Attending the Eastern Winery Expo
An important part of a home vintner’s education comes from speaking with other winemakers. The upcoming Winemaker Magazine Conference in the Finger Lakes wine region attracts amateur winemakers as their primary audience, who are always eager to share their own winemaking tricks and experiences. But it’s also good to see how the pros do things.
Trade shows and conferences like the Eastern Winery Exposition, which I attended last week in Syracuse, New York, also offer helpful insights from commercial winemakers.
If you think you have problems with acid balance, fruit ripeness, or making the best of some lesser-known grape varieties, magnify those issues 100 times for the commercial winery.
In recent years, wineries have moved into new geographical areas inspired by market trends and recent farm winery legislation. For those not familiar with eastern winemaking, increased humidity compared with the west is one challenge. Another, brought about by expansion into cooler northern areas, may mean a departure from vinifera grapes and a reliance on hybrids. Hybrid grapes may require the winemaker to make adjustments to accommodate the new chemistry.
The Eastern Winery Exposition this year was in Syracuse and it is a combination massive trade show and workshop series. It is the “largest wine and grape event east of the Pacific states” and “serves the Eastern U.S. and Canadian industries.”
I attended for a day and got a lot of good information. My workshops included a Riesling tasting and lecture (at 8:15 a.m. no less) form East and West Coast wineries, lab considerations for small wineries, crafting fine red wines from cool climate grapes, oak additives, and a discussion of YAN (yeast assimilable nitrogen.)
As an example, the use of oak additives and oxygen permeable containers can effectively replace the effects (if not the romance) of oak barrels.
Other workshops dealt with: New containers and closures, fruit wines, enhancing varietal and aroma characteristics, leaf removal and vineyard issues. The workshops are divided into topics relevant to vineyards, wineries, and operating a business.
There were more than 200 vendors at the exhibit hall and products ranged from additives to harvesting, pressing, and storage equipment. It is easy for the home winemaker to think about replacing those 10-gallon barrels and 6-gallon carboys with one of the beautiful, gleaming stainless steel tanks. There are “big boy toys” galore.
The meals and evening wine swap are animated networking events and many of the attendees talk about being lured away from the calm waters of home winemaking into the sometimes choppy seas of commercial production.
In conjunction with the exhibition this year was a “License to Steal” marketing conference that might not pertain to home winemakers, and a two-day sensory evaluation workshop that preceded the conference. The sensory workshop was tempting, but I didn’t have time for it.
This was the sixth annual exhibition, usually held in Lancaster, PA. It’s my second trip to the event. Several years ago, my wife and I attended, partly because the Pennsylvania location lent itself to meeting up with some relatives in the area. This year, it was closer to home and harder to resist.