The Colorado Association for Viticulture and Enology’s (CAVE) annual conference to celebrate and educate wine is going remote for 2021.

VinCO is a five-day event that features breakout sessions on winemaking, grape growing, panel discussions about the industry and awards for amateur winemakers. Similar conferences throughout the country were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. That made it all the more important for CAVE leadership to host the event.

“We know online isn’t everyone’s favorite because of how hands-on and tactile wine is,” said Cassidee Shull, executive director of CAVE. “This is something that people need, and it’s going to re-energize them for the 2021 season.”

The conference starts on Jan. 18 with a two-part workshop on tasting room managing. The schedule is packed on Jan. 19 with numerous hour-long workshops that cover everything from hands-on work and business management to the science behind winemaking.

On Jan. 22, the conference comes to a close with a two-part discussion on sales and marketing strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference is hosted on the platform Crowdcast. No download is required and participants will receive access information upon registration.

The seminars are led by locally and nationally established figures in the industry. Each seminar is recorded for later access. One of Shull’s favorite staples of the event is the award ceremony for the Amateur Winemaking Competition. The ceremony offers valuable critique from connoisseurs for budding creators.

“Many people have gone on to pursue this as a career,” she said. “It’s exciting to see someone continue to enter each year. Then one year they say no because they opened their own winery. It’s the best reason to not enter.”

Shull also loves the passion that industry figures bring to the conference. That could be a welcome addition given how the last 12 months have gone for the industry.

The industry had a whirlwind 2020 that included smoke from local wildfires tainting grapes, the cancellation of major events such as Colorado Mountain Winefest, and a crop freeze that led to Gov. Jared Polis requesting the federal government declare it a national disaster. “We sewed all of those topics into the conference this year,” Shull said. Among the many speakers will be Horst Caspari, a viticulture specialist at the Colorado State University extension campus, who has led the research evaluating the impact of the late-October freeze.

Registration ranges from $50 for CAVE members to $80 for non-CAVE members, though the amateur winemaking award ceremony is free. Sign up at winecolorado.org. The deadline is Friday.

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