Grapes… Wine… and Bar-B-Q?! A Summary of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) & ASEV-Eastern Section Conferences: PART 1
By: Denise Gardner
This year, the national ASEV and ASEV-Eastern Section hosted joint conferences in Austin, Texas. There, researchers, students, and industry members met to discuss current research findings in academia and industry, explore the Texas Hill Country wine industry, and award prominent members of the grape and wine community.
This post, PART 1, will feature some highlights from Texas Hill Country and the presence of Penn State at the conferences. Next week, in PART 2, I’ll summarize a few of the enology talks that I attended and introduce these emerging concepts to the Pennsylvania wine community!
Texas Hill Country
The wine industry in Texas was fun to explore, and sometimes I couldn’t help but catch myself saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas.” ASEV hosted a one-day industry tour in the Texas Hill Country, which featured 4 vineyards and wineries: Flat Creek Estates, Becker Vineyards, Salt Lick Cellars, and Driftwood Estate Winery. Each winery had their own unique way of incorporating the pride of Texas into their production while retaining the prestige associated with wine. Vineyards loomed over various terrains and I was amazed at how early harvest occurs: for some, it starts as soon as July and ends by August!
At Flat Creek, we learned about the prominence of disease pressure in a constant hot and humid climate; a reality that many wine regions face on an annual basis. Flat Creek was currently exploring the use of ozone for pest management in the vineyard. Additionally, they were actively working with local universities on research projects associated with several vineyard pests and diseases, including Pierce’s disease. Several vineyard managers commented on the difficulty of getting vines into a dormant season because of the regular warm temperatures (the area does not have the classic diurnal shift between nighttime and daytime temperatures).
After a brief and sudden down pour, the out-of-towners had the opportunity to witness a Texas thunder storm, which left behind about 3 inches of water on top of the soil for a few hours. The kind folks at Becker Vineyards explained to us how important this annual rainfall is, as previous years have left the area in serious drought conditions. Within a few minutes, the bright Texas-blue skies were opening way again and drying off the vineyards. It was also at Becker that I caught a peek of one of the Texan wine awards!
It’s not surprising to me how Salt Lick Cellars brings people into their tasting room. Their famous Salt Lick Bar-B-Q restaurant brings in about 4,000 customers on weekends… and the tasting room is right next door! Talk about great marketing! Visitors have an opportunity to enjoy some of the most renowned Texan bar-b-q and quench their thirst for great Texan wines all in one stop. Bonus: the entire bar-b-q restaurant is surrounded by vineyards. Double bonus: the bar-b-q was delicious. A must-see (and taste) if you head down to Austin in the near future! (I suppose I’m still a foodie at heart.)
Finally, no wine industry is complete without that winery that captures the breathtaking views of their wine country. Driftwood Estate Winery captured this and did not disappoint as visitors were able to walk along the cliffs and look over onto the surrounding country-side.
For me, it is always interesting to see what emerging wine industries are doing to promote their wines and how local consumers interact with the wineries, especially as the Pennsylvania Winery Association embarks on a new marketing campaign for Pennsylvania wines. The fascinating thing about Texas wines was the loyalty and pride found within consumers. In general, Texas is known as a high wine-consuming state. However, local consumers associate with brand loyalty to many Texas wines, and the local wines have a steady hand in the consumption numbers. Austin [city] restaurants, of all styles and price point, featured local wines. Finally, the hospitality associated with the wineries we visited was clearly genuine and I couldn’t help but notice how accommodating each winery had been during our trip. Many wineries chilled the reds slightly as ambient temperatures were too high to serve reds at “room temperature.” And many offered chilled water or Gatorade to winery visitors to account for that hot Texas weather! I also found a pack of “Go Texan” marketing material at the ASEV conference, which all attendees could take, and appreciated the support for the local wine industry. But how about those wines?
While some varieties were new to me, I was refreshingly reminded of how everyone loves a good rosé and of the multitude of wineries making nice Syrah’s. You can’t forget the multitude of Tempranillo’s that are sure to please red wine drinkers… and bar-b-q lovers. Reds retained pleasant jammy flavors and were smooth on the palate. I had a few Viognier’s that surprised me with their acid retention and tropical nuances. Like many other less-known wine regions, the wines I tasted in Texas had their own unique identity. This experience highlighted the contribution of terroir and its expression in the bottle.
Penn State at ASEV/ASEV-Eastern
This was one of the first years that Penn State had a strong presence at the ASEV national meeting. Several students attended the meeting with Michela Centinari (Assistant Professor of Viticulture) and myself (Extension Enologist). Gal Kreitman, current Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Food Science in Dr. Ryan Elias’s food chemistry lab, gave a well-attended enology talk discussing his research on how metal chelators may inhibit wine oxidation. Additionally, Gal was a scholarship recipient from both the ASEV and ASEV-Eastern organizations.
I’d like to take a brief moment to recognize the importance of industry support for ASEV-Eastern scholarships. One of the primary missions associated with ASEV-Eastern is to provide financial support to graduate students exploring grape and wine research of importance to the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest wine regions (Pennsylvania included). This is especially important as federal financial support for grape and wine research seems to be declining. ASEV-Eastern cannot award these annual scholarships without financial contribution and support from the wine industries they represent. For more information on the ASEV-Eastern organization, present and past scholarship recipients, or how you can contribute to the ASEV-Eastern scholarship fund, please visit the website or donation page here. Additionally, you can now follow ASEV-Eastern on Facebook and view the various activities they are doing to support viticulture and enology research throughout wine regions east of the Rocky Mountains!
Charlene Van Buiten (Ph.D. candidate), Marlena Sheridan (Ph.D. candidate) and Jared Smith (M.S.), also a part of Dr. Ryan Elias’s food chemistry research lab, gave poster presentations on their current projects associated with wine. Charlene’s research highlight the use of the fining agent, PVPP, and its impact on the aroma and flavor of aromatic white wines when applied at various steps in production. Marlena has been studying the role of acetaldehyde, an impact aroma compound associated with oxidation, and its ability to stabilize red wine color. Jared’s research was recently discussed at the 2014 PA Wine Marketing and Research Board (WMRB) Symposium. He has been investigating the potential of native variety (e.g. Concord, Niagara) flavor carry-over into hybrid and V. vinifera wines during wine production.
Finally, Laura Homich, a recent B.S. graduate from the Chemistry Department at Penn State, also presented her research on the use of co-inoculation (simultaneous primary and malolactic fermentations) in high-acid red hybrid wines. Laura also presented this research at the 2014 PA WMRB Symposium, and will continue into an M.S. degree working with Dr. Ryan Elias and Dr. Michela Centinari. All of these students represented Penn State and the Pennsylvania wine industry quite professionally, and many attendees found their research of importance to many wine regions throughout the country.
I have to thank the continued support of the Pennsylvania wine industry through the financial contributions of the PA WMRB for many of these projects and the many wineries that have participated in these studies. Additionally, a special thank you goes to all of the faculty and staff members at Penn State that manage the research vineyards and contribute to the overall success of grape and wine research associated with the university. Without the continued collaborative efforts between the Pennsylvania wine industry and Penn State, the progression of grape and wine research in Pennsylvania would be quite limited.
Tune in next week for further updates regarding discussion topics at the ASEV and ASEV-Eastern Conferences!