Day Two of the Winemaker Magazine Conference

The second day starts much as the first did, but without the registration. I hit the conference breakfast of fruit, sweet rolls, and coffee as I did the day before, already fortified by a real breakfast.

The same friendly crowd is distributed amongst the breakfast tables, although some familiar faces are conspicuously absent. It’s almost certainly coincidence that many of those faces are the same ones driven from last night’s wine tasting by the forcible lights out and lockdown.

The second day is also more relaxed in every way, and my conspicuously-carried copy of Making Fine Spirits is eliciting more questions about the dark art of beverage distillation. Some sales are made, and several impromptu discussions spring up.

After a really interesting “Frozen Must Roundtable”, of great interest to us because our climate does not reliable produce wine grapes every year, one of these distillation discussions breaks out. I’m asked if I know of any way that grappa, a sometimes potent classic Italian brandy made from distilling discarded grape pomace, could be made. “Know of?”, I blurt, “I’ve made it several times, and as chance would have it I have a small sample in my car.”

Evidently, more people are interested in grappa than I’d imagined, because I’m approached by more potential grappa makers/tasters during the day. I tell them all that they can all have a taste at dinner, during that time when lots of bottle-bearing table-hopping goes on, but they have to understand that I only have something less than 200 ml of grappa, so the tastes must be small.

My second seminar is “Enzymes and More Pre-Fermentation Additives”, which extends my knowledge of fermentation enzymes, an increasingly important field in distillation. My last seminar, “Upgrading Your Home Winery”, exposes me to some new testing equipment that may make the fermentation and distillation metrics for my next book on distillation recipes and procedures easier to do.

Instead of attending a “Speed Wining” session, whatever the hell that is, I spend a pleasant hour chatting with an old conference friend from Louisiana, who has great skills at cadging wine (and glasses) from one of the wine kit company booths. The grappa subject comes up again, and even more people evince interest. Dinner will be fun.

Dinner, it turns out, really is fun. I bring a bottle of our Barbera to share at the table, and it’s well received. We’re getting more into Italian styles all the time. I meet several new friends at the table, and some are interested in my book, hobby distillation, and again, the grappa.

After we’ve had dessert, and drop into the awards ceremony, with lots of background conversation, I break out my pitifully small bottle of grappa. During dinner, I’ve noted where all the grappa-tasters were seated, so I take the grappa to those tables and pour a taste for everyone. I love to watch the expressions on the faces of people tasting a liquor they like for the first time, and it’s gratifying to see that expression now. The grappa was well-received.

Winemaker Awards Ceremony

Winemaker Awards Ceremony

After a bit, back at my table, one of the conference presenters, glowing softly with wine consumed, stops by our table and asks if he might taste the grappa. I send him off with a taste, leaving the bottle dangerously close to empty. A few minutes later, he’s back, and leaves with the bottle. I’d love to know where it went and who tasted it, and how it went over.

As for me, it’s been a long, but pleasant, few days, and I’m ready to call it an evening, so I do.

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