At the beginning of November 2016, two wine-related conferences were held back to back in Fredericksburg, Texas. The first was the annual Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) Grape Camp. The second was the annual Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference that travels the country, but this year the Texas Hill Country was chosen as the event location.
Grape Camp was held from November 6-7 and as in recent years, the first day on Sunday was primarily for new grape growers and the second day for advanced growers. Multiple educational sessions with topics such as irrigation, soil, disease control, and vineyard management were held. This year the event sold out for the first time and over 250 attendees enjoyed the two-day event. The attendance has grown every year, and this year it filled the Pioneer Pavilion at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park. Next year’s Grape Camp will move to the Gillespie County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall where there is space for 1,500 people.
Besides the educational seminars, 16 vendors displayed their wares while the attendees enjoyed learning from the vendors while at the same time networking with other growers. Always a fun event is the BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine) BBQ dinner, and this year it was attended by over 200 people. Again, networking is always great when some people do not get to see each other except for this once a year event.
Remember that next year’s event will be at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall from November 5-6, 2017.
Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference
This conference provides information about wine marketing and wine tourism that attendees can use to increase their local offerings. In addition, as Grape Camp does, it provides a great outlet to network with other people in the marketing and tourism side of the wine industry.
The conference officially started on Tuesday, but there was an optional Monday event where people could take a tour of nearby Spicewood Vineyards, Stone House Vineyard, and finish at Flat Creek Enoteca for dinner. This excursion sold out, like most of the events people signed up for during the week.
The weather did not cooperate too well during the week as it was a little cooler and rained a little more than normal, but attendees did not let the rain dampen their spirits. The second day had optional workshops for people including:
- Social Media Marketing and Online Advertising for Wine Tourism
- Tasting Room Management
- Best Practices for Tour Operators
- Best Practices for Winery Associations and Tourism Agencies
Late afternoon started with a reception where attendees could meet the sponsors and enjoy wines from around the world. Those who signed up for the planned dinner then boarded tour buses and headed to William Chris Vineyards to enjoy a fantastic evening of dining and wine sampling.
Wednesday came with the official start of the seminars. These seminars were:
- Introduction to Fredericksburg and the Texas Hill Country
- Panel of Professional Wine Tourism Writers
- Wine Country Videos
- Drink Local Means Travel Local
- Content Creation – Everything You Should Know
- Creating Engaging Activities & Events
In the middle of those seminars, buses arrived to take everybody to Woodrose Winery for a buffet style lunch with a special passport booklet. The goal was to take the booklet to a certain station to receive that particular lunch course with the specially paired wine. It was a novel idea sometimes held at the winery since owner/winemaker Mike Guilette loves to cook.
Following the afternoon sessions and a little break, buses lined up again to take people to Luckenbach. When we arrived, the dance hall was lined with many Texas wineries representing Texas Hill Country Wineries, and a band soon took the stage for some good ole country music. Barbecue and other light bites were available while everyone enjoyed the music, food, and of course the wine. I bet Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson would never have imagined that Luckenbach, Texas, would make a great location for a wine event.
The official last day of the conference had these seminars:
- Keynote Speech by Mobile Marketing Expert Scott Stanchak
- The Value of Working With Wine Bloggers
- Working Effectively With Your Local University Wine Program
- State Sponsored Tourism Promotion
- Modern Day PR
- Perspectives on Wine Tourism From Emerging Regions
When it was time for lunch, this time the buses went to Becker Vineyards. Woodrose Winery has an event center but this time lunch was under Becker’s open-air pavilion overlooking the lavender field. Thankfully, the rain had stopped and Becker put on a wonderful lunch with a great selection of Texas wines.
There was only one seminar in the afternoon about emerging wine regions, and representatives from those states and regions had a strict five minutes to describe their region along with the issues or great things coming from that region. It was a good way to see where someone may want to travel in the future to try a new wine region.
It was then announced that next year’s Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference will be held once again in Sonoma County in 2017 from November 6-8. The best thing is the Wine Bloggers Conference will be held immediately following at the same location from November 9-12. For those folks traveling to the Sonoma County area, this makes two excellent wine conferences held back to back.
The conference was officially over, but people could sign up for dinner that evening at Fall Creek Vineyards at Driftwood and Salt Lick BBQ. On Friday, another winery excursion for those interested was to Kerrville Hills Winery, Bending Branch Winery, and Singing Water Vineyards.
Overall, I believe the Texas Hill Country proved to those from out of state that Texas does indeed make excellent wine and the southern hospitality of Texas is alive and well.