Over 450 hobby winemakers from across North America descended on the Pacific Northwest in May for the sold-out WineMaker Magazine Conference. This third annual event featured an all-star cast of winemaking professionals, WineMaker writers and hobbyists leading close to three dozen different seminars over two days covering the full spectrum of the hobby. The attendees arrived from more than 40 different states and provinces at the scenic Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington and enjoyed the chance to meet fellow winemakers from across North America while trading winemaking stories and advice.
This year we featured for the first time two pre-conference bootcamps that both quickly sold out. The winemaking bootcamp attendees had the chance to have a hands-on experience making some wine from Chilean grapes brought in for the five-hour session with Bob Peak. Wes Hagen led his grape growing attendees through the basics of planting and taking care of a small-scale vineyard in his seminars.
The main conference had up to four different seminar choices each hour for attendees including a new winemaking lab test track showing how to properly conduct your own tests at home. From kits to fresh grape winemaking to growing grapes, there were a total of 34 different seminar subjects for all types and levels of winemakers. Each day attendees also were treated to a conference-wide group workshop. Friday featured a comparative side-by-side tasting with Sigrid Gertsen-Briand of Lallemand of the same wine fermented with different yeast strains. Saturday was a tutored tasting with Pat Henderson of Kenwood Vineyards as he shared some blending lots from his winery and showed how to evaluate wine as a winemaker and not just a wine drinker. Two keynote presentations anchored each day of the conference. Rich Cushman, winemaker at the nearby Viento Wines, encouraged attendees to create balanced wines without over-processing during the first day. Rich joined us again Saturday along with local winemaker Peter Brehm for a live Q &A as they fielded audience questions during the second day's keynote lunch address.
After the first day's seminars wrapped up, a tasting party kicked off overflowing with hundreds of bottles of wine. Commercial wineries from the Columbia Gorge AVA joined several regional home winemaking clubs to pour their wines for attendees. Attendees also had the chance to swap their own wines with other hobbyists and try local cheeses and foods.
The conference finished the second night with an awards dinner for this year's WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition. Attendees found out first who won medals in this year's competition and all winners in attendance came up to receive their awards in person while getting a well-deserved round of applause.
Audio recordings for a selection of the seminars presented at this conference are now available from the WineMaker webstore at www.winemakermagstore.com or by calling 802-362-3981.
The 2011 WineMaker Magazine Conference will take place May 20 & 21, 2011 in Santa Barbara, California. We are already working hard on next year's program. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker and posted on winemakermag.com November 1st. Our conferences for the last three years have all sold out so be sure not to wait if you are interested in joining us next year in Santa Barbara for two days of great wine and winemaking!