We had the opportunity to attend the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association Annual Conference in San Marcos, and we had a blast! The TWGGA annual conference isn't just for folks in the Texas wine industry. Anyone interested in Texas wine is welcome, and everyone we spoke to was happy to see Texas wine consumers like us at the conference. No one held back with sharing their enthusiasm about Texas wine, making the conference a great learning experience for us. All of the folks in the industry are very supportive of each other, making it feel like a big family.
Attendees can commit to as much or as little of the conference as they would like. The registration setup gives options for individual day, multiple day, and with the special events listed a la carte; including tasting, dinners, and the big gala on Saturday night. The one day registration will set you back about what you'd spend on a day's worth of winery tasting fees. This makes a one day visit to the conference a very approachable option for folks that would like to learn more about Texas wine. Last year we just attended the conference on Saturday, but this year we expanded our experience a bit. TWGGA also offers consumer memberships at very reasonable rates, which is a great way to help support the industry and get the inside track on where Texas wine is going.
On Friday evening we attended a walk around tasting where thirteen Texas wineries were tasting two wines each. It was packed with people eager to enjoy some Texas wine! It was a good chance for us to try some wines that were new to us and taste the most current releases of some old favorites. We had to start a new shopping list for our next Texas wine trip.
Saturday morning we kicked off our full conference day with White Wine Sensory Analysis by Cristin Hosmer from VESTA, a grape and winemaking education alliance. Cristin walked us through the various steps of tasting white wines, including assessing visual characteristics, aromas, and flavors. We practiced by blind tasting our way through three Texas white wines. Blind tastings really make you pay attention since it takes away any preconceptions one might have about a particular type of wine. They can be intimidating for those of us that aren't pros, but don't worry, even the pros are challenged by blind tastings.
After our breakfast wine (yes, the first seminar started at 9:45AM), we spent some time walking the exhibit hall. Everything you need to participate in the wine industry is here; from grapevines, to big stainless tanks, to oak barrels and wine packaging. The exhibit floor is another place to learn a lot of the wine industry, the folks representing their companies where all happy to talk to a couple of Texas wine enthusiasts. Bonus, there's also some pretty awesome swag at a wine conference. Nested in the exhibit hall was a space for small informal sessions that are held throughout the day. I attended an Ask April session, where I picked up some some great social media insight from April Sunshine Hawkins of Digital Brand Makeover.
Saturday afternoon I attended the Mourvedre Symposium. Tempranillo has become the de facto red wine of Texas, but Mourvedre is on the move. The panelists shared their opinions and experiences with Mourvedre while being guided by David Kelada from Texas Wine Journal. It was very interesting symposium as several of the big names in Texas wine discussed aspects of growing Mourvedre grapes, to the kind of wine it makes, to where Texas wines fit into the rest of the world. (Nerd fact: Andy Timmons of Lost Draw Vineyards mentioned they are using two Tablas Creek Mourvedre clones. We had a chance to visit Tablas Creek in Paso Robles last year, and learn about their work to bring Rhone grape varieties to the US.) Having four excellent Texas Mourvedre wines to taste through over the course of the symposium was icing on the cake.
Saturday night was Gala Time! Maria had a new fancy dress, so it only made sense for us to attend the Gala. It turned out to be a really enjoyable night, starting with some time to mingle with lots of fun people from the Texas wine industry, then on to an auction held by the very entertaining Paul Bonarrigo of Messina Hof, a 4 course dinner paired with 5 Texas wines, then a fun band and lots of dancing.
So if you have a chance to attend the TWGGA annual conference in the future, do it! The folks of the Texas Wine industry are looking forward to spending more time with their customers, and it will give you a much greater appreciation of what goes into making that bottle of Texas wine. Who knows, maybe there will even be a photo op with Mr. Paul himself.