Wine Insights from the East

Large crowd for Eastern Winery Exposition and tradeshow

by Andrew Adams
Winemakers review oxidization and reduction flaws during a session at the Eastern Winery Exposition this week in Lancaster, Pa. 

Lancaster, Pa.—Despite another winter storm that dumped several inches of snow on the East Coast, attendance for this year’s Eastern Winery Exposition was higher than last year.

Show manager Bob Mignarri said nearly 1,100 people attended the conference, and the reaction has been positive. “The overall feeling was very good. Most everyone I know felt the show was better than expected or just as good as expected,” he said.

Between sessions on winemaking, viticulture, winery management and sales and marketing, a steady crowd of attendees visited a large exhibition hall perusing the stalls of 179 equipment suppliers, grape brokers, consultants and other companies.

Total attendance was pegged at 1,500, taking into account those who came for the show and exhibitor staff.

On Wednesday, Mark Veraguth, winemaker at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, N.Y., (which received the event’s Lifetime Achievement Award the previous evening) said he came to the expo to walk the trade floor to check out new equipment and catch up with suppliers. “It’s so positive to see the same people,” he said. “That’s a reassuring thing to see friendly faces year after year.”

Matt Dressler and his wife Sarah Dressler are part-owners of Olivero’s Vineyard winery in McAlisterville, Pa. Matt Dressler said he particularly enjoyed the hands-on information he gained during the sessions and checking out new equipment for the winery. “I want to see what’s cutting edge and what a small winery like us can afford,” he said.

New to the show this year was a charitable auction during the celebration dinner of winemaking equipment and technical services to fund the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section’s scholarship program. The auction generated $6,450 with the average lot selling for around $300.

Reaction to show moving
The only complaint offered by some at the show was that the exposition would leave Lancaster for Syracuse, N.Y., in 2015. Since its inception in 2012, the EWE has been held at the convention center in downtown Lancaster.

Chris Yerger was checking out equipment because he’s planning to expand his fledgling Moosehorn Wines company in Schuylkill Haven, Pa. He said won’t be able to make the trip to Syracuse, and he’s disappointed because he found the expo useful. Yerger has been taking classes in winemaking and grapegrowing at Harrisburg Area Community College and knows several other students in the program who enjoy the EWE won’t be making the trip to New York as well.

Mignarri said he’s heard the same from other winemakers and growers in Pennsylvania, but he knows the show is currently not drawing people from the Finger Lakes, Long Island and other regions in the Northeast who don’t want to travel to Pennsylvania.

Mignarri added that EWE would be returning to Lancaster in 2016, so if folks don’t want to make the trip to New York next year they can just wait until the following year. “We’ve done very well in Lancaster, and I want people to realize we aren’t leaving there forever.”

Tips for the cellar and vineyard
Lucie Morton, a vineyard expert who has worked in the East for more than 30 years, said during a session Tuesday that growers there could take few lessons from how grapegrowers do things in California, France or Australia.  “It may as well be grapegrowing on the moon as far as you are concerned,” she said.

In addition to other tips on developing and managing a vineyard, Morton urged growers not to add potassium to their land. She said she frequently sees vines struggling with an excess of potassium that leads to high-pH wines.

She said soil analysis firms just sample from the top 6 inches of soil, but healthy vines send their roots far deeper. “I don’t want my clients to have roots in the top 6 inches,” she said.

Such an incomplete soil analysis often results in a recommendation to add potassium, which is actually unnecessary and ultimately results in poor wine quality.

Morton said a potential vineyard site evaluation needs to include soil pits dug to at least 4 feet. She said a range of 75-100 parts per million potassium is good, but vines can do just fine in soils with levels as low as 45 ppm. To reduce potassium, Morton said growers have had some success with regular foliar sprays that include magnesium sulfate or Epsom salts. “Really, we need to pull it out,” she said.

The following day Michael Jones, a technical specialist with Scott Laboratories, discussed tannin additions. He said the issue came into focus for him during a tasting of Frontenac wines in Illinois about eight years ago. He said he tasted about 50 Frontenacs and only one was particularly good.

Jones said he talked to the young winemaker who mentioned making a tannin addition but dosing his wines based on recommendations for vinifera. The winemaker had made a mistake with a decimal point and added 10 times as much tannin as he had intended. Instead of ruining the wine, it salvaged the fruit and enhanced the mid-palate and finish. “It turned out to be the best Frontenac of the day,” he said.

Jones said it appears tannin gets bound to hybrid grape solids during fermentation and then fall out of solution. He urged winemakers to stay tuned for academic studies out of Cornell University and Iowa State University, where researchers are doing excellent work at determining how hybrid wines lose tannin and what winemakers can do about it.

He said it appears these studies are indicating that smaller tannin additions are just as effective post-fermentation as larger ones are during the primary phase. “If the grapes are clean, there’s a good chance that post-fermentation is the best,” he said.

One of the more interesting sessions also happened Tuesday when Denise Gardner, the extension associate enologist for Pennsylvania State University, presented five wines that had been spiked with flaws on the reduction to oxidization spectrum. By comparing the adulterated samples to a control, the audience could experience the smell of hydrogen sulfide, thiols and mercaptans, excessive free sulfur dioxide and oxidization.

Gardner went through some of the common triggers for the flaws and the options for fixing them. She warned winemakers from thinking they can simply blow off a hydrogen sulfide flaw through splash racking or other aerative methods. “You can still have that stink reappear in the bottle,” she said.


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