Expo speakers to cover viticulture, marketing, production, direct sales

SANTA ROSA -- North Coast Wine Industry Expo, set for Dec. 5 in Santa Rosa, will feature a dozen local wine industry experts in growing, production, law, marketing and sales.

The four expo conference sessions will have three speakers each and run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The expo is being held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The first panel will cover viticulture, particularly what growers can do to manage contracts and labor at a time of high demand for grapes. Speakers include 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.

Ms. Boller plans to lead a a discussion of key contractual protections for growers when negotiating grape purchase agreements, followed by the status of vineyard management companies under California law and implications for vineyard management agreements.

Next will be a panel discussion of 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 will be 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.

"Building the Barefoot brand from coast to coast, we found there is no substitute for direct, real time communication," Mr. Houlihan said. "People buy from people and especially where larger sums are involved. Telephone communication can provide the level of personalized attention necessary to sell higher priced wine at full price."

"Balancing compliance and marketing in the age of increased social media and regulatory enforcement trends requires an evolving overall strategy," Mr. Thurman said. "Discover the hidden demographics behind wireless users and learn how to target wine prospects with better data."

The production panel will explore new versus long-used technologies. Speakers include winemakers 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.

Tackling strategies for managing deals with distributors and brokers in the coming year will be Dan Kosta, of Kosta Browne Winery; Julie Pedroncelli St. John of Pedroncelli Winery, and Janet Viader of Viader Vineyards.

"Managing national distribution for a small winery -- 4,000 cases -- it is sometimes hard to get a response from national distributors," Ms. Viader said. Her advice will be on establishing good communication with them, getting them to pay attention to such a small brand, balancing distribution between on- and off-premise markets, and winning placements on national wine lists with higher prices.

Ms. Pedroncelli St. John plans to share her quarter century of experience in marketing her family's small-winery brand in the U.S. three-tier distribution system as well as for export.

"I am more an on-the-road brand ambassador, telling our story both via sales meetings as well as one-on-one sales calls with distributor reps," she said.

Mr. Kosta will focus on Kosta Browne's approach to limited distribution of a primarily direct-to-consumer brand via the three-tier system and allocation.  

North Coast Wine Industry Expo (707-433-2557, wineindustryexpo.com) will have 190 exhibitors in Grace Pavilion at the fairgrounds. Click here for a PDF of the vendor map and key.

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