries. We are already working hard on next year's program on May 17 & 18. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker and posted on winemakermag.com November 1. Our conference for all five years have sold out so don't wait if you are interested in joining us next year in beautiful Monterey for our sixth annual conference!
For great photos from the conference check out our Facebook Album!