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Midwest Wine Conference Moves to St. Charles for 2011
St. Charles Convention Center
1 Convention Center Plz, Saint Charles, MO
Missouri wines are becoming more well known, but they largely remain a regional product.By David Baugher January 24, 2011 ___________________________________________________________________________
St. Charles will become a prime destination for wine lovers early next month.
For the first time ever, the city will play host to the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference, a four-day showcase of educational events for individuals in the winemaking field. Normally scheduled for the Ozarks, the 2011 event is set to be held at the St. Charles Convention Center Feb. 4-7. It will be capped off by a grand finale dinner prepared by Chef Dwight Hawkins of the Kansas City Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in conjunction with local chefs Dan Welsh and Tony Wise.
“What we want to invite the general public to is our grand finale wine and dine dinner,” said Rozanna Benz, conference director. “It’s a wonderful meal.”
A dozen different wines will be served with the four-course spread which will also include a dessert. Tickets are $95 to attend the Feb. 7 dinner.
Benz said the city’s proximity to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport was a big selling point in moving the event. About 130 exhibitors have signed up for booths, roughly 50 percent more than last year. About 550 are expected to attend the seminars, while 175 have signed up for the dinner.
Benz hopes that number will grow to about 300.
“We feel like we can reach out and extend the invitation to the public since there is so much interest, especially in this area, for wine,” she said.
The seminars and activities can be attended on a $150 day pass or $600 for all four days.
Benz said that vintner’s associations from at least six surrounding states have now endorsed the conference, the third-largest wine industry trade show in the country.
“That’s really a big deal for us,” she said. “That means they reach out to all of their members and ask them to participate. That’s just the first step in making this a regional conference.”
Missouri wines will be featured prominently. Benz said that wine produced by the state’s 96 wineries are becoming more well known on the regional level, though outside the Midwest, recognition of the product still lags. During a recent visit to California’s famed Napa Valley, she found that some of the vineyard owners were unaware that wine was produced in Missouri.
That’s a common refrain from Missouri wineries. Thomas Held, director of sales and advertising for Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, MO., said his organization is among those that do consumer-direct sales to patrons around the country, while mass distribution is typically limited to Missouri and surrounding states.
The biggest increases in sales have been within the state itself.
“About 10 or 12 years ago, I was on the Grape and Wine Advisory Board on the statewide level, and Missouri wines were at about 3.5 percent of market share of all wines sold in Missouri,” he said. “Now, we’re sitting right at eight percent of the market share, so it’s definitely grown.”
He said wine producers hope to increase that total to 10 percent within three years.
“The quality of Missouri wine is excellent, second to none,” he said. “Several of our wines can go to any competition in the country and consistently win golds and top honors in different categories. Missouri shows well, and we’re going to continue to do that.”
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