The second annual WineMaker Magazine Conference took place on May 15 and 16 this year at the Napa Valley Marriott Hotel & Spa in the heart of wine country. This conference, hosted by WineMaker magazine and supported by our sponsors, brought together an all-star cast of experts in winemaking and viticulture. A sold-out crowd of over 400 total attendees hailing from 34 different states, 3 Canadian provinces, Puerto Rico, and Mexico spent two days learning from expert speakers and meeting other hobby winemakers.
Each day of the conference was packed with 13 different seminars. On the first day, topics included “pH and Acidity” with Pat Henderson, “The Fine Art of Fining” with Bob Peak, and a roundtable discussion focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon featuring three local Napa-based professional winemakers. In the afternoon, there was a wine component tasting, led by Tim Vandergrift of Winexpert. This session was extremely helpful for the home winemaker, as essential wine components such as sugar, oak, and tannin were tasted with actual wines, helping to identify the flavors and educating the palate. In the evening, WineMaker hosted a wine tasting night; California home winemaking clubs and sponsors poured their wines for all to taste. A highlight this year was the wine swap table, where individual attendees could leave a bottle of their own wine, and take a bottle from a fellow attendee to sample. Much of the sampling happened directly at the event, and hobbyists were enthusiastic about trying each other’s wines and offering feedback.
Each of the two days featured a keynote speaker during lunch. On Friday Michael Beaulac, Winemaker at Pine Ridge Vineyards located in the nearby Stags Leap District of the Napa Valley, talked about keys to producing great wine from his own experiences. On Saturday four of WineMaker’s long-running columnists gathered on stage to collectively field audience questions. The panel included Alison Crowe, WineMaker’s “Wine Wizard” and a professional Napa winemaker; Wes Hagen, Vineyard Manager and Winemaker for Clos Pepe Vineyards and “Backyard Vines” writer; Daniel Pambianchi, WineMaker’s “Techniques” columnist and Technical Editor and General Manager of Maleta Estate Winery in Ontario; and Tim Vandergrift, WineMaker’s “Wine Kit” author and Technical Services Manager for Winexpert. The capacity crowd enjoyed this question and answer session by peppering the columnists with a broad range of winemaking and grape growing questions.
Attendees also enjoyed the opportunity to walk through the sponsor exhibit area between seminars to check out the latest winemaking gear and supplies while speaking with sponsors. Many sponsors had samples of wine and other products to try as well as hosting several on-site raffles for free wine kits and equipment such as a new barrel.
The second day’s schedule of 13 more seminars started off early on Saturday morning with topics such as “Vineyard Pest Management” and “Cold vs. Warm Climate Red Grape Techniques.” The large afternoon workshop session was a hands-on tasting led by Jef L. Stebben. For the second year in a row, Jef provided some doctored samples of “wine defects”, allowing attendees to smell and taste common mistakes in winemaking, as well as how to identify and understand the defect should it ever occur in their home winery.
The conference concluded with an awards dinner for the 2009 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. This year’s competition was the largest yet, with a record 4,474 wines judged in April. Conference attendees were the first to find out the results of this year’s competition. Winners who were in attendance came up to receive their awards in person while being applauded by their peers.
Audio recordings of this year’s seminars are now available from the WineMaker webstore by clicking here, or by calling 802-362-3981, ext. 106.
The 2010 WineMaker Magazine Conference will take place May 21 and 22 in Stevenson, Washington, in the Columbia River Gorge area. Look for details soon in upcoming issues of WineMaker as well as on winemakermag.com. We look forward to seeing you and tasting your wines in 2010 in the Pacific Northwest!