In a couple of months’ time, wine industry people from across the Midwest will gather in St. Charles, Missouri for one of the biggest wine conferences in our region. One difference this year is a name change: what was formerly called the Midwest Wine Conference is now Craft Beverages Unlimited Midwest. This time, winemakers, distillers and brewers are under one roof, but attending three separate conferences.
For local winemakers the name change may sound strange and the attendance of two rival beverages could be a little disconcerting. Hopefully another change will help allay your fears. The organizers of this three pronged event, Vineyard & Winery Management asked us, Midwest Wine Press, to choose the topics and speakers for the wine conference side of Craft Beverages Unlimited.
Over the last four years, MWP has built up a considerable database of contacts in the local wine industry and also a large archive of stories online. Researching and writing articles on the range of issues impacting wine growing in our region by talking to winemakers and wine academics places us in a good position to determine a Midwest wine conference agenda – hopefully you’ll agree!
See related story: 2016 Midwest Wine Conference Schedule
So we’ve tried to really focus this year’s wine conference on current issues that are relevant to the wine industry in our region. Naturally, hybrid grapes and dealing with the challenges of growing and making quality wine out of them in cold, humid and pest pressured conditions will feature front and center. We’ve gathered speakers from Missouri to Minnesota to try and make the conference agenda as representative of the entire region as possible.
We’ve sought out the best possible people to talk about the viticulture and enology topics covered. For example, Dr. Dean Volenberg, Viticulture and Winery Operations specialist at the University of Missouri’s Grape & Wine Institute, is the state’s top viticulture academic and an expert in viticultural management practices. For a number of years, in Wisconsin and continuing in Missouri, Dean’s highly respected Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Reports – issued every week or two online during the growing season – have provided growers with indispensable, up-to-date information about pests, vine health and what to look out for during our often difficult growing seasons.
On Thursday 4th February, Dean will speak at two separate sessions, the first, Midwest Vineyards and Wineries: Guide to Current Best Practices and later that morning, Vineyard Pest Management: Latest Issues.
We also have top Ohio enologist, Tod Steiner, from Ohio State University, who will partner Dean in the first session to discuss best practices in Midwest wineries.
Another factor we took into consideration was the popularity of issues we’ve covered in MWP. For example, a series by our columnist, Wisconsin based vineyard and winery consultant, Piero Spada, about the latest research into tannins and their impact on hybrid grapes and wine got a lot of hits. This issue is critically important for producing high quality dry reds from hybrid grapes that typically don’t contain much natural tannin and don’t respond to oak or tannin additives like vinifera. We asked Piero if he’d be willing to talk about this pet topic of his and he agreed. Tannins and Hybrid Winemaking: The Latest Research is scheduled for the morning on Friday 5th February.
See related story: Research on Hybrid Tannins Continues
Stories about how to run a successful tasting room have also been popular. The wine marketing session on Friday 5th February features Dr. Dan McCole, from Michigan State University. Dan will share new research about the habits of tasting room customers in: Are you Prepared to Understand Today’s Tasting Room Visitor?
MWP articles dealing with more sustainable ways of raising grapes in our region, rather than using extreme amounts of chemicals, have also attracted considerable readership. For example, our series about using ozonated water to stop pests. In the morning, on Friday 5th February, Colleen Gerke, owner of Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery, in Missouri, will talk about how Jowler grows its grapes sustainably. Together with Colleen, Alexia Gannon, owner of Clover Meadow Winery, in Wisconsin, will discuss how they’ve managed to go to the next level and grow their grapes organically – a very rare achievement in the Midwest.
We’re also in a region at the cutting edge of cold climate grape breeding, a topic of enormous interest to wine growers searching for the perfect hybrid grape. Later in the morning on Friday 5th February, we’ll look at Grape Breeding Across the Midwest: Emerging Grape Varieties and Optimizing Norton. The speakers are Tom Plocher, the man who developed the Petite Pearl variety and Dr. Chin-Feng Hwang, Professor, Grape Breeding & Genetics, Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station, an expert on the genetics of that most famous of little known grapes, Norton.
Dr Peter Salamone from Laffort USA and in a separate talk, Eglantine Chauffour, from Enartis Vinquiry, will go deep into the chemistry of winemaking. There will also be a VESTA workshop to brush up your wine sensory evaluation skills – before you enjoy a few glasses at the Networking party on Thursday evening.
Hope to see you there!
Click here for more information about Craft Beverages Unlimited Midwest 2016 and how to register.