Hundreds of hobby winemakers traveled to Leesburg, Virginia on June 6 and 7 for our seventh annual WineMaker Magazine Conference. The conference featured local professional Virginia winemakers and vineyard experts, WineMaker writers and top hobbyists leading 26 different seminars over two days covering the full spectrum of the hobby. The attendees came to Virginia from over 30 different states and provinces and as far away as Sweden and enjoyed the chance to trade advice and stories with fellow winemakers.
This year we had a record number of attendees participate in our popular pre-conference boot camps with five-hour, hands-on classes. We added several new boot camps on Starting Up a Commercial Winery, Bench Trials and Winemaking from Kits to the mix on top of past favorite boot camps focusing on wine testing, grape winemaking and growing grapes. We also ran tours for attendees and guests to two local wineries where the winemakers were available for answering questions and in-person touring of their vineyards and wineries.
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 Chik Brenneman, WineMaker columnist and UC-Davis Winery Manager and Winemaker, leading attendees through a “Oak Trials” class with a chance to taste the same Merlot aged in six different styles of oak barrels. Saturday’s workshop was our “Speed Wining” event giving participants a structured way to get feedback on their own wine from 5 different fellow hobbyists in one hour. Two keynote presentations anchored each day. Doug Fabbioli of nearby Fabbioli Cellars shared his Cabernet Franc and winemaking advice on Friday. Saturday we had five of our 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”), 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. Mother Nature cooperated with great weather as attendees roamed a terrace near the Potomac River enjoying wine samples from over a dozen commercial wineries from Loudoun County, Virginia and a local home winemaking club as well.
Saturday evening attendees found out first who won medals in the 2014 competition and hundreds of medals were handed out to all of the winners who were present as they came forward to some well-deserved applause from the audience. It was great having some of the top winners, including “Best of Show Country Fruit ” Paul Henry, members of “Club of the Year” Sacramento Home Winemakers, and the “Retailer of the Year” Quality Wine and Ale Supply, all in attendance for the big night.
The 2015 WineMaker Magazine Conference will head back west taking place in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Our eighth annual conference will be located at the Doubletree in downtown Portland and a short drive from the region’s 300+ world-class wineries. We are already working hard on next year’s program on May 28-30. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker magazine 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 one of America’s premier wine country locations for our eighth annual conference!