From Tradition to Metaverse, Napa Wine Symposium Features Old and New Ideas

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The 31st Annual Wine Industry Financial Symposium was held Wednesday and Thursday at the CIA in Copia, downtown Napa, giving people in the wine industry a chance to come together for a meeting of the minds. after harvest.

Topics for this year’s symposium included strategy, economic health, sustainability and the future of the industry. The event also allows industry workers to network and discuss the various industry issues they face.

On Thursday morning, Regine Rousseau, founder and CEO of Chicago-based wine and spirits marketing firm Shall We Wine, moderated a discussion between winemaker Cathy Corison of Corison Winery and winemaker and innovator Dan Petroski of Massican Winery.

A renowned winemaker for more than 35 years, Corison produces Cabernet Sauvignon in his family cellar from meticulously cultivated vines.

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Petroski, which was recently named Drinks Innovator of the Year 2022 by Food & Wine, sources 11 varietals from 11 vineyards. He started Massican in 2009 to craft Mediterranean-style white wines, which are not traditionally experienced in Napa Valley.

In a lively dialogue, Corison and Petroski discussed their opposing views on the evolution of consumer engagement, farming practices and the future of the wine industry.

The two winemakers have taken very different paths to success in the industry and, unsurprisingly, their plans for the future are opposite.

A conversation about climate change, trellis practices, and soil health pivoted to marketing, blockchain, and the metaverse, the concept of an immersive digital and virtual world that can be experienced through augmented reality devices.

When it comes to distributing its wine, Corison takes a three-tiered marketing approach in which it claims approximately 70% of its sales are direct to consumers. She credits hospitality to guests and an up-to-date website for her winery’s decades of success. And although Corison’s operation is quite small, producing some 3,000 cases a year, its wines are offered in high-end restaurants and sold in 18 countries.

Petroski’s approach differs from Corison’s, building on his previous career in consumer marketing and finance. He’s active on Instagram and TikTok, hosts a monthly virtual cooking class, and will plant a vineyard next year in a project that will allow consumers to understand their wines on a granular level — and online.

“In real time, I will record everything that happens on this vineyard until the wine is corked,” Petroski told the symposium audience.

Essentially, Petroski is curating an immersive consumer experience where consumers can access the sugar levels, harvest dates and fermentation temperatures of their wine at their fingertips using a scannable QR code with a smartphone.

Rousseau, the symposium moderator, was eager to discuss Corison’s traditional approach to marketing as well as Petroski’s avant-garde and experimental vision.

“I think it’s huge to have what I think is traditional thinking about wine and wine marketing, and (also) to have someone who’s quite on the other side where it’s at. It’s the metaverse, where it’s technology and science,” she said. “I think it led to a very good discussion.

“I’m so excited to have heard both sides of the story. I’m even more excited that people like Dan are bringing technology into our industry because it’s sorely needed.

Rousseau wasn’t the only one who was thrilled to hear Petroski talk about integrating technology into his winemaking practices.

“The interest in technology, the interest in bringing the farm and technology together, I see that as a really positive thing and I’m really glad we’re having this conversation,” said Erin Kirschenmann, editor-in-chief of Wine Business Monthly, which helped organize the Napa Symposium.

You can reach Danielle Wilde at 707-256-2212 or [email protected].

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