- Joseph Gallo, president and CEO of the E&J Gallo Winery, brought bullish reassurance to California wine grape growers: “This year we have already signed 10,000 acres of long term contracts for grapes."
- Gallo said the market for U.S. wine could double in the next decade.
- Gallo has a plan to avoid importing bulk wine from foreign suppliers, pointing to what he said was “an astounding number” — the equivalent of 300,000 tons of grapes imported as bulk wine in 2010.
DiBuduo pointed to regions where production was reduced significantly by inclement weather. Rains cut production more than 15 percent on the North Coast and rains and frost dropped production more than 34 percent on the Central Coast.
He said California shipments were still up by 8 percent for 2011, but imports remained high: “4.4 percent on a big number.” He pointed to a chart that showed that the number of “core” wine drinkers doubled in the U.S between 2000 and 2010.
DiBuduo and others at the forum talked of the challenge of reaching millennials, those born between 1980 and 1995. He said they have “no allegiance to domestic versus foreign” wines, and they are “economically challenged.”
Rob McMillan, founder of Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division, said millennials have seen a significant decline in their net worth and the nation is seeing “the largest gap ever between young and old” in net worth.
McMillan stressed the importance of social media in reaching younger would-be customers. “You need to dabble in social media,” he said.
Tony Correia, a leading authority on the valuation of vineyards and wineries, talked of “a fragile global market,” given “meltdowns in Greece, Italy and now Spain.”
He said the “cheap is chic” approach to wine-buying lingers, and “there is a tremendous amount of discounting of wines, sales of a $20 bottle of wine that used to be $30.”
While it remains costly to develop vineyards, he said, there continues to be a market for “good dirt with good water.”
“Trophy” vineyards continue to demand high prices, he said.
John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said deficits at the state and federal level “threaten to devour the wealth of future generations.”
He talked of labor legislation that includes Senate Bill 126 that he believes will make it easier for the Agricultural Labor Relations Board to conclude unfair labor practices took place.
“My concern is that people can allege ticky-tacky violations of the process,” Aguirre said.
He also said there are concerns about some efforts under a “reasonable and beneficial use doctrine” to look at encouraging less water intensive crops.
He anticipates some tough going as a 2012 farm bill evolves and cost-cutters in Washington wrestle with what will go to farmers and what will go to the elderly and social services.
The winegrowers association presented lifetime awards to Luther Khachigian of Visalia for his work with nurseries and development of rootstocks and grape varieties and to Paul L. Dismukes, a 63-year veteran of the wine grape industry from Escalon who was a buyer and grower relations manager for Paul Masson Vineyards.