Wine Industry Network's George Christie gets special recognition at 2019 Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards

George Christie

President and CEO

Wine Industry Network

155 Foss Creek Circle, Healdsburg, CA 95448


For creating the Healdsburg-based Wine Industry Network of business information and the annual WINExpo, which draws about 3,000 professionals, George Christie wins one of North Bay Business Journal's Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards for 2019.

The Business Journal asked Christie about the impact of his organization.

Detail your background in the industry:

I got my start in the wine industry working for a small family-owned winery, Lake Sonoma Winery, in 1995.

What was great about that job, in particular, was that the winery was so small that everyone was required to help with whatever happened to be going on at the time.

For example, when we were bottling, or during harvest, everyone helped. When we held an event, we all worked it together. Because of this hands-on approach, I was also able to spend time the vineyard which taught me a lot about the actual farming side of the industry and was invaluable for me as my career continued.

Although the majority of my career was spent in the sales, marketing and management side of the business, my time working at Lake Sonoma Winery gave me a solid foundation and understanding of the different aspects of the business, regardless of the size of the wine companies that I worked for later.

Lake Sonoma Winery eventually sold to Korbel Champagne Cellars, and I had the good fortune of being able to work at Korbel for the next five years. I loved working there and being a part of such an iconic brand. It was a great continuation of my wine industry education, this time from the perspective of a much larger, well established company.

From Korbel I was offered the position as general manager at Alderbrook Vineyards and Winery. There I had the opportunity to work for the Terlato organization, which allowed me the opportunity to learn a lot more about the wholesale channel from an extremely successful wine company.

Three years later, I moved on to Beam Wine Estates, a large and successful wine and spirts organization. I had a marketing role there, which was incredibly educational.

Most impressive to me during my corporate wine company period was the quality of the people that I worked with. I remember vividly how often I was impressed with the caliber of my coworkers. Those people are still, to this day, the smartest most talented group of colleagues I ever had the pleasure of working with.

In 2008, I left my position with Beam Wine Estates to launch a small wine brand and a consulting company. It was during that time that I started to think a lot about industry vendors, bottles, barrels, corks suppliers, etc., and how they marketed themselves to winery and vineyards operations. Ultimately, that is where the idea behind Wine Industry Network came from, and I launched the business in 2009, along with my partner and industry veteran, Elizabeth Slater. For the last 10 years, growing Wine Industry Network has been my primary focus.

Describe the impact your company or you have had on the industry in the last 10 years:

Over the last 10 years, Wine Industry Network (WIN) has evolved from a simple online directory to the largest marketing company, focused exclusively on promoting suppliers and service professionals servicing winery and vineyard operations, in North America.

Today, WIN also produces the second largest trade show and conference in the wine industry along with conferences that tackle topics that range from succeeding in the wholesale channel, to the impact that legal cannabis will have on wine.

In addition to the industry events, WIN also produces the “Afternoon Brief,” a daily summary of industry news, which has become the industry's most popular newsletter with more than 34,000 industry subscribers. Our editorial site, the “Wine Industry Advisor,” has more than a million page views per year.

What are the accomplishments you can list to support that impact on the industry?

The concept behind WIN was inspired by the traditional trade show model where you attend once a year to meet vendors and see what new products are available to improve your business, but, I couldn't help but wonder, when you leave the show, what happens next? An idea started to form, and I knew I there could be something better.

Better for everyone, the vendors, the wineries, vineyard operations and professionals all looking to stay as informed as possible on industry happenings.

It would be a resource that wine professionals could access 24 hours a day, all year long to find information and connect with vendors and the key would be to provide valuable information in an accessible way that benefits everyone. I'm proud to say that we've come a long way in achieving this, but also that we're not done. We're continuing to research and develop new ways to serve the industry every day.

We will always embrace and support the startup mentality and value innovation, which is why we started our annual WINnovation Award program in 2013. The objective is to celebrate companies that bring innovation to the wine industry and help spread awareness about new products and services that help propel our industry forward.

What changes have you noticed in your industry in the last five years and how have you and/or your company moved to capitalize on those changes?

In many ways the wine industry hasn't changed that much in the last five, or even 25 years. At its core, it's still about growing the best grapes that you can, turning those grapes into the very best wine, and working really hard to sell that wine in the marketplace.

There are, of course, changes.

The number of wineries that now exist, and with that, the level of competition to contend with. The impact that technology is having on our industry, in every aspect, from the vineyard through production to the tasting room, sales & marketing, and, of course, in management is undeniable.

The amount of data that now exists and is accessible, is unprecedented and harvesting it is key to success going forward.

Wine Industry Network's primary mission is to be the best business resource for the industry. Our role is to do all we can to ensure that industry professionals are aware of the latest products, services, news, and insights that collectively might make the difference between surviving and thriving.

George Christie

President and CEO

Wine Industry Network

155 Foss Creek Circle, Healdsburg, CA 95448


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