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Wineries Unlimited Pre-Conference Workshops

Tuesday, March 29 was the day for Wineries Unlimited 2011 Pre-Conference Workshops. The conference is at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The conference rooms are large. For the morning session the room was filled. The afternoon sessions I attended did not have quite as many in attendance. During the day we met someone from Nova Scotia, who noted that the wine industry in Nova Scotia has really taken off.

I started with a presentation by Merrill Bonarrigo of Messina Hof Winery who described the beginnings of their winery and the immense progress they have made since the beginning. Some of the themes she emphasized included Trust & Commitment, Honesty: Be Authentic, Spend Time Together: Events & Personal Availability, Communications: Stay in Touch, as well as Listen and Respect. Merrill believes that these are some of the essential keys to creating a successful winery.

In the early afternoon Dave Barber, Vice President of Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association in Burke, Virginia provided an “Overview of the East Coast Wine Industry.” The presentation was a quick and clear look at the wine industry on the East Coast from an historical view.

Then next session on “Newcomer Expectations” looked at the cost of starting a vineyard and a winery. To start a one-acre vineyard it can cost up to $50,000. The basics needed to start a winery can cost well over $100,000. The attendees were warned that it does not pay to take shortcuts. Shortcuts will likely end with a lower quality wine. Wines lacking quality will not bring visitors to your winery tasting room.

After this somewhat sobering but realistic view of owning vineyards and a winery, several presentations presented the concept of Custom Crush facilities. Another alternative discussed was the Alternative Proprietorship.

After sessions, attendees were offered the opportunity to ask questions.

At the end of the day participants were given the opportunity to meet other winemakers and vineyard owners while tasting wines that were donated by winemakers. Hors d’oeuvres and small sandwiches were provided. It was a pleasant time and we had time to converse with the owners of Flying Otter Vineyard in Michigan, Watts Roost Vineyard in West Virginia, and Rosemont of Virginia Winery.

We are looking forward to meeting many more people and walking through the trade show to see what is new this year!

Cheers! Kathy

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