First North Coast wine expo draws 2,000

SANTA ROSA -- The first North Coast Wine Industry Expo recently in Santa Rosa attracted more than 2,000 attendees, organizers said today.

“We knew going in that the region was ready for a show of our own, but truthfully, this was much more successful than we could have imagined,” said George Christie, president of Healdsburg-based business-to-business online portal Wine Industry Network and one of the primary expo organizers. The Business Journal was the event's exclusive media sponsor.

In addition to a trade show with more than 200 wine industry exhibitors, the event on Dec. 5 in Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Grace Pavilion hosted four sold-out conference sessions:

The first panel covered viticulture, particularly what growers can do to manage contracts and labor at a time of high demand for grapes. Speakers were Hector Bedolla, owner of Grape Wise and ranch manager for Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty contract and real property attorney Caroline Boller, and Mark Chandler of wine and food marketing consulting firm Chandler & Company.

The second panel explored marketing, particularly related to connecting wineries directly to consumers. Discussing the value of social media in this pursuit as well as properly collecting and managing consumer data were social media critic Michael Houlihan, a founder of Barefoot Cellars, a management consultant with Houlihan & Jones and an investor in telesales firm Provino Wine Services; social networking analysis software developer and proponent Paul Mabray of Napa-based VinTank; and Ryan Thurman of Santa Rosa-based Contact Center Compliance Corp.

The third panel discussed production, specifically new versus long-used technologies. Winemaker speakers were Sara Fowler of Peju Province Winery on the Napa County side of Los Carneros appellation, Lisa Amaroli of Benziger Vineyards in Sonoma Valley and Nick Goldschmidt of Goldschmidt Vineyards near Healdsburg.

The fourth panel tackled strategies for managing deals with distributors and brokers in the coming year. On the panel were Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne Winery, Julie Pedroncelli St. John of Pedroncelli Winery and Janet Viader of Viader Vineyards.

Plans for expanding the educational sessions at next year’s event are already under way. Organizers also have started a exhibition booth waiting list for the 2013 expo (

"The feedback we’ve received from our exhibitors and attendees has been overwhelmingly positive," Mr. Christie said. “We already have a waiting list of suppliers that have expressed an interest in being a part of the Expo next year. Unfortunately we weren’t able to accommodate all of the suppliers that wanted in to this inaugural event, so next year, we’re making more room."

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