KENNEWICK, Wash. – More than 2,200 grape growers, winemakers and winery employees will descend this week on the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers (WAWGG) annual convention.
Vicky Scharlau, WAWGG’s longtime executive director, said attendance for this year’s convention will meet or exceed last year’s record turnout. It has grown from about 300 attendees in 1998 and now attracts industry participants from British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and California.
Scharlau said there will be more than a dozen seminars at the convention, which starts this morning at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. The number of seminars is down from past years, Scharlau said, because WAWGG members said they didn’t want to have to choose one session over another. Thus, Scharlau and her staff reduced the total number of small breakout seminars in favor of larger sessions that include more aspects of the industry.
For example, she said, a session Thursday morning called “Year in the Life of a Grape Vine” will include all perspectives from the vineyard to the winery. And a Friday seminar on smoke taint will take in everything from grape growing to marketing.
“Much of our planning carries the personality of the educational committee,” she said. “We respond to industry needs, and that changes every year.”
As WAWGG has done for a few years, it will offer sessions in Spanish on Wednesday.
This year’s theme is “Superior Quality by Design,” and Scharlau said that means focusing efforts on high-quality wine from grape growing to winemaking to the tasting room to the marketing department.
Scharlau said last week’s report on the 2012 record wine grape crop has growers happy for this year’s convention, especially compared with a year ago, when a freeze in late 2010 severely reduced the 2011 numbers.
“The mood is light,” she said. “They’re almost giddy.”
She said there has been a big run on attendance in recent days, and the Thursday night banquet that benefits the Washington Wine Industry Foundation already is sold out.
Also sold out is the popular trade show, which is next door at the Toyota Center. Scharlau has 180 booths this year, and she had to turn away about 30 vendors.
She said the WAWGG convention’s trade show has outgrown the Three Rivers Convention Center, which was built less than a decade ago. She said an expansion that is being discussed by the city would be a boon to WAWGG and other conventions.
“It would do wonders for our convention,” she said. “It would make a huge difference. They wouldn’t need to change the ice rink to a trade show, and I know the hockey guys would be thrilled with that.”
Those interested in attending this year’s WAWGG convention must register at the Three Rivers Convention Center, 7016 W Grandridge Blvd.