Here’s a stormy weather welcome to the attendees and speakers of the 12th Annual Symposium For Professional Wine Writers taking place this week!
A busy several days of tastings, seminars and networking await the 30 writers and the prestigious presenters, who hail from all points of the compass–Canada, England, Asia, Bordeaux, New Zealand, Florida, Nevada, Texas, New York, Washington D.C., Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Alameda.
Then, of course, the Symposium dovetails into Premiere Napa Valley, on Saturday, which is generating its own momentum with events taking place all over the Valley this week.
Hats off to the diverse number of topics being discussed, wines being tasted, wineries being profiled, vineyards being tromped through and vintners being interviewed. Wouldn’t it benefit all of us who are marketers in the wine business to understand how to improve our communication skills, learn how to ask the most perceptive questions, ferret out the hottest trends, as this lucky group is able to do this week? What a terrific opportunity for this group of attendees this year.
However, it is unfortunate that the Symposium attendees won’t be learning about the most important issue in Napa Valley today: that would be the cloud of anti-winery sentiment hanging over the Valley these days.
Try to go get a new winery permit today in Napa County: it can take years.
Try to plan an expansion or a re-model: it could take years. Want to revisit how many visitors your winery can receive? Good luck: your neighbors are watching…and counting…and will show up at your hearing to protest.
You could even say there’s a de facto moratorium on all winery development right now.
A small group of noisy activists are trying to go viral with their list of complaints about life in the Napa Valley. What’s a winery to do? If an entrepreneur comes here with the hope of starting a winery, that heretofore-successful skill set won’t apply.
What is APAC, a writer from New Zealand might ask?
Here in the heart of prestigious wine country, local officials have wondered about “how much marketing is too much marketing?” And a new term is being used to stir up anti-winery feeling: “binge tourism.” That’s used to denigrate a winery including hospitality events as part of its marketing and sales.
Here’s another new term being used derogatively: “event centers.” Anti-winery folk are trying to persuade the public that wineries aren’t really wineries, but “event centers masquerading as wineries.”
Then there are the articulate long-time vintners who are trying to remind everyone that Napa must compete on a world stage in a hideously competitive marketplace. Here’s just a glimpse of the issues at stake:
“Long-term agricultural sustainability is not possible without economic viability. ….Napa’s agricultural future comes down to only two options. First, to keep Napa Valley in agriculture we must all realize and embrace the fact that our wine industry must be dynamic, innovative and vibrant — it needs to be able to change with the times or it will die. The wine industry of today is not the wine industry of yesterday, nor will it be the wine industry of tomorrow. The second option is to give in to all the naysayers and their continuing fight for a Napa Valley of the past.”
What an enormously complex topic the Napa Valley wine industry is….here’s hoping we may have intrigued a writer or two to look beyond the Symposium schedule. Might be worth mentioning that these issues are starting to appear in other wine regions as well…..