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In recent years, the annual meeting of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers has expanded its educational sessions and trade show to make it the biggest wine producers’ venue in the Pacific Northwest. More than 2,000 wine industry members are expected to converge February 8-11 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, ­Washington, to attend the 2011 convention.

Lynne Chamberlain, owner of Spofford Station Vineyard in the Walla Walla Valley, said her goal as the 2010 chair of the grape association has been to encourage a new generation of wine industry members to step up and fill leadership positions. The association board has a group of tenured leaders who are starting to rotate off after serving 10 to 12 years, and it needs the new generation of industry members to step up and work with them to ensure a smooth transition.

She explains that the “young guns” were invited to join in the planning process of the annual meeting. Some 30 interested growers and wine producers showed up at a program planning meeting last fall to suggest ­educational topics. The meeting theme “Paper to Practice, Theory Applied” was a result of that ­meeting.

Chamberlain said that the younger generation expressed interest in learning how to evaluate the overall process of making business work and to use reasoning, research, experimentation, and application in business decisions. They also wanted to bring back the “Year in Review” session to discuss the just-ended crop year. The review session, dropped from the program ten years ago, was an annual discussion for many years. “For many growers and winemakers, the cool season was new to them, and they want to learn from the experiences of seasoned members,” she said.

Growing leaders

A session to capitalize on the enthusiasm of the younger generation is planned during the convention. Chamberlain will lead the session that will introduce current issues and challenges as well as provide opportunity to network with colleagues and current ­leaders.

The variety spotlight this year will be on Washington Syrah. Syrah, with nearly 3,000 acres planted in the state, is the third largest red variety behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Though Syrah wines have gained critical national acclaim, some wineries report a backlog of inventory, and grower prices for the variety have fallen. A panel of winemakers and wine writer Paul Gregutt will investigate what can be done to revitalize the variety.

Also under the spotlight will be the Puget Sound appellation. The session will explore the climate, subregions, and varietals, and conclude with a tasting of the standout wines of the appellation.

Educational sessions during the convention include a day-long seminar on using compressed air systems in winery facilities that can save up to 25 percent in energy costs; myth busting vineyard and winery practices, such as biodynamic wines versus conventional; irrigation management; establishing a distillery; oak management in the winery; how to start your career in the wine industry; and an economical comparison of grafting or replanting. A Spanish language session on Thursday will discuss issues facing the industry and vineyard management.

New this year is a technology showcase to highlight innovative equipment and technology on display at the trade show.

A detailed schedule and registration information can be found at the Web site: www.wawgg.org.