Searching for the Holy Grail of Wine Sales

I was still glowing from the WWS Grand Event on Monday morning, when I saw that one of our event sponsors made the news. Silicon Valley Bank released its 2010-2011 State of the Wine Industry Report. Rob McMillan, founder of the wine division, picks a movie for each report that provides a symbolic framework and puts a bit of humor in what could otherwise be a dry topic. This time, it is Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the news isn’t all bad. The symbolic movie quote for the industry this year might be the classic from the black plague scene, “I’m not dead.”

McMillan gives sound insights into what strategies wineries should be considering in the current economic recession. He suggests wineries should be putting more effort into identifying their target customer and what that customer wants. Small wineries need to be making direct-to-consumer their priority, since representation by a distributor seems to be as unobtainable as the Holy Grail for many of them. My day job is wine club and ecommerce and his recommendations are on point based on what I’m seeing at the moment. It’s worth the read, as always, even if you don’t appreciate the Monty Python jokes.

A Grand Event to Remember

Mumm Reception

As I mentioned above, the WWS 2010 Grand Event, took place April 30-May 2nd in and around Napa Valley. This year’s theme, suggested by Carolyn Kourofsky, was “Sip the Wine, Share the Moment, Savor the Experience.” Participants from chapters across the U.S. gathered at Mumm on Friday evening for the opening reception featuring sparkling wines, and the combination of the beautiful setting, the weather, the sunset and the stunning fare came together in a way that left all of our out-of-town visitors convinced that Napa Valley just might be paradise. It was a fantastic start to the conference. Thank you to Mumm, the chefs, and the volunteers who worked so hard. I’m still fantasizing about the handmade chocolates by Chris Kollar of CK Kitchen.

Saturday’s events took place at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena with a day of seminars and a wine tasting, along with lunch, a silent auction and awards ceremony. Choosing only two workshops from a roster of fantastic speakers was the difficult part. I attended the Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages Component Tasting with Tammy K.

CIA's beautiful classroom

White in the morning and a panel discussion on Social Media in the afternoon. The lineup included Rick Bakas of St. Supery, Lisa deBruin of Hahn Family Wines, Cornelius Geary of Wine 2.0, and David Honig, publisher of Palate Press. I heard rave reviews from other attendees who chose from Wine and Food Pairing with Andrea Robinson, the International Vintners panel, Unveiling Pinot Noir with Debbie Zachareas of Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Russian River Pinot Noirs given by Merry Edwards, and The Aromatic Universe by Alexandre Schmitt. Another choice for the afternoon was the Sparkling Wine Sensory Evaluation by Ann Nobel, who also received the WWS lifetime achievement award for her research on wine flavors and aromas, the development of The Wine Aroma Wheel.

The luncheon ceremony, featuring a menu prepared by the CIA chefs, honored WWS founders on its 20th anniversary.  Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores and Michaela Rodeno retired CEO of St. Supery, were inducted into the WWS Hall of Fame for their vision in founding WWS to advocate for sensible wine consumption, and along the way creating a place for wine aficionados and professionals to network and support women in the industry.

CIA Luncheon

The Rising Stars recognized for 2010 included three winemakers.  Anna Monticelli of Pina Cellars, Ilaria Wines and Esca Wines, Jennifer Williams of Spottswoode Winery, and Lindsay Woodard of Retour Wine Company were honored along with Donna Schlosser-Long of Opici Wine Company and PR chair of the Rochester NY chapter of WWS. Several of these ladies poured their wines at the wine tasting that topped off the day’s events.

Sunday,  participants spent the morning attending behind-the-scenes vineyard tours which wrapped up an incredible weekend. I can’t say thank you enough to Karen Jess-Lindley, our WWS National President, and the National Board along with the event chairs who worked so hard to put this all together. There are too many to thank right here, but we will continue to mention contributors and donors on the Napa/Sonoma WWS FaceBook page over the next few weeks.

Mark your calendars for next Napa/Sonoma chapter event, “Innovative Ways to Sell Your Wine” on June 10th. We’ll be announcing the lineup and location soon. I hope to meet you there.

Author: Leah McNally