Wine Industry Network brings you a one-day conference focused on helping wine industry executives and owners navigate the challenging, but necessary, world of selling through the wholesale channel.
“The wholesale channel, and 3-tier system in general, is a major pain point for just about every small to midsize 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.
“Building upon the foundation of last year's event, this year’s conference will include two panels featuring successful wine buyers and their perspective insights into buying behavior changes and purchasing trends in general. The program will also include a category overview, the impact of technology, small producer success stories and more,” 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!
Symposium Topics & Schedule
Break: 9:50am - 10:10am
Break: 1:10pm - 1:30pm
Break: 2:15pm - 2:30pm
Enter through the Hyatt's Main 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. George will also be welcoming and introducing our sponsors, speakers and Symposium Moderator, Laura Webb.
This session, presented in conjunction with WSWA, will provide an overview and recap of distributor news and important occurrences over the past year. The session will also provide a review of the wine category performance in general, trends in buying behavior and forecasts on what we can expect for the remainder of 2020.
This session, presented by John Hinman, of Hinman & Carmichael, LLP. will examine the potential and significant impact that the 2019 Supreme Court ruling in the Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas will have on other markets and the opportunity it will present to producers looking to leverage the Direct to Trade channel.
How do some small and medium sized producers find great success working the 3-tier system? What are they doing differently that other like size producers can learn?
Hear from a panel of producers, distributors, and marketers who are successfully navigating their way to profitability in the very challenging wholesale environment and the advice they have for other similar sized producers looking to increase sales and their presence in the marketplace.
Summer caponata salad with roasted zucchini, red onions, tomatoes, olives, and basil
Field green salad with artichokes, tomatoes, shaved fennel, and white balsamic vinaigrette
Grilled herb marinated chicken breast with chicken jus and parsley – sun dried tomato pistou
Oven roasted salmon fillet with sautéed baby spinach and lemon-caper sauce
Steamed garden vegetables
Fresh fruit tartlet
For many small to medium size wineries, working with a national sales and/or marketing and PR company is the ideal solution to the challenges of driving growth. Finding the right one means the opportunity to leverage their connections, market knowledge, and most importantly, their expertise. How do you find the right broker or agency? What exactly can they do for you and what will it cost?
This panel of experienced producers, brokers, marketers, and distributors will present their perspective on what they provide their clients and examples of programs they’ve successfully executed.
Large wine companies have always had the resources to access information needed to provide a competitive edge over their smaller counterparts. They also have the budget to support marketing and advertising initiatives that drive awareness and sales, but new technology is leveling the playing field and giving smaller producers access to similar information. Social media has made direct marketing more impactful than ever, and this is just the beginning.
This session will focus on some of the latest tools available to wineries that can highlight market opportunities as well as drive more awareness and demand for their wines, all at the same time, supporting their distributor and account level partners.
Understanding what decision-makers are looking for is the foundation of every successful sales plan. What’s working in retail? Restaurants? How has consumer buying behavior changed and what does the future look like? What advice do they have for small to medium sized producers looking to expand their presence in the market?
How decisions are made vary significantly between large national accounts, regional chains and independents and this session will feature a round table discussion with buyers representing all of the above to share their knowledge, insights, experiences, and advice.
Finish the day visiting with sponsors, exhibitors and other attendees at a networking session featuring hors d'oeuvres and selected wines.
Meet the Experts
To ensure we meet your expectations and provide an interactive, productive conference, we’d like to find out what your specific questions are in regards to the distribution & wholesale channel.
Click the button below to head over to Sli.do and get started.
Submit 3-Tier Questions
Speaker Bios / Q&A
To ensure we meet your expectations and provide an interactive, productive conference, we’d like to find out what your specific questions are in regards to the distribution & wholesale channel.
Click the button below to head over to Sli.do and get started.
Submit 3-Tier Questions
As President of her own San Francisco-based, boutique public relations agency, Katie Ballou Calhoun offers clients a blend of big-picture strategy and nitty-gritty technique ranging from traditional PR and event execution to insight on earning and nurturing relations with social influencers and bloggers. Calhoun & Company Communications’ preferred clients include wine, spirits, epicurean and lifestyle brands.
Highlights of Katie’s 30 years’ experience include long-term relationships with Symington Family Estates, Foley Family Wines and E & J Gallo Winery, in addition to representing famed vintner and winemaker Warren Winiarski. The breadth and depth of her experience is showcased through her client history, featuring global brands, consortiums, distributors, corporate parents and family-owned outfits.
Recognized for her tasting skill, Katie has judged Sunset Magazine’s Sunset International Wine Competition, the San Francisco International Wine and World Spirits Competitions, and was a standing taster on Wine & Spirits Magazine’s tasting panel until the publication’s move to Los Angeles.
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."
"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 continental 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.
"Well, you know, one of the things that I've seen in dealing with many brands is that what we tend to do is think of ourselves as really unique, but not really communicate what that is specifically. Just take a spin through everybody's website, and it's basically a template. We fell in love with wine. Maybe we bought some grapes. We make the best that there is, and therefore everybody should buy it, and my dog's name is Ginger. I would encourage wineries and the folks that do their copywriting and do their graphics on the website to look at everything and just think about, just on a basic communication level. This is where more people are going to get their information. If they stumble across your name and they Google you, they're going to end up on your website. So start there, and gotta really crush that story, especially if the newer entrants to the wine business, they've all, many of them have been successful in business elsewhere, and they want to do this as a dream or a passion as a friend of mine, who helps wineries launch in Napa, she says, “Don't use the words, ‘dream’ or ‘passion’, everybody uses those. Please do not."
"It's not necessarily the message. So just the simplicity of the website. Not making people have to jump through hoops. I would put it somewhere between 50% and 75% of the websites that I go to do research on don't have their information current. For instance, just simple things that you need as a salesperson, you need a tech sheet. Everyone's gonna ask you for one. I don't know what anybody does with one, and they don't really help you sell wine. It's a bunch of technical information, and basically that's all kind of boilerplate. The wine tastes like this, the grapes were picked on this date. It's all that kind of stuff. But what it does is it puts something in their hand that they can hand to someone in the trade. Do you have your logo available for download so I can take that and put it on a graphic for your next winemaker dinner? Or do I have to cut and paste it? If you have a full-size logo, or vector-based graphic it makes it easy for them to use.
You should also have a “for the trade” section on your web site. I think there's a big opportunity that really nobody's really doing it well. Maybe some of the bigger guys, obviously the corporate places are doing it, but amongst the small guys, they communicate to everybody with the same message. Well, the trade is at a totally different level than the consumer. "
"Well, I think the first thing is that you need to spend face-time with people. Leverage your current relationships that you have with those folks and something I often do is, and anybody can do this. Find that distributor, walk into those accounts, talk to the manager or the wine buyer. It's kind of like a hunting big game. All you're asking them, you're not asking them to buy anything or buy your wine. What you're asking them is, "if you had your preference, and you wanted to buy my wine in this fantasy world of buying my wine, who would the ideal distributor be that you'd be buying my wine from? Can you name three? Or maybe even just two? People you like to deal with." - That's a good place to start. Once you have that name, then you can call that distributor and say, Hey, so and so in such and such a place said that you're the man. Or woman, when it comes to selling wine to me. And that actually starts a relationship on a really good note.
So you have to recognize, it's not that these people don't like you or don't want to talk to you or don't find your product interesting or don't like your product personally. That has nothing to do with it. It's just that the pressure of the market is such that they get approached every day. The advantage that someone who is smaller has is that they're not corporate. That's really attractive to trade people. They really love that truly unique story."
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, having sat on several boards. 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.
"I think we are doing this in two ways. One: the business model of providing three-tier distribution for all licensed suppliers, one case at a time, is a new way of thinking about the alcohol beverage wholesale process. The margins, shipping cost requirements, etc. are different from traditional distribution, but it provides access to the marketplace which has been challenging for small craft suppliers over the past decade of consolidation and small producer proliferation. Two: our innovative technology (an e-commerce platform and supplier portal) provides a unique curation and shopping experience, as well as connecting supplier and buyer to do business in a compliant matter. There are lots of other applications when it comes to data, AI and online merchandising in the future as well."
"I managed the wholesale channel for my family's 100K case per year winery for nearly 20 years. I was having trouble with my numbers as my wholesale opportunities dwindled... my distributors were merging, going out of business or too small to pay their bills. I thought there had to be a way to solve this problem with technology. My dad and I started screaming and yelling about over probably too much Pinot Noir... and napkin-ed out the idea. "
"Wow this is complicated because there are so many. First and foremost....if you sell that wholesaler something, are they going to pay you? I know that sounds crazy; with the big guys that's not an issue. I have been burned many times with new-ish wholesalers."
"Things have changed. It's really, really hard now to get the attention of the wholesaler. The best way to get their focus and love is to bring them business. Small brands are in charge of their own destiny. You will need to be out there, in the market, selling your own products. Then you let the wholesaler know when you have an order....and they will start paying attention. Nothing like sales and commission in a salesperson pocket for doing nothing....to get you some love. Also, show your wholesaler that you are their partner. You are in it to help them sell....be specific about your marketing plans. here is how much we are going to spend on digital marketing, here are the number of tastings we are going to do. Here are the sales people or brand ambassadors budgets. But nothing gets their attention more than selling your own products. "
"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."
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.
"Right. And so, that's a great theme. This is not necessarily unique to our industry, but while change is constant, it seems we're just seeing the rate of change accelerate. A few of those accelerations seem to track with what’s being seen in both the supply and retail tiers- changing consumer demographics, premiumization, technology and convenience, to name just a few. And nobody's quite captured yet what they all mean. And that relates to what people drink, when they drink it, how they access it, etc. Wholesalers are connected to each one of those elements, and so they're working diligently with supplier and retailer partners to figure out how to best position brands for success. So, while some of these factors lead to consolidation for some wholesalers, they’re also creating opportunities for new wholesalers to enter the marketplace- something we’re seeing happen more and more. In short, it’s an exciting time to be in the industry."
"There are really three areas that I think WSWA is leading on today that bridge divides between the tiers, as well as consumers.
The first of these is the WSWA Convention. We run the biggest wine and spirits trade show in the country, and through this continue to link new products with wholesalers. One of the new innovations this year was an entire retail and consumer day to help share insights into the marketplace from the supply wholesale and retail perspectives.
The second area I’m really excited about is WSWA’s strategic alliance with Drizly, the third-party delivery app that connects consumers with local beverage alcohol retailers. I’m always impressed by the power of this technology to educate. Since it allows a consumer to see across multiple retailers in their area, one can often find products you didn’t even know were available, and then get them delivered, often within an hour. I ran a search recently in Washington, D.C. and found over 1400 SKUs of whiskey available to me through the app. Drizly is a great example of where innovation is really making it all about the consumer. We say that over and over and over, because it's true and it's something that we feel is critical for success in the long run.
The third one is our just released SipSource data product. This is really exciting because this is going to be the first time that we will see industry sales trends through wholesaler depletion data. This is an important perspective that will give valuable insight into, for example, how various products are trending in different trade channels – both off-premise and on-premise. For example, users will be able to see how 750 ml domestic whiskey blends are trending in dining accounts versus liquor stores. Like every industry, data is critical, and this product is really going to open the door for positive advances in the industry."
Barry has more than three decades of experience in the wine industry, ranging from sommelier and wine shop owner to high-level retail and private cellar acquisitions. He was raised in Southern California, where he earned his stripes in some of LA’s most celebrated restaurants, among them Chinois on Main and Osteria Angelini. Most recently, Barry was General Manager of the Rare Wine Company in Sonoma, as well as working with Soutirage and Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Spirits in Napa Valley. Currently, he is the wine buyer for Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA, a 15,000 square foot superstore and arguably has the largest and finest selection of fine wines north of San Francisco. Barry blames a bottle of 1980 Jayer Vosne-Romanée Cros Parantoux for having sent him down the rabbit hole many years ago. Today, he lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife, two children and Australian Shepherd, Elvis, to whom he happily dedicates every spare moment outside of work.
John is a founding partner of Hinman & Carmichael, LLP. John has been advising and representing alcoholic beverage industry clients (producer, importer, wholesaler and retail) since 1976 in all phases of industry regulation, including trade practice, distribution and importation, product fulfillment, retail licensing and production. John is a specialist in alcohol regulation in California, and throughout the United States, is a regular speaker and panelist at alcoholic beverage industry conferences throughout the US, has provided testimony in legislative and administrative proceedings in California, New York, New Jersey and Tennessee and has been named one of the Top 50 Wine Industry Leaders for several years running.
John represents clients before the TTB, the California ABC and the counterpart agencies of other states. John is also a seasoned administrative hearing practitioner who has defended over 200 administrative accusations and hearings (both TTB and ABC) during the last 35 plus years, has taken industry cases to the California Supreme Court and is a Member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. In his off-hours, John is an avid scuba diver and skier.
Doug Hoogervorst founded Business Impact as the premier reporting and analysis group in the wine and alcohol industries in 2005. Today roughly 20% of the top volume US wineries rely on Business Impact for data thought leadership. Doug and his team help you understand which systems provide the biggest bang for the buck and how to scale growth from smaller wineries to growing 3-tier organizations. He’s based in North Carolina, working with wineries and other industries across the United States, Canada, and Europe. Out of the reporting arm Business Impact, Doug and team grew Tradeparency – THE industry-standard in handling the mounting issues around billbacks, samples and other promotional spending.
John Kochis is the president and founder of Gemini Consulting with offices in both Santa Barbara, California and Portland, Oregon where he focuses on achieving the financial and lifestyle goals of privately owned wineries. He currently consults on multiple winery projects throughout the West Coast that range from start-ups to those with decades of history. John is also the CEO of Aspira Corporation, a wine company focused on developing and marketing California wines in Asia. Currently Aspira has brands being sold in 22 cities across China and has shipped over 120,000 bottles to date. In 2015, John acquired the Ground Effect wine brand and has repositioned it to focus on California Cabernet Sauvignon. With scores in the 90’s and distribution in 22 states, revenues have eclipsed $400k annually. His unique background and experience has allowed his clients and companies to achieve success in a much more rapid fashion versus traditional methods.
Before starting his own companies, John spent over 18 years with the E&J Gallo Winery and finished his career as the National Sales Director for their on premise channel managing over 6 Million in cases and a $250MM budget. Prior to this role, he spent four years as the General Manager of Gallo’s Central Coast wineries – Bridlewood Estate Winery and Edna Valley Vineyard. In this role, he was responsible for the day-to-day business of both wineries, including the tasting room, wine club, operations and winemaking. He was also intricate in the acquisition of Edna Valley Vineyards and the first out of state acquisition for E&J Gallo, Columbia Winery, located in Woodinville, Washington. Additionally, John has been a national brand spokesperson for the wineries and worked very closely with marketing on national brand and strategy concepts. John served as President of the Board for the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association and also sat on the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau board.
After graduating from the University of Oregon in 1995, John began his career in sales at E&J Gallo in Portland, Oregon, eventually rising to become the State Manager of Nevada in 1998. Returning to Portland two years later, John was promoted to the Retail Sales Manager position for Valley Wine Company (a multi-brand wholesaler) for three years before making the move to international business and relocating to Canada in 2003 to run 4 provinces. John repatriated back to the U.S. in 2006 as the Director of On-Premise based in Seattle, Washington managing 11 states. John made the move to Southern California in 2009, where he began his indoctrination to the brick & mortar wine business.
John is a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and volunteers for the United Way, Partners in Education and was on the ballot for a seat on the Hope School District Board of Trustees. When not with his companies he tries to keep with his two children, Ava (16) and Chase (14).
Paul is a self-described "lifer in the industry". His career has covered retail, restaurants, hotels, distributing, brokering, DTC, grocery buying and importing. You could even add some years with Riedel Crystal, managing sales for 8 states. The last seven years have been spent creating and managing the wine department for Grocery Outlet, a rapidly growing program that spans 5 states. He’s totally experienced in every aspect of the wine industry and the consumer and he loves to talk about it!
Patrick has an extensive background in high-end fine dining, which is where he found his passion for wine. He managed wine sales of a billion dollars at a southeast grocery retailer and is now managing the east coast for Sam’s Club. He has visited numerous wineries, gone through training from dirt to bottle and blended wines that rival some of the best. Patrick was ranked #19 in the 2018 Bonfort’s Wine & Spirits Journal Power 100, a ranking of the 100 most powerful, influential and transformative individuals and trends that are making an impact on the U.S. wine industry. Through his experience and negotiations, Patrick has made brands successful from a National brand to control brands.
Spanning over four decades Alexia managed a wine shop and small winery before starting her own wine company in sales and marketing. Her company (co-owned by her husband and business partner, Henry) has sold over $500 million dollars of wine wholesale. An importer and distributor, Alexia Moore Wine Marketing, represented stellar names in the industry such as Ridge Vineyards, Husch Winery, Grahams Port, Glen Ellen, and many others.
Alexia’s volunteer efforts with the Children’s Health Council (an educational and clinical organization at Stanford University) raised over $5 M through wine auctions and events. She continues to work in her community supporting and mentoring programs for newly arrived high school students on assimilation into productive members of their new country.
Alexia has had the fortune of hiring some truly talented and successful sales and support people. She is now a partner with two of them in the newly established Hunter Wine Marketing, lending experience and expertise to the next generation.
Adam Pizer recently joined Breakthru as the VP, Supplier Business Development from Young’s Marketing Company where he played an active leadership role within the Estates Group as well as many other critical leadership positions over a 20-year span. He led a highly-successful expansion of the Estates Group into the Pacific Northwest. Now in his new role, Pizer will help lead Breakthru’s national wine portfolio.
As CEO of 3x3 Insights, Mike leads a company that helps brands and retailers reach an elusive breed of consumer – the discerning drinker who shops in independent package and liquor stores. Mike and his team of industry and technology experts shape the independent drinking customer journey by applying product and consumer insights to the challenge of putting the right product in the right customer’s hands through the right experience. Mike is a digital and technology strategy expert who has built groundbreaking technology businesses launched award-winning digital properties over 25 years in financial services, information services, and healthcare industries.
Steve Raye is President of Bevology, a marketing consulting agency specializing in helping spirit, wine, and beer brands enter and grow in the U.S. market. He is also President of Bevology Imports LLC, a boutique wine import company operating in NY and NJ.
Steve has 25 years of Drinks Industry experience, beginning with Diageo-predecessor Heublein where he worked on the imported wine portfolio and managed Smirnoff and Finlandia vodkas.
On the wine side, he has worked on a wide range of individual brands, companies, and generic promotion entities. Examples include Wines from Spain, Ribera del Duero/Rueda, Austrian Wine Marketing Board, Wine Australia, Tejo, Wines of Chile and Wines from Santorini. Steve has also worked with large and small wine companies including McWilliam’s, McGuigan and Pinnacle Brands from Australia, Viña Santa Carolina from Chile, Vallformosa Cava from Spain as well as the entire Pernod Ricard international wine portfolio (Campo Viejo, Sandeman’s, Perrier Jouët, G.H. Mumm et al.) He is also a consultant to Vinitaly and Vinexpo and has managed U.S. trade PR for Prowein. Most recently he helped orchestrate the successful launch of InvivoX.SJP Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.
Steve is a recognized thought leader who writes and speaks on the issues driving the American market. He literally “wrote the book” titled How to Get U.S. Market-Ready. He has spoken at Vinitaly, Vinexpo (Bordeaux and NY), London Wine Fair, Wine2Wine think tank, SommCon and guest-lectures at Cornell University and Bologna Business School. Steve publishes a popular industry blog titled OH-pinions. He also writes for sevenfiftydaily.com, Meininger’s Wine Business, Drinks International, Wine Meridian, and other industry publications. He holds a B.S. from Cornell and is glad he never went back to get his Masters.
Dale Stratton brings over 35 years of experience in the Beverage Alcohol Industry to his role as an independent consultant. Dale recently retired from Constellation Brands where he was the Vice President, Commercial Insights working across their Beer, Wine, and Spirits divisions. While at Constellation Brands he oversaw consumer and shopper insights, consumer affairs, business analytics, market research, category management initiatives and the wine sensory program. Dale’s extensive work linking consumer and shopper insights and market analysis with business objectives and strategies enable him to translate insights into action.
Dale is currently involved in projects with Azur Associates, Emetry, Wine Market Council, and Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s SipSource Report.
Prior to joining Constellation Brands in 2006, Dale spent 22 years working at E&J Gallo where he began his career. During his tenure, he covered a wide range of responsibilities that included distributor management, account management, strategic insights and Lean Six Sigma. Dale has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations from Colorado State University and an Executive MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.
One of the most respected names in the Napa Valley wine industry, Steve Tamburelli has earned a reputation for helping to write exciting new chapters in the stories of some of the valley’s most iconic wineries. Under his leadership, names like Stags Leap Wine Cellars, Chappellet, and Clos du Val were brought to new levels of quality, visibility, and unprecedented success. In his 20+ years of senior management, he has developed and executed comprehensive business strategies, provided focused guidance in the areas of product portfolio and production, secured new financing and successfully developed and managed multi-channel sales strategies (3-Tier, DTC, Export).
As a Co-Founder of Vinitas Wine Group, Steve is excited about leveraging this wealth of experience for the betterment of the firm’s winery clients in what is clearly becoming a more difficult and complex environment. As he puts it, “The small to mid-sized winery is facing headwinds that are challenging at best. Success can still be achieved and I’m confident Vinitas Wine Group will be a valuable partner in helping our clients through the rough waters”.
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.
"I had written a couple of articles for George and we had been bouncing some ideas around… around needs, opportunities & challenges facing the wine industry, particularly for small and mid-sized players. In the course of these interactions, it became very clear that we both shared a perspective around the need for suppliers to rethink their relationship with their distributors. We both felt that it was a key channel of growth for wineries of all sizes and it is one that seems to have been somewhat neglected in recent years, particular around the growth of DTC. The more we talked about this need, the more we realized there was an abundance of content we could provide on this topic and from there, the full-day conference took shape. "
"One of the things that George and I talked about early on was the desire to not just execute another typical conference. Many conferences are built on the premise of interesting and relevant content that is shared in a one-to-many format. The problem is engagement diminishes as the day goes on, and ultimately attendees return to their day jobs from these conferences. For this conference really wanted to change the flow of the day and the dynamic of the actual conference. Most conference attendees leave with very little in the way of new approaches and actions to improving how they operate. We wanted to figure out how to shift the day in a way that activated audience members to not only think about but start managing, their businesses differently.
The whole day is structured so that each topic builds on itself, hence why we are keeping the whole group together in one room. The design of the day will help the audience members hone-in on new insights, convert those insights into new ideas for their business and then convert those ideas into action. So that they can walk out with the start of a game plan to move their business forward coming out of these sessions."
"I think there has been so much conversation in recent years around DTC. While small, DTC is increasing in importance and there are great insights and opportunities to be leveraged in that channel. Unfortunately though I have seen many wineries turn their backs on the 3-Tier channel as they focus more on DTC. This should not be an either-or choice for a winery that wants to grow. Those with significant growth aspirations have to succeed in both channels and both have to be managed and developed uniquely. While I expect DTC will continue to grow in importance, 3-tier is where scale can truly be achieved. Yes it is a challenging channel and requires investment of time and money. But I think in coming years we will see the emergence of select small to medium sized wineries ratcheting up their growth objectives and in turn shifting to a more balanced approach of growth through DTC and the 3-tier channel."