Hundreds of hobby winemakers traveled to Portland, Oregon on May 29 and 30 for our eighth annual WineMaker Magazine Conference. The conference featured local professional Pacific Northwest winemakers and vineyard experts, WineMaker writers and top hobbyists leading over two dozen different seminars over two days covering the full spectrum of the hobby. The attendees came from 30 different states and provinces and as far away as Brazil to Oregon 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 full-day, hands-on classes. We added Winemaking from Country Fruits to the mix on top of past favorite boot camps focusing on wine testing, grape winemaking and growing grapes. We also ran full-day, sold-out tours both before and after the conference for attendees and guests to local Willamette Valley wineries where the winemakers and growers were available for answering questions and in-person touring of their vineyards and wineries.
The main conference introduced several new workshops focused on hobbyist-to-hobbyist learning. The first was Winemaking Table Topics where attendees had the opportunity for focused discussions on three different winemaking subjects of interest during the course of one hour. This year also featured a Fault-O-Rama where conference goers could have fellow hobbyists as well as our expert columnists troubleshoot their problem wines. Finally there was the return of our “Speed Wining” event giving participants a structured way to get feedback on their own wine from five different fellow hobbyists in one hour. We also introduced several more focused question and answer seminars on advanced and basic troubleshooting as well as grape growing and kit winemaking. The conference continued offering a selection of different seminar choices for attendees to choose from across a broad variety of topics several times each day. From kits to grape growing to techniques for the fresh grape winemaker, there were subjects for every level and style of winemaker.
Two keynote presentations anchored each day. Five of our current WineMaker columnists came together in person to offer each of their five favorite winemaking tips to the crowd on Friday. Friday we were also lucky to have Dr. Russell Smithyman of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates give a tutored wine tasting of four different wine regions in Washington state. On Saturday Jim Bernau of Willamette Valley Vineyards shared stories of Oregon’s winemaking history as well as bottles of his Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir during 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. Willamette Valley commercial wineries and several regional home winemaking clubs also poured samples late into the night.
Saturday evening attendees found out first who won medals in the 2015 competition and hundreds of medals were handed out to members in the audience as came forward to some well-deserved applause from the audience. It was great having the winner of the top-scoring Grand Champion Wine Michael Rinker, as well as members of “Club of the Year” Contra Costa Wine Group, all in attendance for the big night.
The 2016 WineMaker Magazine Conference will head to Sonoma County. Our ninth annual conference will be located at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa, California and a short drive from Sonoma County’s 400+ world-class wineries and also within an hour of Napa Valley. We are already working hard on next year’s program on May 19-21. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker and posted on winemakermag.com November 2. 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 ninth annual conference!