Wine Industry Network brings you a one-day conference focused on helping wine industry executives and owners navigate the complicated, but necessary, world of distributor relationships.
“The wholesale channel, and 3-tier system in general, is a major pain point for just about every small to mid-size winery that wants to grow their brand beyond the tasting room, and there are no easy answers,” says George Christie, President of Wine Industry Network.
“The reality is that success takes a lot more than good wine at a good price and a market visit once or twice a year. It requires a very strategic approach and an excellent understanding of how your distributor partners think and work, but if done correctly, there are still tremendous opportunities. This event will feature experts with years of experience to help demystify this channel and attendees will leave better prepared for success for the upcoming sales season,” adds Christie.
The symposium, featuring experts from all facets of the three-tier system, is designed to help attendees glean new insights into opportunities the wholesale channel presents. Panelists and presenters will provide you with the tools and techniques you need to change the way your winery works with your distributor partners to maximize this sales channel and grow your brand.
Seating is Limited - Act Now to Secure Your Seat
Symposium Topics & Schedule
Enter through the Inn's Lobby and follow the signage to the Symposium's registration / check-in area. Grab your name badge then hang out and mingle while enjoying some coffee and breakfast pastries before the symposium begins.
Wine Industry Network's President & CEO, George Christie, will start the Symposium by giving you a brief overview of what to expect for the day. He will also be welcoming and introducing our moderators and speakers for the day.
Over the last 25 years, the number of distributors serving the US market is less than half of what it was while the number of wineries has increased more than five-fold during the same period. Additionally, the number of retailer mergers have limited options making the wholesale channel one of the leading business issues facing the wine industry today. In the wake of all this, new route-to-market options are emerging, providing alternatives for smaller suppliers to get the attention and focus they need.
How much of an impact are they making? What other trends are emerging to serve the wholesale needs of fine wine producers?
This opening session will provide an overview of the evolution of the distribution network, what has changed and what we can expect the distributor landscape to look like in the near future.
What are distributors looking for? What makes them select one new brand over another? Scores, accolades, pricing... what drives their decisions on who to represent vs. not?
This session takes a deep dive into the distributor perspective and the business decisions that they face when deciding on who they work with. Attendees will leave with a better grasp of their needs and expectations from a selling and sales management point of view. Understanding what your distributor wants is the first step in getting what you want.
When the chips are on the table, do you know where to push and what to leverage so you get the most out of your distributor agreements? How do you balance your channel development so that your pricing in the market supports vs. conflicts with your DTC channel?
In the fight for more distributor attention, it is easy to lose sight of the primary goals, building your brand reputation and increasing your profits. Before you program away all your margins, or price yourself out of the running, understand how to support the market with strategic pricing and planning that lead to long term, ongoing returns on your investment.
Hear a new perspective on what it takes to keep negotiations fair and equitable, get your terms met and create a stronger, longer-lasting relationship with your distributor.
Launching a new brand is a unique challenge that even the most established suppliers can underestimate. You have one shot to get it right and it isn’t simply about having a big budget. A poorly launched brand can do long-term damage to your distributor’s confidence and trust in you. This session walks you through the A-Z on successfully allocating your time, money and tools to get your distributor, retailer and consumers bought into your new idea.
Are you looking for more distributor attention? More placements? Do you incentivize reps? Management? Both? How do you find a brand champion who thinking about your brand first?
Understanding what motivates your distributor, and their reps, is critical to getting the extra attention all brand desire. Designing incentives that break through and yield long-term impacts is not easy and not the only answer. What else works to encourage the distributor to present your wines? This session brings a distributor and supplier perspective to incentive programs and structures that work, along with hidden traps that can cost valuable time and money for wineries and result in sub-par results.
Market visits are costly and require tremendous time on the part of the supplier and distributor reps. When not done right, they can often leave both sides feeling frustrated and disenfranchised. Yet, when executed properly, they can be the single most powerful investment for a supplier. To make matters more complicated, in many cases, market visits are limited or not encouraged at all. As a supplier, however, maintaining a presence in the market is essential to success... so what can you do?
This session walks through your role as a supplier and how you can better prepare for market visits, and conduct ride-withs, differently than you have in the past, in a way that builds lasting advocacy for your brand within the distributor sales force. The session will also address other, innovative ways to leverage technology to maintain a market presence without the trip.
Distributor planning is a complex process wrought with challenges that can leave supplier and distributor misaligned. This session walks through the ins and outs of distributor and market planning that is timely, meaningful and creates alignment with you and your distributor.
Speakers will discuss timing, preparation, agreements and follow-up so you can go into the process more prepared and primed for success in the coming year.
Finish the day visiting with sponsors, exhibitors and other attendees at a networking session featuring hors d'oeuvres and selected wines.
Meet the Experts
Speaker Bios / Q&A
George Christie, a New Jersey native, settled in Sonoma County after college in 1991 where he quickly realized that the wine industry was where he wanted to concentrate his efforts. Since that time, he has been involved in nearly every aspect of the wine industry, from vineyard operations and grower relations to distributor realignments and national marketing campaigns. Always an active member in the wine community, Christie has also held board positions with the Russian River Wine Road, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley and the Sonoma County Vintners. In 2008, George and his wife Tami, along with the Saini Family, partnered to create Saini Vineyards, a winery specializing on Old Vine Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley.
In 2009, with Elizabeth 'E' Slater, George launched the Wine Industry Network (WIN). What began as an online directory has evolved over the years into one the leading B2B marketing and media companies serving the wine industry. WIN works with over 600 industry product and service providers and produces the Wine Industry Expo (WIN Expo), the 2nd largest trade show for the wine industry, along with the Wine & Weed Symposium, the Wine Industry Advisor news site and the Afternoon Brief daily news email with over 35,000 industry subscribers.
"The wholesale channel and the 3-tier system, in general, is a major pain point for just about every single winery that’s out there. You hear a lot of people talking about the problems, the issues and what is wrong with it but there are just not enough conversation about the opportunities that still exist and the possible solutions to some of those problems. It was a challenging topic but something that I thought we needed to tackle and that is why we’re doing it."
"Well, it’s been interesting that every single speaker that we have approached, and of course we are going after people with the most expertise… will tell you that this is a conversation that they have on a very regular basis. So, point being that this is a conversation that is happening all the time anyway. People are looking for advice, looking for suggestions, looking for new ideas. We are just going to formalize that conversation and put all those people in one room."
"The day is designed so that every session basically builds on the one before it. For example we are going to start off with ‘how did we get here’ and talk about the evolution of the 3-tier system and the wholesale channel in general, leading into understanding the distributor mindset, followed by distributor negotiations, pricing, programming, launching a new brand, market visits, and ultimately ending with ‘how do you plan with your distributor partner for the future’ and the components that go into a successful plan.
The speakers we have, collectively, bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the conversation and every attendee will leave better prepared for success in the wholesale channel as a result. "
"I think any winery, or wine company, that's looking for either new distribution or to expand sales in their current markets are going to find this conference incredibly helpful in coming up with new ideas on exactly how to do just that."
"In addition to featured speakers and the topics that we’ll be covering, we also wanted to provide a great networking opportunity for attendees. So, along with the conference, attendees will be treated to a great breakfast, a beautiful buffet lunch and the day will culminate with a wine tasting social. Our goal is to make it fun, educational, and most importantly, inspirational."
Born in San Francisco and raised in Sonoma County, Michael De Loach grew up in the wine business: he started working in the vineyard at age 11 and in the cellar at 15. After college De Loach worked as Vice President, Sales and Marketing at fledgling De Loach Vineyards, and completed courses of study in winemaking at the Napa Valley School of Cellaring as well as the University of California at Davis Agricultural Extension.
De Loach learned the world of design, advertising, marketing and media during the 12 years he spent in that industry. During his three years at consumer goods design firm Glenn Martinez and Associates, he worked on branding, packaging, and advertising for top wine industry clients including Rodney Strong Vineyards, De Loach Vineyards, Parducci Winery, Glen Ellen, Far Niente, and many others.
De Loach was a partner in, and Creative Director of, leading regional advertising agency Pathos, where he personally won over 100 American Advertising Awards (The ADDY Awards) for his work. Clients during his career included Comcast, Mitsubishi Motors, and Bethesda Healthcare Systems.
After his advertising days, De Loach served as president of De Loach Vineyards from 2001 to 2005, then as president of Hook & Ladder Winery until 2016. He has served on numerous industry boards and advisory committees.
Currently De Loach is Owner and President of MD Wine Industry Consulting, and is a partner in Michael De Loach Brands, a full-service beverage alcohol brokerage.
De Loach has appeared throughout the country on radio, television and speaking engagements, and has been written about in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Wine Spectator, Wines and Spirits, Wines and Vines, and The Wine Enthusiast. He lives with his wife Lori in Geyserville, California.
With a background in both design and entrepreneurship, Chris Denny co-founded The Engine is Red in 2008. Now at 16 full-time staff between Santa Rosa and Minneapolis studios, Chris leads the Engine team—developing inspired brand strategies, campaigns, and interactive experiences for national and regional clients. Chris has been named one of North Bay Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 and has also been featured by a variety of media, including Fox Business News, USA Today, Adweek and CNN Money.
Cheryl Murphy Durzy managed wholesale sales for her family’s 80,000 case winery, Clos LaChance, for over 17 years. She has a full understanding of the industry and issues regarding alcohol distribution in the United States. She is passionate about LibDib and hopes to evolve the current system by offering all small, family-owned wineries and businesses an opportunity to sell their products to other businesses that want them. Cheryl is truly entrenched in the industry, sitting on several boards, including the California Sustainable Wine Association and Free the Grapes. In addition to a BA from the University of San Diego, she has taken courses and received certificates from the OIV Wine Marketing Program and the Court of Master Sommeliers. In December 2008, Cheryl took and passed with merit the Advanced Certificate level of the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. She is also the former President of the Board of the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association.
Recently named the 2018 Winery Sales & Marketing Executive of the Year by the North Bay Business Journal, with over 15 years of wine experience, having managed or sold over 50 million cases and developed over 500+ wine brands… executive, marketing & sales professional, packaging designer, wine blogger, fine wine investor and wine public speaker Eric Guerra has lead some of the industries’ most iconic wineries and luxury wine brands.
His roles have been diverse, from three-tier and D2C sales, brand marketing, tasting room, finance, sourcing, winemaking to production. He’s managed iconic brands like the industry leader Kendall-Jackson, the Napa Valley destination of Mumm Napa, the Rioja gem Campo Viejo, the Russian River boutique Gary Farrell Winery and the prestigious Maison Perrier-Jouët Champagne as just a few.
In his most recent role as Chief Sales & Marketing Officer for the prestigious Vineyard 29 located in St Helena Napa Valley, Eric oversees all aspects of sales & marketing for this ultra-luxury, boutique, family-owned winery.
As a professional speaker and a top multi-channel wine blogger with over 60k followers and 2k-3k unique impressions per week "Reserve Tastings with Eric Guerra" focuses on educating the wine consumer through travel, education, wine reviews and general expert wine entertainment.
Jake Hegeman is Vice President of Legal and Regulatory Affairs for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA). In this role, Jake works with state and federal regulatory officials on behalf of WSWA and its members. Jake joined WSWA in 2013 from Stateside Associates, a Virginia based state government affairs firm where he served as Vice President. In this role, Jake managed the company’s regulatory division and worked on advocacy efforts with a wide variety of state regulatory agencies.
Prior to rejoining Stateside Associates, Jake served as National State Liaison at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As a liaison, Jake worked alongside agency leadership and state agriculture officials to improve regulatory processes and enhance communication and coordination across a range of animal and plant health issues.
Jake previously worked at Stateside Associates from 2004-2008 as Senior Regulatory Counsel where he managed the Regulatory Services Division and managed numerous research and compliance projects in the energy, environment and retail arenas. Jake also helped spearhead a workgroup of state environmental regulators addressing a range of waste and cleanup issues.
Originally from upstate New York, Jake earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Tulane Law School, both with honors. Jake is a member of the New York State Bar and resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
Dan joined Young's in 2010 to lead the company’s wine business in California. Prior to Young’s, Dan held leadership roles with The Kimpton Group, Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Company, Pernod Ricard USA, and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in California and Arizona. Today, Dan is responsible for working with Young’s key wine suppliers with a goal to develop, implement and lead the go-to-market wine sales strategy for California. Dan earned his Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from San Francisco State University.
Young’s Market Company is one of the largest wine and spirit distributors in the country. Headquartered in Tustin, California, the company employs more than 3,000 people, generates more than $3 billion in sales, and distributes 3,700 brands across 10 western states.
Young's is committed to representing client partners with professionalism, adding value to customers, creating a culture of respect among employees, and having a positive impact on people's lives in the communities where Young's operates.
Keith LaVine is the Director of Sales & Marketing for the Disruption Wine Company. LaVine brings thirty years of sales, marketing and winery management experience to his role at Disruption Wine Company. Prior to joining DWC, LaVine was the President / CEO of Aveníu Brands – a fully owned subsidiary of Grupo Codorníu-Raventos which sells an international selection of wines throughout the US and Canada. Additionally, LaVine has led national sales for Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, St. Supery Vineyards & Winery, Lynmar Estate Winery and Brown Forman Wine Estates. He is also a former Board Member and President of the Sonoma County Vintners.
Chris Lynch discovered the world of wine while playing semi-professional basketball in France in his late teens. A native of Northern California, he returned from France to discover the emerging wine regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Wine became his #1 hobby. After graduating from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management with his MBA, Chris turned his passion and hobby into his career.
A 30-year veteran of the global fine wine business, Chris combines his life-long passion for wine with a wealth of experience in both the US and International wine business, holding positions that include:
Chris also is involved with his own winery, Mutt Lynch Winery, which he and wife Brenda Lynch started in 1995. Mutt Lynch Winery is in Sonoma County and specializes is artisan produced wines that sport “dog themed” labels. The Lynch’s proudly support animal related causes throughout the United States with their wine, time and overall marketing efforts.
Dave Moore is currently the Executive VP of Sales & Marketing for the Van Ruiten Family Winery in Lodi, CA. His 17 years of wine and spirits industry experience includes having worked for the largest distributors in the country. Dave has held sales and management positions for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, and executive roles for Young’s Market Company and Epic Wines & Spirits.
Since 2002, Dave has led and collaborated with dozens of successful sales groups and dealt with many of the largest brands in the world. He knows distribution inside and out and understands the three-tier system as the best way to build a national brand.
Dave is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators since 2005 and passed with distinction the WSET Level 2 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in 2015. Dave received a master of science degree from the University of Wyoming, and a bachelor of science degree from UC Davis. When he’s not leading sales teams, he spends his time playing baseball, golfing, and fly-fishing. Dave lives in Sonoma County, the heart of wine country, with his wife and two daughters.
Gordon Palmateer was born into the world of wine. His family’s business dates back to the end of prohibition when his grandparents were wine and spirit retailers. His parents were one of the first fine wine importing and distributing companies in the Washington, D.C. area. As a child, Gordon stacked wine crates and made deliveries to local wine stores. Through high school and college, he was so thoroughly exposed to the strategic infrastructure of the business that he was more than ready to navigate the intricacies of the wine industry by the time he attended American University to earn an MBA.
Over the last 25 years, Gordon has held senior management roles at some of the top companies in the wine industry, on both the supplier and distributor sides –
Gordon has a reputation as a highly innovative and strategic thinker with a comprehensive understanding of the wine business and extensive industry connections. His vast experience allows him to understand both trade and consumer marketing, develop strategic marketing programs for new and established brands, move seamlessly between international and domestic markets, and deftly guide foreign companies into the American marketplace. He is a results-oriented, accomplished professional with a proven track record for senior winery management and marketing premium wines.
From humble beginnings in the Hawaii restaurant industry, Charlie Plummer cut his teeth in wholesale distribution but quickly made the leap to the supplier side. His first role was as Sales & Marketing Manager for (then) upstart micro-brewery Kona Brewing Company. For over 3 ½ years he helped grow the brand and launch its mainland sales into CA.
From there he kick-started his wine career with (then) Humphry-Brown & Sebastiani winery. During a decade of winery mergers and acquisitions he was able to establish his foundations, improve his fundamentals, and be coached by some of the most notable professional wine minds in the industry via Constellation Brands & Beam Global Wine & Spirits.
A desire to apply his skills, mentor others, and guide smaller winery operations forward, he went back to family owned wineries through Hess Collection, Jackson Family, and Merryvale Vineyards. Along this 20 year path he achieved certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Society of Wine Educators, and the Sonoma State University Wine Business program.
Charlie has acted in advisory roles for restaurant associations, culinary curriculum programs, and with Operation Homefront. For years he hosted The Golden Foodie Awards Chef Series, which highlighted Southern CA chefs and restaurateurs through the Sub-Zero & Wolfe culinary center. Residing in Napa, CA, he is an advocate for sustainability in farming and adopts a locavore sourcing lifestyle. He currently presides as Director of Sales for Paul Hobbs Wines leading the company’s national & global campaign objectives, sales strategies, tactics, and executions.
Jim Sweeney has extensive experience driving sales success in the Wines & Spirits industry through both the three-tier distribution as well as Direct-to-Consumer. He has successfully managed the National Sales teams for several beverage alcohol industry leaders including Constellation, Huneeus Vintners, Vintage Wine Estates, was the General Sales Manager for two distributors in Texas and brings both production and direct-to-consumer experience as the General Manager for Quixote Winery in Napa Valley. Jim brings an in-depth understanding of field marketing visits as well as brand building to deliver successful distribution and sales through distributor and field efforts.
Currently, as the Sales & Marketing Director for Humboldt Distillery in Humboldt California, Jim is helping to build a craft spirit from the ‘the heart’ of likely the largest cannabis growing area in the Country. Additionally, Humboldt Distillery produces and distributes ‘Humboldt’s Finest’, a cannabis-infused vodka. Jim now uses his extensive sales & marketing experience, is building a brand distilled and bottled in Humboldt County with a product that is cannabis-infused.
Jim is a graduate of the University of Texas, holds an MBA from National University, and resides in St. Helena, California.
Laura has nearly 20 years of business management and execution experience, working in strategy, marketing, and innovation within the B2B and B2C sectors. For a decade she led marketing strategy and execution for several branded portfolios and managed global innovation for Brown-Forman’s $3 billion business.
As founder of Webb Brand Consulting and partner at Okos Partners, she has worked with multitudes of start-ups, private equity portfolio companies, and some of the best known Fortune 500 brands in the world. In a consulting capacity, she helps CEO’s, leadership teams and their organizations craft effective, measurable business and marketing strategies for growth, develop robust product portfolios through innovation, and help leadership teams gain greater alignment and engage their organizations more effectively for growth and productivity.
Laura holds a BA from Colgate University, and a MBA from Vanderbilt University. She is on the board of Mentis, River Charter School and also serves her community by assisting non-profit firms with strategic planning and marketing.