Next Saturday, Houston will be hosting a home-grown festival unlike any other the city has seen. The Wine Conference will bring together an assortment of food and wine personalities -- both national and local -- along with a high-tech twist that's due in large part to its founder, Geri Druckman.
In addition to such widely known wine experts as Denman Moody and Guy Stout, Druckman has also brought in social media star Gary Vaynerchuk, host of the popular online Wine Library TV series, to speak at the one-day conference. And what's great wine without great food? That's where local restauranteurs and chefs like Carmelo Mauro, Jonathan Jones, Robert Gadsby and Randy Rucker come in. Eager to find out the good gossip behind Gadsby's departure from Bedford and Rucker's from the Rainbow Lodge? We dare you to go to The Wine Conference and ask for yourselves.
In preparation for the event, we asked Druckman to talk to us a bit about what makes The Wine Conference so special.
Eating Our Words: Explain a little bit in your own words what The Wine Conference is.
Geri Druckman: The Wine Conference is a gathering of food and wine enthusiasts. It's an opportunity to bring together top wine experts, top chefs, great wines and the people who love them. We'll all learn something, and have a great time doing it! Best of all, it is an intimate setting, so we hope this will allow people to get to know each other and the experts.
EOW: How did you come up with this concept? How long in the making was it?
GD: I started thinking about doing some sort of wine event early this year. I love wine, but I am far from an expert and thought it would be great to bring together a group of enthusiasts and experts to learn more. I mentioned this idea to Carrie Pacini of opmom.com early on because she shares my passion for wine, and we got the ball rolling and decided an intimate conference combining great wines and food was the way to go.
EOW: How did you decide which wine and food personalities to work with? Was it a struggle to get any of them to participate?
GD: Being a part of the tech community, I have been a fan of Gary Vaynerchuk for quite a while. I also got to know Richard Shaffer of Israeli Wine Direct, so those two were obvious for us. Then Carrie and I did a little investigating, and brought some of Houston's top wine experts on board. The food was a little more difficult, only in that there is a tremendous amount of great food in Houston. We are very lucky to have so many talented chefs in town, some of them nationally recognized, so we decided to shoot for the top really, and lucked out with the participating chefs. All the chefs at the conference are fantastic. We are lucky to have them, and each has been generous and enthusiastic from the time we approached them.
EOW: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the conference?
GD: Happy attendees having a good time. [smiles] I am looking forward to seeing friends of course, and then the speakers, chefs and wineries all in one place. I am not sure we can have too much of a good thing in this case though. It would be hard to say who I am looking forward to seeing most.
EOW: What do you hope the attendees will take away from the conference?
GD: I would hope that attendees get to try something new. If someone discovers a wine or region they didn't know they loved or a fantastic dish they have never experienced, then the event was a good one. If they can do this while learning something about wine that may help them appreciate the wines they love even more, then all the better.
EOW: Do you foresee doing another conference like this, if it's as successful as we think it will be?
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GD: Of course! I would love to see this happen again next year, and I hope we get to do more events throughout the year.
EOW: And a last question, just for fun. Which wine region are you most excited about spotlighting?
GD: Israel. Since I grew up there, I look forward to others developing an appreciation for Israeli wines. I am also a huge fan of French and Italian wines, and I am happy we'll have some good ones represented. Argentinian wines should also make a good showing.