April 7th, 2016
Recently, I attended the winter meeting of the Wholesale Beer and Wine Association of Ohio. It was an easy excuse to get out of Ohio and into Napa Valley. One of the mornings, we had three speakers, veterans of the industry, share their experiences with us:
Stu Harrison, a Shaker Heights native, spoke of his 40 years in the valley. After college, he began his wine career at Schloss Johannisberg. From there, he worked at Almaden, was the first National Sales Manager for the new Domaine Chandon, and then became the first non-family employee for Opus-One. Additionally, he had stints at Wilson-Daniels, Swanson, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, La Familgia, and Continuum. Now, as a well-aged Sales Executive, he has his own brand, Trivium.
Next was John Skupny: I first met John in 1980 when he worked for Vintage Wine Merchants. VWM was a great marketing company that represented some of the premier wineries of California. John worked for Charlie Wagner – the original – Caymus, Clos du Val, and Niebaum-Coppola, was the head of the Napa Vintners Association and now, with his wife, runs the Lang & Reed Wine Company.
Finally, Glenn Workman, VP and General Manager of Napa Operations for the Robert Mondavi Winery spoke. Glenn began his career with RM in 1975. As with many in the wine industry, he refers to the founder as Mister Mondavi. Among other topics, he spoke of the graciousness of Mr. Mondavi and his desire to share his winery’s experiences with everyone.
Some other quick facts pointing to the change in our industry:
1975: One Hotel in Napa Valley: Silverado Country Club
1975: 25 wineries in Napa, now there are 450 producing 6,000 labels
Vines were mostly Head Pruned vines
Largest Ag crop: Walnuts and Prunes
1976: Wine Spectator first published – in a newsprint format
1978: Robert Parker publishes his news letter
1970s: Wine Styles: almost all wines were 12.5 to 13.5 alcohol
Grapes at really high sugar levels were rejected by wineries
To Kalon vineyard was planted in part to Alicante Bouchet and Burger
1981: Napa became an AVA, now there are 16 AVAs in Napa Valley
1993: Robert Mondavi Winery became a publically owned winery, needed cash to replant vineyards impacted by phylloxera
1997: 125 members of Napa Vintners Association, now there are 525
2004: Robert Mondavi Winery purchased by Constellation
Clearly, our industry is evolving at a fast pace; we are all fortunate to be a part of such a dynamic industry.