Recap – the 2012 Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association Annual Conference

The conference is finally over!  Months and months of planning and organization go into making this one of the best small conferences for grape and wine producers out there.  I recently wrote a piece for the Midwest Wine Press which contains all the nuts and bolts, but I thought I’d share my experience here.

Photo by M Ganchiff

My roles in the conference are, as always, numerous and varied.  This year, I delivered a technical presentation on oxygen management in wine production, a guided sensory evaluation session regarding the impact of site upon Frontenac and Chambourcin wines, organized a special food and wine exercise with Lincoln Land Community College, and put together the food and wine pairing for the annual awards banquet.  I also served as “specialist for hire” at the friday night trivia competition, which involved an extensive amount of sensory work (aka “drinking”).  Additionally, I had a major hand in the development of the enology day lineup of speakers and topics.

Getting all of that together probably sounds like a ton of work, correctly so!  However, I am lucky enough to have excellent people who can shoulder some of the burden.  They are:

  • Joe Taylor, Sleepy Creek Vineyards – Joe really took the lead on conference organization, and lined up several top-notch speakers, including Paul Wagner and Tim Hanni.
  • Megan Pressnall, IGGVA Director of External Relations – Megan does everything for everyone, but really helped me with the banquet and Lincoln Land events.
  • Jay Kitterman, Lincoln Land Community College – Jay facilitates culinary events at LLCC, and helped us pull off a great night.

Overall, the event was a huge success, for a few specific reasons.  First, the content we provided was first-rate, covering the spectrum of vineyard, winery, and marketing topics without requiring too many concurrent sessions.  We brought in great speakers from other sates, including Fritz Westover from Texas A&M extension and the aforementioned Paul and Tim.  Next, I was concerned that attendance might be low, but it ended up being consistent with past years (over 250).  I tend to have an “if you build it, they will come” attitude regarding conference lineups/speakers, but this year I had some doubts due to both the perceived sagging economy and the development of a new, regional conference taking place around the same time in a nearby area.  Lastly, we were able to pull off a three-day conference, complete with lectures, lunches, tasting exercises and a six course banquet dinner at a fraction of the registration fee required for other conferences.  I’m really not trying to take a shot at other conferences, but we did it great, and on a shoestring budget.

Again, check out the Midwest Wine Press article for more details.  I think most had a great time, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the other speakers, the IGGVA board and staff, the LLCC culinary staff and students, and the hotel staff and chefs.  I really look forward to contributing to this conference in the future.  Cheers!


About localpour

Winemaker, scientist, educator.
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