Wine Groups Make Leadership Changes

Industry dot-orgs announce new executives, board members and other news

by Jane Firstenfeld
Lake County Map

San Rafael, Calif.
-- Wine being the social lubricant that it is, and wine people being generally social animals, it's no news that the wine industry is a fertile breeding ground for trade associations. Virtually every producing region now has one or more associations serving grapegrowers and wineries: our 2009 Annual Directory lists more than six pages' worth in North America alone. In recent weeks, we've received reports of changes from several. Here's a useful update.

Lake County Winery Association

Monica Rosenthal
Monica Rosenthal, executive director of the Lake County Winery Association
A relatively new group in Northern California's rapidly developing Lake County, the LCWA (lakecountywineries.org) was formed just over a year ago, and now counts more than two dozen wineries among its membership. It's matured to the point of hiring an executive director, Monica Rosenthal, whose appointment was announced March 20. She will provide oversight and implementation for initiatives including marketing of Lake County wines, wineries and industry communications. A former board member of the Lake County Winegrape Commission, Rosenthal also served on the county's planning commission for two years, and has wine industry experience including stints at Beaulieu Vineyard, Buena Vista Winery and Carmenet Winery. She and her husband farm about 20 acres of vineyards.

Although there is a great deal of membership overlap between the LCWA and the winegrape commission (lakecountywinegrape.org), and the two organizations work closely together, Rosenthal explained, "The most significant difference…is the piece of the wine industry that we promote. LCWA promotes and markets the wines, and we take it a step or two further--it is our mission to promote the experience."

LCWA is committed to promoting sustainable agriculture practices, Rosenthal told Wines & Vines. Its strategic plan includes creating a sustainable agricultural tourism education program; co-sponsoring a wine service education program, and developing consumer event concepts to target specific audiences.

"We will work closely with the county Economic Development Department to install tasting room directional road signs," which will be helpful during Lake's fifth annual Wine Adventure Weekend July 25 and 26. The adventure will encircle the vast and scenic Clear Lake, the largest natural lake in California.

"What makes our wine industry unique is that it is located in an unspoiled, relatively undiscovered region," Rosenthal said. "We need to grow and prosper while maintaining the character of Lake County. We need to stay committed to our sustainable agricultural practices. We need to be true to Lake County. That is our challenge."

National Grape and Wine Initiative

Lake County Map
An industry-driven partnership that includes academic and government representation, formalized in 2005, NGWI (ngwi.org) brings together the juice, raisin, table and winegrape industries to develop research and extension across the United States. NGWI's special emphasis is on gathering federal research talent and funds for grape and wine research projects.

Membership elected officers during the Unified Grape & Wine Symposium in late January. The mix reflects NGWI's mission to strengthen cross-commodity ties from all viticulture/enology segments and many regions: Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission was elected chair; John Martini, of New York's Anthony road Vineyards, vice chair; Vicky Scharlau, executive director of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers is secretary/treasurer, and Mary Wagner, chief technology officer of Mars Botanical in Maryland is past chair. According to Jean-Mari Peltier, NGWI president, "It's important that we have people on our board from all facets of the grape industry. We have members from six different regions and representing all different grape products. We¹ve had Chairs located on both coasts and from different facets of the industry. Fortunately for us, it's just worked out that way."

NGWI currently has several projects in the works, one on vineyard water sustainability (irrigation management); another using mechanization and/or sensors for sustainable vineyard crop load management, and a grant to develop plans to fill data gaps in assessing the carbon footprint of grapes, Peltier told Wines & Vines. The group has also applied for an extension grant to provide Internet access to key grape research.

"We're really excited about what we¹re working on this year. We¹ve taken a very proactive approach in working with researchers," Peltier said. NGWI members have also pledged financial support to these projects. NGWI will host a Washington winery workshop April 22 in Richland, Wash., and its spring board meeting April 22 in Beltsville, Md. Learn more at the website.

Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association

Founded in 1974, MCVGA currently represents more than 85 industry members in the Central Coast's Monterey County (montereywines.org). Rhonda Motil is executive director. In March, a new board of directors, headed by president-elect Cheryl Indelicato of DFV. She's joined by James Pickworth, Jackson Family Wines; Sabrine Rodems, San Saba Vineyards; Andy Mitchell, Hahn Estates; Cindy Paup, J.Lohr Vineyards & Wines; Scott Scheid, Schied Vineyards; Ken Shyvers, Dieageo; Hugh Reimers, Blackstone Winery; Anthony Pessagno, Pessagno winery; Paul Johnson, Lockwood Vineyards; Erik Martella, Estancia Winery; Jason Smith, Paraiso Vineyards and Michael Marcus, an outside director.

Wine Road Northern Sonoma County

Never heard of it? Try Russian River Wine Road, Sonoma County's largest winery association, which has just added its 150th vintner and changed its name to reflect its growing diversity. More than 30 years old, the Wine Road includes members from Russian River, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys. Executive director Beth Costa, who notes that initial membership was a mere nine wineries.
To accompany its new name, the association has adopted a new logo and launched a redesigned website, wineroad.com, with printable maps, travelogues and more features designed to bring traffic to its Northern Sonoma byways.

Name that association

Speaking of new identities, the group of wineries formerly known as the South Okanagan Wineries Association (SOWA) sent out an SOS for help in devising a new moniker. Founded in 2007, SOWA consists of more than 15 wineries in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. Trying to establish a recognizable presence and acronym, members admit that their best effort, "Oliver, Osoyoos Desert Wine Country Association," or OODWCA, somehow misses the mark. If you can come up with a winner by March 31, you and a guest "will be treated like royalty at the upcoming Banée, Oliver's 'secret' wine festival," scheduled for April 17 and 18.

The winning name should:
  • Not be longer than 40 characters
  • Aptly describe the group of wineries.
  • Evoke that this is Okanagan's biggest winegrape growing region.
  • Not be trademarked or used by any winery or winery association.
For complete details, visit ccltd.ca/namethatwineregion.
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