UNL professor Paul Read remembers a time when only one winery existed in Nebraska, and his passion for viticulture propelled him to start the very first wine and grape growers forum. That was 18 years ago.
Today, Nebraska boasts 30 wineries, more than 100 grape growers, and numerous national and international wine awards of excellence. It is a testament, Read says, to the education and promotion provided by such events for the growing industry throughout the state.
The 18th annual Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Forum and Trade Show, sponsored by the University of Nebraska Viticulture Program and the Nebraska Winery and Grape Growers Association, will run March 5–7 at the Omaha Marriott. Featured speakers, particularly well known to the Midwest grape and wine industry, will share their advice on everything from growing grapes to marketing wine.
Read believes the annual forum and trade show has been instrumental in improved wine quality in the state.
“It helps grape growers learn efficient ways to produce quality crops and gives winemakers insights from experts around the country,” Read said. “A large percentage of participants come from the wine supply industry and enologists (winemakers), but it’s open to the public as well.”
Read is hopeful the move from Kearney, where it was held the last 15 years, to a new venue in Omaha will be advantageous for attendees traveling from the four-state area, especially participants from eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. The location near a large airport also will help, he said, and he hopes will bring in a record number of trade show vendors.
Featured speakers include Murli Dharmadhikari, famed enologist and director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University, who will speak on wine and winemaking, and Jerry Lohr, South Dakota native and owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in California, who will speak at the Grand Awards Banquet. Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Association, will share marketing and promotion strategies; Andy Allen, chair of the Viticulture and Enology Program at Arkansas Tech University-Ozark, will be the featured viticulture speaker; and Maria Peterson, a filtration specialist from Scott Laboratories in Petaluma, Calif., will be a resource for filtration related questions and products.
Along with the forum and trade show, participants will have the opportunity for wine tasting on several days and to partake in the Grand Awards Banquet held the last evening of the event. The banquet will feature specially selected Nebraska wines paired with each of the six courses served during the meal. The wines were submitted by Nebraska wineries and chosen by a panel of judges this week.
For more information and to preregister for the event, go to http://agronomy.unl.edu/viticulture. Register before Feb. 13 to receive an early bird rate.