Hundreds of hobby winemakers traveled to Santa Rosa, California from May 19 to 22 for our ninth annual WineMaker Magazine Conference. The conference featured local professional Sonoma County winemakers and professors, WineMaker writers and top hobbyists leading over two dozen different seminars over the two main days covering the full spectrum of the hobby. The attendees came from over 30 different states and provinces and enjoyed the chance to trade advice and stories with fellow winemakers.
This year we again had a record number of attendees participate in our popular pre-conference boot camps with full-day, hands-on classes. We also for the first time held post-conference boot camps so attendees could take advantage of four full days of learning about making wine. We added boot camps on Barrels as well as Home Cheesemaking to the mix on top of past favorite boot camps focusing on wine testing, grape winemaking and growing grapes. We also ran full-day tours both before and after the conference for attendees and guests to both Sonoma County and Napa Valley wineries.
The main conference featured workshops focused on hobbyist-to-hobbyist learning, including 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 had a Fault-O-Rama where conference goers could have fellow hobbyists as well as our expert columnists troubleshoot their problem wines. We also held several 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. All six of our current WineMaker columnists came together in person to debate different winemaking topics on Friday. Friday we were also lucky to have Dr. Liz Thach, MW, from nearby Sonoma State University, lead a hands-on seminar on understanding your palate. On Saturday Pat Henderson of Kenwood Vineyards shared stories of Sonoma County’s winemaking history 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. Sonoma County commercial wineries and several regional home winemaking clubs also poured samples late into the night under the stars of the outside garden.
Saturday evening attendees found out first who won medals in the 2016 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 Best of Show Sparkling winner Callie McHarg, Winemakers of the Year Rex Johnston and Barbara Bentley as well as members of “Club of the Year” Contra Costa Wine Group, all in attendance for the big night. To check out the happy winners in attendance at the awards dinner, click here for a photo album.
The 2017 WineMaker Magazine Conference will head east to New York’s Finger Lakes. Our tenth annual conference will be located at the Statler Hotel on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Cornell is not only home to one of North America’s top winemaking schools, but it is ideally located a short drive from the Finger Lakes’ 100+ world-class wineries. We are already working hard on next year’s program on June 1-4. Full details and registration information will be in the December-January issue of WineMaker and posted on winemakermag.com November 2. The last time we held our conference at Cornell and the Finger Lakes we sold out three months in advance so don’t wait if you are interested in joining us next year in one of America’s top wine country locations for our tenth annual conference!