The Grapevine Magazine’s First Midwest Viniculture Expo Held June 2018

The Grapevine Magazine’s inaugural Midwest Viniculture Expo was held in Davenport, Iowa, June 20-23, 2018. The Expo consisted of a Conference, Trade Show, Midwest Wine Competition and concluded with a Midwest Wine Festival open to the public.


  ACS; Prestige Glassware; Kuriyama of America, Inc.; The Barrel Broker; Brown Bear Corporation; Nixalite of America, Inc. and Agriozein.

And to our Association Sponsors:  

  Iowa Wine Growers Association; Michigan Grape and Wine Association; and Minnesota Grape Growers Association.

The Expo’s goal was to provide producers with the opportunity to expand their education, discover new innovations, and network with fellow makers and vendors who can improve practices.

Expanding Education

The prevailing message of the two-day event was “respect your region,” geared specifically to the more than 750 wineries and 1,000 vineyards throughout the Midwestern United States and Canada. Educators and vendors encouraged attendees to embrace cold climate native and hybrid grapes that thrive in the region, and craft wine showcasing the best of their characteristics.

A full listing of the Expo’s presenting educators can be found at:

Experts from various state Viniculture Associations provided attendees with valuable insight, as well.

In a conversation with Drew Horton, Enology Specialist for the University of Minnesota Grape Breeding and Enology Project, he stressed the point for Midwest winemakers to release the hassles. “Why bother with vinifera like Chardonnay in an environment where it struggles to survive and produce a crop when we now have hybrids—some derived from Pinot Noir and others—that not only survive the harsh winters, but also are disease resistant,” he said. “For example, the new Itasca grape is almost completely resistant to powdery mildew; it’s highly-resistant to downy mildew; and it’s almost completely resistant to phylloxera. This is good, because it means you can do less spraying of your vines. The less chemical inputs, the better for the environment, the final grape and for human health.”

Horton, a former California winemaker who moved to the Midwest nearly a decade ago, has real pride in the region’s grapes. “We’re not just making sweet, flabby wines. There’s serious winemaking, growing and research going on here. I came here because I’m one of the first generation of winemakers in history to work with these new grapes. That’s a thrill to me,” he told The Grapevine Magazine.

Richard Smart was the Expo’s Keynote speaker and a world-renowned viticulturist specializing in canopy management, improving vineyard yield and nutrition management. Smart referenced that other winegrowing areas of North America, Europe, his native Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina have a certain sameness to what’s grown and produced. He’s pleased the Midwest is interesting biologically.

“It’s probably the world’s youngest wine region,” he said. “And the species here are unlike any others in the world. Winemakers do better with American vines in the Midwest than, say, the European vines used in California. Because of tough winters, they need to use local grapes, and that makes the wines unique.”

Smart noted there are many myths and much dogma in the wine industry. He said this makes it difficult for people like him “trying to do science in this field when there’s 2,000 years of history.” He strives to share the culture of winemaking and reminds producers they can break the rules a little bit, to the benefit of what they can produce well on their lands.

New Ideas and Innovations

The Expo was supported by a number of quality sponsors, some of which were also on-site vendors. Hailing from across North America, vendors provided insights and innovations to help winery owners see what might expand their businesses or make processes easier.

For example, two directors of sales from ACS, Michael Stipek Sherbert and Keith Wolcott, brought new types of glassware to the Expo, such as Stölzle Lausitz. “A lot of places use the same glass over and over, but there are new things coming out all the time,” Stipek Sherbert said. “It’s good when winemakers can pick up the glasses, feel them, compare them to what they’re currently using. This helps invigorate what they’re doing to market their products.”

Wolcott added that producers appreciate having more of a face-to-face experience instead of always looking at potential products online, especially since the opportunity to touch the products may spark new ideas. “We talked with a winery owner who looked at the smaller, clear growlers we carry. They said that would be a great vessel, because people like to picnic with some of their fruit wines,” he said. “I mentioned that we have some wineries that make sangria for summer, and they got excited, because that was a product they hadn’t thought of making with their blends.”

Both Stipek Sherbert and Wolcott said they also like to work with winemakers who attend events and bring their products to try in the glasses. “There are dozens of glasses to consider which are best for whites and reds,” Stipek Sherbert said. “There’s variety available now that wasn’t before,” Wolcott added. “So when people come to these shows, even when they can’t see our entire inventory, they get ideas and think “I hadn’t thought about this type of glass, but it makes more sense than the one I’ve been using for the past 20 years.’”

Brown Bear Corporation’s owner Stan Brown shared points about composting using an aerating attachment for skid steers and tractors. He’s on the front end of this environmental movement, and sees mass potential for not only organic growers, but all vineyards.

“You’re aerating into compost stems, leaves, old vines and residual pumice material—all the organic biomass you’re cleaning up anyway between rows and after pressing. In California, this biomass used to be burned, but they can’t do that anymore,” he told Grapevine Magazine. “So the composting process, if you do it correctly—you do have to import a layer of nitrogen from steer or dairy cow manure or what-have-you—sterilizes weed seeds and germination. Composting leaves you with a dry, organic fertilizer that has nitrogen, phosphorus and pot ash value, and is easy to spread.”

Brown said the science of composting makes sense. “When you apply commercial fertilizer, the soil microbes have to slowly convert it into a state that plants can eventually take up. If you apply compost fertilizer, it’s already in that state, so it’s easier for the plants to absorb and convert,” he said.

Shared Knowledge and Camaraderie

And finally, there’s interaction between other winemakers and growers that makes an Expo like this truly worthwhile. Liz Quinn is part of a second generation operating Wide River Winery in Iowa, which her mother, Dorothy O’Brien, started in 2003. Production is now 85,000 bottles a year, and the winery has three tasting rooms in communities along the Mississippi River. Quinn believes conferences like these provide her with knowledge and connections that help growth.

“We’re trying to find out the next varietal to plant. We’re tasting wine, determining if we like the wine produced from some of the new varietals. I’m learning from people how to manage challenges with trunk disease, for example, or what yields make a great wine—sometimes the best yielder isn’t a great wine,” Quinn said. “I only have two years in this business, so I feel there are million things to learn.”

Horton expanded upon this concept. “There’s wonderful camaraderie at events like these. And of course, in the wine business, this is directly increased along with consumption of wine!” he laughed. “There are professional advantages, such as visiting with different equipment makers, kicking the tires, and talking with manufacturers to help make a decision. But there are also friendship and personal advantages at these conferences. It’s some of the best networking you can do.”

“Best of the Midwest” Wine Competition

Wine Glasses Provided by:  ACS

The Wine Competition gave the 12 Midwest states plus Canada the opportunity to have their wines independently judged, and the Wine Festival gave the public a rare chance to sample 100+ wines grown only in the Midwest.

We had 34 wineries submit over 145 bottles for judging! We would also like to thank our very dedicated and experienced judges: Bradley Beam, Enologist; Dr. Paul Tabor, Owner, Tabor Home Winery; Lauren Clopton, Secret Cellar; and  Kevin Roecker, Culinary Arts Instructor, Woodruff Career & Technical Center.

A full listing of awards can be found at:


Top Trophy Winners are:

The GRAPEVINE Magazine Midwest Cup-2018            Galena Cellars – Edelweiss

 Winery of the Year Trophy     Eagles Landing

The GRAPEVINE Magazine – Best of Show Trophy Per Category

Red Wines: Soldier Creek Winery – Rubra

White Wines: Wollersheim Winery – Prairie Fumé

Specialty/Fortified/Sparkling: Illinois Sparkling Co. – Demi Sec Rosé

Non-Grape Wines: Galena Cellars – Mead Honey Wine


“Best of the Midwest” Public Wine Festival

Attendee Wine Bags Provided by: Tycoga Vineyard & Winery

Attendee Wine Glasses Provided by: ACS

The two-Day Expo was capped off on the third and last night with a Public Wine Festival.  We had 15 wineries and one brewery reserve their booths to provide tastings and gave the over 150 members of the public to purchase (where legally allowed) their wines. Entertainment was provided by Cadillac Jack Band and food vendors provided hors d’oeuvres and appetizers to all attendees. For those wineries in attendance who also entered their wines in the “Best of the Midwest” Wine Competition, they were also able to display their awards for the attendees.