Quality-Focused Conference Created for Rising Eastern Wine Industry
By Dawn Dolan
With the posh, power location of Washington D.C., the US Wine & Beverage Expo (USBevX) starts the conference theme “Quality Revolution” off with an air of authority. Honing the focus this year toward the burgeoning East Coast wine industry, the 2017 Expo should appeal to a broad range of wine & beverage industry principals.
“Our first conference earlier this year was too broad,” acknowledges George Christie President of Wine Industry Network, the producer of the event. “We decided going forward, to do what we do best, and that is to focus on the wine industry, their issues, as well as talk about other beverages and their impact on wine category.
“Additionally, as more wineries look to expand their offerings beyond wine, address that need by providing expert advice on how best to do that, regardless if you’re looking to add beer, spirits, or cider.”
Although featuring over 75 exhibitors at the trade show, the bigger draw might be in the spectacular line up of speakers over the three-day conference. The level of pertinent and innovative speakers and panels, combined with the Winery Association Leadership Conference clearly make this a high-quality event.
Christie hopes his efforts will pay off. “East Coast and Mid-western wineries are making a great name for themselves with increased quality standards and they are on a trajectory to do great things. We felt we could provide a level of conference that would assist and help propel the region on their journey towards becoming recognized and acknowledged as a world-class wine region.”
WineAmerica, the national winery trade association and advocacy group, has partnered with Wine Industry Network this year. Michael Kaiser, Director of Public Affairs for Wine America, is impressed with the quality of speakers on this year’s panel. “The content was great the first year, but it is really stepped up this year, really impressive. These shows do need to be more focused, with tailored and specific content to be successful.” Kaiser will join a panel discussion the business climate and lobbying efforts for the wine industry.
Christie is enthusiastic and committed to the theme of the conference. “We want to talk about quality from the vineyard to the tasting room, and why the key component of quality is crucial to success, not just in individual wineries, but for the entire region”, he says.
Featuring respected figures from the local wine world USBevX-goers will have access to a variety of topics with quality as the focus; from winemaking practices with actual samples, to financials & data, farming practices, social media marketing, bloggers, and what wine grape lobbyists are doing for the industry.
The lineup for the conference includes these well-known winemakers and owners, representing a cross-section of regions; Luca Paschina, Winemaker, Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia, Stephen Barnard, Winemaker, Keswick Vineyards, Virginia, Richard Olsen-Harbich Winemaker from Bedell Cellars of Long Island, Ed Boyce, Proprietor of Black Ankle Vineyards, Maryland, Steve DiFrancesco, who is winemaker for Glenora Wine Cellars in the Finger Lakes of New York, and also Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, Shenandoah Valley.
These and other winemakers from states like Nebraska and Pennsylvania will also participate, with lineups of industry bloggers, wine industry specialists in marketing or viticulture practices, and agriculture financing.
“We want to talk about quality from the vineyard to the tasting room, and why the key component of quality is crucial to success, not just in individual wineries, but for the entire region”
Grower and winery associations from New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New York and California will all be represented in various panel discussions. A true wealth of wine-industry information will be available to attendees.
Adding an exciting twist, regional wine association principals have access to a special leadership module, The Winery Association Leadership Conference, bringing a new component that no other event can rival. According to the USBevX website, the concurrent offerings are designed for association stakeholders in the wine industry: executive directors, board members, and key staff.
Christie asserts, “This is a conference within a conference. The goal of this innovative leadership summit is to arm participants with the tools, knowledge and contacts that they need to better serve their associations and accomplish their initiatives, like recruitment, retention, grant writing, branding your region, etc.”
He is hoping to provide opportunities to learn, to network, and to listen and discuss common challenges with respected peers from other associations. “There will be opportunities to have conversations to help drive their organizations forward.”
Winery members of the partner associations are being offered a reduced fee for the conference, bringing the overall price down to a point that for even the smallest wineries, that don’t have travel budgets, can afford.
Christie adds, “We plan to build USBevX into the preeminent, must attend eastern based wine conference, so if we need to help make attending easier for the little guys or the startups, then that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
“It’s a great opportunity for our members”, says Kaiser. “Other shows create a big issue with cost of travel and rooms. In Washington DC, just the fact that you can come to a high-quality conference and have a built-in tourist factor is great. You also have access to your elected officials, TTB, or Department of Agriculture. You can set up a visit with any of them, or if you’re a member of WineAmerica, you can add in the lobbying component. It’s the benefit of being in a top-tier city. There is an expectation for both conference and the city to deliver.”
Dual-session moderator Michael Attanasi of Virginia Winemakers Research Exchange is in agreement, “Having the US Wine & Beverage Expo in Washington D.C. is a great central location, as it’s equidistant for much of the eastern winemaking regions. It’s a cultured city, with high-level attractions and public transportation. It’s a great place to have it.”
Another attraction for Attanasi is getting more attention from the city towards East Coast wines. “Winemakers have a hard time getting their product into [Washington] D.C., so this is great for awareness. West Coast wines have a monopoly on D.C., so having this event will give East Coast wine more exposure to the restauranteurs and retailers in the city.” Attanasi and panelists will be presenting two sessions on quality trends in winemaking.
Learn more about the U.S. Wine & Beverage Expo at www.usbevexpo.com.