The 2019 NDGWA Conference and Annual Meeting was held in Mandan, ND on February 1-2. At the meeting we heard exciting updates on new cold climate cultivars from the NDSU. We learned that you can crop the heck out of Frontenac with minimal affects on the quality of the fruit in a talk and information about the differences between Petite Pearl and Marquette. John Thull, from the University of Minnesota, not only gave us a great talk about how to grow Itasca, he brought samples of the wine for everyone to try! Tami Bredeson, Co-owner of Carlos Creek Winery, provided a very insightful look at the relationships between wineries and growers and discussed best practices for making contracts. Her husband, Kim, spoke about the life of a vineyard and how to manage it from winter through harvest. We learned from Bob Thaden about how interns can be integral in a winery and vineyard operation with a win-win educational experience. Certified Sommelier, Justin Blanford, offered his insight into what consumers are looking for as it relates to our cold climate grapes and led us through a tasting of some local wines. We found out how to prevent flaws in our winemaking and how to measure the alcohol. Overall our lineup of speakers seemed to be better than ever.
At our annual association meeting we elected new board members and officers. Randy Albrecht stepped down as President and board member after serving valiantly in that position for the last year. Rodney Hogen was elected as our new president and we welcomed Sean Ballinger onto the board as a new member. All other board members and officers were reelected or remain in there term until next year. We also announced the winners of our People’s Choice wine competition. More on that later.
One of the important aspects of our annual conference is the opportunity to meet and discuss issues face to face. This year there are two competing winery bills threading their way through the legislative process. One was introduced in the house and one in the senate. There are many passionate opinions on these bills and the future direction of our industry. We purposely scheduled multiple sessions for all of the members to talk openly with each other in order to share our points of view. This was very healthy for our organization and we have come out of this meeting stronger than ever. As there are two different bills and neither really reflect what will end up being the final bill standing after all negotiations have been completed, the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association has decided to stay neutral on these legislative bills at this time.
I am delighted to announce the winners of the 2019 NDGWA People’s Choice Wine Competition. This year there were 45 entries in 5 different categories. The commercial wines and the hobbyist wines were tasted blindly together and the top vote getters in each were awarded certificates. Every single entry received at least one vote! Each category also had a best of category for the overall top vote getter. It was nice to see that hobbyists were able to wine some of these! Every year we say the quality of the wines made in North Dakota improves and I didn’t think it could get better. But it did by leaps and bounds this year. The wines were truly outstanding. You can find the details of the award winners on the 2019 Competition web page.