‘You’re having a moment. And you know it.’ – Cathy Huyghe to New York Winemakers

B.E.V. NY 2020 | Photo Credit: NY Wine & Grape Foundation

From February 26-28, 2020 the New York Wine & Grape Foundation hosted the annual B.E.V. NY conference at Rochester Institute of Technology’s Inn & Conference Center. Attendees included professionals from Finger Lakes, Long Island, and Hudson Valley. New York vineyards and wineries, as well as companies supporting the state’s wine endeavors, attended.

B.E.V. cleverly stands for Business, Enology, and Viticulture. In keeping with the focus of the conference, one full day was dedicated to each of the three topics, allowing for in-depth sessions on topics ranging in scope from ‘Marketing Budgeting 101: How to Maximize ROI’ to ‘The Potential of Arbuscular Mycorrihizal Fungi to Improve Plant Growth and Nutrition’. In December the New York Wine & Grape Foundation surveyed wineries and growers to ensure the agenda would touch upon the most critical touch points of the state’s winemakers.

To kick off the Business day, a panel discussed of New York wine industry influential shared and commented on the key findings of the State of the Wine Industry Report from Silicon Valley Bank, released this January. These players included Sam Filler, Executive Director of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation; Kevin Martin, Extension Educator, Business Management at Lake Erie Regional Grape Program; Richy Petrina, Founder of Ithaca Wine Ventures and Ali Tuthill, General Manager, Hound’s Tree Wine. These individuals discussed how the report’s findings, categorized as tailwinds and headwinds, presented opportunities and challenges for New York and how New York wineries can adapt to the market conditions and capitalize on new and evolving opportunities.

Ray Isle | Photo Credit: Cary Norton

Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor of Food & Wine Magazine was the keynote for the conference, speaking to the state of New York Wine from an outsiders point of view, sharing best practices from other wine regions that are thriving (authentic experiences are key), and commenting on how they’re handling demographic changes as well as the resulting buying behaviors (read: millennials drinking hard seltzer rather than wine), wine buying trends, online wine sales and the ubiquitous issue of wine tariffs. 

The Business day featured two tracks – marketing and management. Marketing sessions ranged from Marketing Budgeting 101, Identifying & Selling to Your Target Audience, to Harnessing Macro Data to Power Your Own Business. Management topics included Effective Winery Leadership, Strategic Expansion of Wine Sales, as well as Employee Retention & Development were other topics addressed by interdisciplinary panels. 

Cathy Huyghe | Photo Credit: Cathy Huyghe.com

Data and Direct-to-Consumer sales in winery and online were also frequently brought up. According to speaker Cathy Huyghe, founder of Enolytics, there is a plethora of big data to be harnessed about wine (and wineries), yet very little analysis and use of this information at the moment. 

In addition, direct to consumer purchasing (particularly at wineries) is lagging. One innovative solution presented during the Silicon Valley panel by Ali Tuthill of Long Island’s Hound’s Tree Wines is that they are bringing their tasting room to the people – meaning, in Hound’s Tree case, Brooklyn. In his keynote, Ray Isle called this the a-ha moment of the conference – bringing the vineyard to where consumers live and / or frequent. This doesn’t always require a physical tasting room either. Hosting in house tastings for enthusiasts in other regions was highly encouraged to maintain a close relationship with the consumer base and continue to drive brand loyalty and, of course, sales. 

Bruce Murray, Owner & Winemaker at Boundary Breaks | Photo Credit: Boundary Breaks

Many wineries and winemakers elevating the profile, recognition of, and demand for New York Wines were recognized. The full list and their fascinating stories can be found here: https://www.newyorkwines.org/Contents/Item/Display/20772.

After an evening of networking and tasting many wonderful New York wines, the conference proceeded to enology and viticulture. 

The Enology day was deeply scientific, with sessions titled Diversification and Domestication of Yeast; Stuck & Sluggish Fermentations: Potential Causes and Solutions; Tools for Phenolic Analysis; Guiding a Grapes Journey to Become Wine; and What Stinks in Here: Sensory Training for Wine Flaws taught by professors from Cornell University, University of Rochester and Finger Lakes Community College. 

Viticulture Day focused on plant nutrition, diseases and pests, as well as fungicide and insecticide treatment and resistance. Speakers were once again from Cornell University in addition to Washington State University, Finger Lakes PRISM, Herman J. Weimer Vineyard and Hunt Country Vineyards. 

The conference was overall a very impressive display by the New York wine community of their dedication to superior winemaking and world-class education for the winemaking community, in addition to passion for making high quality wines and sharing them with wine lovers locally and globally. 

Full conference program and information can be located at: http://www.bevny.org/program2

NY Flight | Photo Credit: NY Drinks NY

Wine lovers seeking to taste New York’s finest wines should seek out the upcoming New York Drinks New York event on March 31 at NYC’s Rainbow Room, which is a fabulous opportunity to get to know New York producers and their beautiful wines better.