Susan Stout • Contributing Writer
KELSEYVILLE – Attendees at the 45th American Wine Society (AWS) National Conference in Portland, Oregon, were invited to “explore the unique wines of Lake County” and to learn about biodynamic grape growing in the region during program seminars presented by Lake County winegrape growers.
The county’s winegrape industry was well-represented at the annual conference in November, according to reports from the Lake County Winegrape Commission. Held in the Pacific Northwest for the first time, the AWS conference attracted more than 475 AWS members from 35 states over the course of the three-day event. Seminars covered topics such as winemaking, regional tastings, wines of Chile and Argentina, South Africa’s winemaking, vineyards of the Pacific Northwest, biodynamics, wine in Rome and the history of wine service.
The Lake County contingent was among winery owners, pioneers in the various aspects of the wine industry, and renowned winemakers who are selected to present sessions, said Lake County Winegrape Commission President Shannon Gunier said.
Pietro Buttitta, winemaker and sommelier with Rosa d’Oro Vineyard in Kelseyville, facilitated a session entitled, “Explore the Unique Wines of Lake County, California.” The 75-minute presentation was well-attended, according to Buttitta. “It was a good crowd with a good level of enthusiasm and knowledge – serious consumers who can inform other consumers,” he said.
During the presentation, Buttitta showed the Winegrape Commission’s “Lake County Rising” video and reviewed Lake County’s appellations, soil types, effects of altitude and its historical and geographical attributes. Attendees were then able to taste six wines from different Lake County areas. “The wines showed well with most people agreeing that they were complex, age-worthy, and pretty serious,” said Buttitta, who also poured Lake County wines at the conference’s gala dinner. “Most attendees were shocked by the reasonable retail prices,” he added.
Buttitta helped deliver the message the Winegrape Commission works to put out about Lake County’s winegrape industry, said Gunier.
“With Lake County having the third highest price per ton in the state, it is important that we stay on point and visible with what makes us unique. (We must) do what we can to emphasize value compared to our neighbors,” said Buttitta. “I believe that, at this point, shaking hands and popping corks has better return of investment for us than other forms of advertisement.”
In another session during the conference, Mitch and Tracey Hawkins, co-owners with attorney David Boies and the Boies family of Hawk & Horse Vineyards in Middletown, spoke about biodynamic winegrape production. The presentation on “Biodynamic Basics” was a slide presentation of the farming practices used in the family-owned vineyards.
“We had a nice showing (for the session),” reported Tracey Hawkins. “People were enthusiastic and engaged.”
The couple facilitated a discussion on the role of biodynamics in vineyard management. “We discussed the seasonal role and shared a bit about biodiversity of the biodynamic ranch and vineyard estate. Attendees left with a biodynamic farming kit to try the preparations on their home gardens,” said Tracey. Written instructions were provided, and the Hawkins described in detail how to apply the “500,” or “Horn Dung,” a fortified tea applied to the vineyard to enliven the soil, she explained.
“Overall, the venue, people and organization were fantastic,” Tracey added. “We were told by the organizers that our presentation was very well -received.
For further information about the Lake County Winegrape Commission and its programs, call the Commission office at (707) 279-2633 or visit its website, www.lakecountywinegrape.org.