Hundreds of hobby winemakers descended on Cornell University in Ithaca, New York from June 1 to 4, 2017 for our tenth annual WineMaker Magazine Conference. The conference featured local professional Finger Lakes winemakers and Cornell 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-and post-conference boot camps with full-day, hands-on classes, which allowed attendees to take advantage of four full days of learning about making wine. We added boot camps on cidermaking as well as homebrewing and meadmaking 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 Finger Lakes-area wineries.
The main conference featured workshops focused on hobbyist-to-hobbyist learning, including Three Ways to Rosé with Dave Breeden of Sheldrake Point Winery in Ovid, New York where attendees got to learn how to make dry pink wines from three different methods — including tasting. This year also had a hands-on Wine Faults seminar with Cornell’s Kathy Arnink where all conference goers tasted samples of wines with common faults so they could learn to troubleshoot their own 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. Friday, Meaghan Frank, great-granddaughter of Dr. Konstantin Frank, the founder of famed Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery, spoke to give an overview of the origins of the Finger Lakes wine region and a history of her family’s winery. Saturday, Wes Hagen, WineMaker’s long-running “Backyard Vines” columnist and current Winemaker and Brand Ambassador for J. Wilkes Wines in the Santa Maria Valley of California, gave a fun and spirited talk on The History of Wine — Pangea to Pasteur.
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. Finger Lakes-area commercial wineries also poured samples late into the night as attendees tasted wines and shared winemaking stories.
Saturday evening attendees found out first who won medals in the 2017 WineMaker International Amateur Wine Competition and hundreds of medals were handed out to members in the audience as they came forward to some well-deserved applause from the audience. Winemakers of the Year Rex Johnston and Barbara Bentley were in attendance, as well as members of Club of the Year Contra Costa Wine Group from California.
The 2018 WineMaker Magazine Conference will head west to San Diego, California. Our eleventh annual conference will be located at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. San Diego is home to a burgeoning urban winery scene, as well as ideally located a short drive from hundreds of world-class wineries in the San Pasqual, Ramona, and Temecula valleys. 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 2, 2017. Our last West Coast conference in Sonoma, California sold out two months in advance so don’t wait if you are interested in joining us next year in beautiful San Diego for our eleventh annual conference!