Monday, March 26, 2007

Stop 3: The End of the Road

After leaving Albuquerque, the last stop in our long journey was Philadelphia/Valley Forge for Wineries Unlimited, a large conference and trade show.

When setting up the schedule, we were concerned about getting too tired, getting burnt out and then not getting as much as we wanted out of the conferences. But luckily that never happened. The only thing we were really tired of was plane flights.

Wineries Unlimited is BIG -- the largest vineyard & wine conference east of the Rockies. It's the first time we've attended but we've been wanting to go for years.

It was worth it. We learned a lot -- Holly especially loved the winemakers' sessions on Vidal. The trade show was huge. It took us all afternoon to go through it. We brought lots and lots of information home on various pieces of equipment, possible goodies for the tasting room gift shop, that sort of thing.

We returned home on Thursday after being gone about 10 days. What a great trip!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Stop 2: Warm Albuquerque

It wasn't just the weather. Everything about Albuquerque was warm. The people. The welcome. All the effort it took to get there was so worth it.

Holly and I arrived early Saturday morning, slept a few hours, and presented our sessions at the New Mexico Vine & Wine Society. The response was great, and we had such a good time. Holly spoke on Making Fruit Wines and French Hybrid Grape Varieties. I spoke on Winery Marketing and Winery Events. The audience was attentive and asked lots of great questions. They loved her wines.

We ended the day with a lovely banquet featuring many, many courses and some great New Mexico wines. In just one day, we got to know so many great folks involved with New Mexico wines.

The next day was even better. Gordon, the winemaker who originally invited us to the conference took us on a tour of Albuquerque and the surrounding area. We visited two wineries -- the first, Ponderosa Winery, high in the Jemez mountains. We loved everything we tasted, especially two dry reds and an incredibly yummy multi-layered Riesling. Probably one of the nicest Rieslings I've ever tasted.

The next stop was Corrales Winery, closer to Albuquerque. They are very similar to us in size. There we tasted more wonderful New Mexico wines. The most spectacular was a barrel tasting of a special Cabernet Franc. Fantastic!

One of the best parts of each winery visit was the behind-the-scenes tours given to us by the two winemakers, Henry at Ponderosa, and Keith at Corrales. The tours were personal, thoughtful, and attentive.

We hoped to visit at least one more winery before they closed, but a flat tire earlier in the day slowed us down. By the time we left Corrales Winery, the sun was setting and everyone was closing.

On the way back to Albuquerque we stopped for dinner at a great Mexican restaurant. Chile rellanos and blue corn enchiladas with an egg on top. All in all, a perfect day!

Planes, Planes, and Automobiles

Neither Holly nor I travel by air all that often. So our "adventures" on Friday seemed like a movie to us, but are probably not that out-of-the-ordinary.

After a grueling car trip from Crystal Mountain to Lansing through freezing rain and sleet on Thursday, we began our day flying out of Lansing for Chicago O'Hare. Because of snow in Lansing our flight was delayed 1-1/2 hours. And that's where all the trouble started...

With the delay in Lansing, we arrived late in Chicago, narrowly missing our flight to Albuquerque. Along with most other folks on our flight, we needed to reschedule. Picture here loooong lines at the United customer service desk.

We finally got through customer service and were rescheduled through Denver later that afternoon, with a flight from Denver to Albuquerque that evening.

Our next delay occured on the Denver flight. The 747's 3rd engine wouldn't start so the plane had to come back to the gate for refueling and to have the engine manually started. A three hour delay. As crazy as it was, we had several nice parts to the Chicago-Denver trip. The 747 was spacious and we were bumped up to Business Class due to the seat availability. Wow -- what lovely leg room! And the staff was exceptionally friendly and helpful.

We arrived in Denver about 35 minutes after our next flight was scheduled to depart. We were sure we'd be spending the night in Denver and hoped our talks could be rescheduled to accommodate the delay. But we finally caught our first break of the day! Our flight had been delayed due to the fact that the First Officer was on the Chicago-Denver flight with us.

So we made the flight to Albuquerque after all and arrived at our hotel at about 12:30 am. A mere 12 hours after our scheduled arrival. What a long day!

Stop 1: Northern Michigan

Our first conference stop was the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council's annual conference at Crystal Mountain in northern Michigan. This is always a great conference -- you get to see winery folks from around the state to touch base, share triumphs and frustrations, that sort of thing.

Crystal Mountain is a gorgeous location, and because we arrive during a "shoulder season," the rates are good. We rent a small condo... it's a fabulous luxury!

We had to cut this year's conference short because of our trip to Albuquerque and a nasty winter storm. We intended to leave after the banquet Thursday night to travel to Lansing, where we'd pick up a flight first thing the next morning. But with Thursday's nasty weather -- freezing rain and sleet -- we ended up taking off early. After a long, nasty drive, we arrived safely in Lansing, ready for the next leg of our trip.