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Winemakers converge for wine trial showcase, learning and networking

Posted by | April 21, 2015
At the annual Harvest Trail Showcase, an event created by WSU and the Washington Wine Technical Group, young winemakers learn the importance of solid experimental design, while seasoned veterans contribute practical experience, glean the latest in research and hear about their peers’ recent projects.
At the annual Harvest Trail Showcase, an event created by WSU and the Washington Wine Technical Group, young winemakers learn the importance of solid experimental design, while seasoned veterans contribute practical experience, glean the latest in research and hear about their peers’ recent projects.

Ninety-four winemakers gathered for the second annual Harvest Trial Showcase held on March 18 at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland. The Washington Wine Technical Group and Washington State University Viticulture and Enology Program partnered to host the seminar and wine trial tasting.

The two groups started the event to bridge academic research and practical winemaking in a meeting of the minds where free dialogue takes place. Young winemakers learn the importance of solid experimental design, while seasoned veterans contribute practical experience, glean the latest in research and hear about their peers’ recent projects.

The Trial Showcase featured a vintage review by Josh Maloney, director of winemaking at Wahluke Wine Company, comparing their 2013 and 2014 vintages.

Thomas Henick-Kling, WSU Viticulture and Enology Program director, covered microbial issues that can occur during wine fermentation and their effects on wine quality. Some problems are compounded when less desirable winemaking conditions arise, such as high pH, compromised fruit or exposure to high levels of oxygen.

José Santos, president of Enartis Vinquiry, expanded on the microbiology theme by detailing practical preventative steps to achieve clean fermentations and sound wine storage. Remediation was covered for those cases when all else fails.

The latter part of the day was devoted solely to the presentation of harvest trials data and tasting the resulting wines. Four wineries presented their data and wines. The tasting was very Cabernet-Sauvignon-centric with choice offerings presented by Walla Walla Vintners, College Cellars, Long Shadows and 14 Hands. Matt Oakley, assistant winemaker for Long Shadows, presented interesting data on adding tartaric acid to wine to assist in cold stability. Tim Jones, Assistant Winemaker for 14 Hands, compared Pulsair (a proprietary system using compressed air) versus manual pump-overs for achieving skin extraction during red wine fermentations.

WSU research winemaker Richard Larsen explains how the state-of-the-art fermentation system in the Wine Science Center works. The system was donated by Cypress Semiconductor and Spokane Industries.
WSU research winemaker Richard Larsen explains how the state-of-the-art fermentation system in the Wine Science Center works. The system was donated by Cypress Semiconductor and Spokane Industries.

Part of the allure of the Trial Showcase is the ability to learn, socialize and taste great wines all at the same event. The day concluded with tours of the new state-of-the-art Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities lead by WSU enologist Jim Harbertson, research winemaker Richard Larsen, and viticulture and enology director Thomas Henick-Kling.

Following the tours, the Washington Wine Technical Group provided drinks and appetizers at That Place Pub and Eatery to further facilitate industry networking.

For more information about WWTG, please visit www.wawtg.org. For more photos of the event, please visit the WSU Viticulture & Enology Facebook page.

– Richard Hood, President of the Washington Wine Technical Group