Monday, April 23, 2012

Eastern Wineries Exposition A Success!

In March I went to Eastern Wineries Exposition. It was a new show near the old stomping grounds. For a New York winery it was simply just closer to home. I was actually thrilled with it. The trade show was great, and I was happy to have the Grand Tasting back on the opening night, where one could go around tasting wines from other regions. Always incredibly informative. Also a great time to see and chat with others. More importantly, I felt that the slate of speakers and topics was of particular interest to me. More than any other trade show in a long time, the seminars and lectures were of keen and particular interest to me. In the coming week or so, there will be a series of essays and articles sparked from my visit to Eastern Wineries Expo, which I thought was a thundering success!

Eastern Winery Exposition Draws 1,400 First-time event wins plaudits from attendees, exhibitors by Hudson Cattell
Lancaster, Pa.—Creating a new wine industry conference and trade show requires not only careful planning but also the willingness to take on a certain amount of risk. Last year, when Bob Mignarri began planning the Eastern Winery Exposition, held March 7 and 8 in Lancaster, he could not have known that the event would exceed his expectations by a wide margin.

Mignarri sought to provide Mid-Atlantic and northeastern wineries and vineyards with an easily accessible, low-cost professional meeting timed in advance of spring planting. According to the final tally, 934 attendees registered for the event, not including exhibitors. Total participation including exhibitors was 1,400. A trade show with 136 exhibiting companies in 181 booths sold out six weeks before the event.

A quick look at registrations showed that more than 125 people came from New England, just fewer than 200 from New York and New Jersey, and 422 from Pennsylvania. The high attendance figures from Pennsylvania were in part because the Pennsylvania Wine Association scheduled its annual meeting at the Lancaster County Convention Center the day before the Eastern Winery Exposition opened.

Other state associations also supported the event; for example, 17 members representing 15 wineries from the New Hampshire Winery Association were on hand. Mignarri also felt strongly that because the exposition was being held in the east, the program should be presented by and for the eastern wine industry. The seminar program organized by Richard Leahy drew favorable comments because of its relevance to growers and winemakers in the east.

A session about bird netting and control options, for example, was conducted by speakers with firsthand experience in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia. Another session about optimizing varietal fruit character in hybrid grapes featured speakers from New York, Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Expert specialists from around the east The well-known authorities conducting sessions shared perspectives from various geographical areas with attendees.

Virginia viticulturist Lucie Morton gave two presentations, one about the benefits and mechanics of close vine spacing and cane pruning. J-L Groux from Ontario’s Stratus Vineyards spoke about oak fermentors and barrel management as part of a session about new winemaking technology. Jerry White from New York’s Cornell University talked about understanding small winery economics. The exposition covered subjects apart from enology and viticulture. Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association, and Derek Whittington, also from Ohio, offered a presentation about effective social media networking; Whittington joined Missouri winery owner/consultant Patty Held in a Wine Club Workshop.

The diverse program had something for everyone. Interestingly, many veteran winegrowers were in the audience for a session called “Newcomer Workshop: Starting Successfully.” John Kramb, who has been growing grapes for 13 years at Adams County Winery in Pennsylvania, told Wines & Vines why he attended the session. “There’s always something new to learn,” he observed. This session was independent of an all-day “New Grower Workshop” conducted by Mark Chien of Penn State Extension and Joseph Fiola from the University of Maryland. That event, the day following the exposition, drew 62 registrants.

Bob Mignarri knows that he came up with a winner, thanks in large part to operations director Marcia Gulino, a freelance events coordinator from Rhode Island. Next year’s Eastern Winery Exposition already is scheduled to be held at the same Lancaster County Convention Center on March 6 and 7, 2013.