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.
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!