Wednesday, February 27, 12-1:30 p.m.
By Karen Wright, Savvy Company

Keynote Speaker: Jon Bonné

Top Highlight: Being inspired by the stories of the “New California Winemakers” visionaries: Duncan Meyers, Nathan Roberts, Paul Draper, and Josh Jensen.

Best Quote: “Some wine regions struggle to evolve due the ‘Sin of Proximity'” – Jon Bonné

Lessons Learned:
• It’s very difficult to have a frank discussion and insightful perspective regarding a wine region when one is IN that region and bursting with local pride.
• Canada is fortunate as our diversity of winemakers means there is more of a balance of power.
• Our wine industry needs to keep evolving to stay with or ahead of today’s consumer.
• Finding your own path is key to ensure Canadian wineries differentiate themselves.

Over a delicious buffet lunch, celebrated wine writer and author of “The New California Wine”, Jon Bonné shared his thoughts and insights on the lessons that Canada can glean from California’s experience and transformation. If you hadn’t heard before now, a new generation of winemakers has emerged in California; people like Nathan Roberts, Duncan Meyers who forged their own path, much like Paul Draper and Josh Jensen did before them. The “New California Winemakers” didn’t follow the popular style trends prominent in California at the time, but instead focused on the wine they wanted to make; their own reinterpretation of the past. Happily, or perhaps luckily, these small producers were at the forefront, leading a sea change to a fresh new style of California wines… and they were just ahead of the new consumer.

• Lesson #1. The “Sin of Proximity”. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you are in the middle of it. Both critics and winemakers are at risk of developing “Cellar Palate”. In California, this “sin” resulted the wine industry becoming static, producing the same overripe, fruity style of wine with chart topping alcohol levels, year after year… even as consumer tastes were changing.
• Lesson #2. How quickly things change. People today embrace what’s new, good and cool…almost immediately. The industry needs to be better attuned to rapid change.
• Lesson #3. Never place all your bets on the obvious. Chardonnay started as a fringe variety, but now there is over 100,000 acres planted in California. Jon challenged our winemakers asking: “Do you want to be the 281st winery selling chardonnay? If you do, how will you differentiate yourself?”
• Lesson #4. Innovation is quick. Pioneering is a longer haul. Success can come quickly but developing a sustainable path is harder. The legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards couldn’t get one of his wine reviewed by Robert Parker for years… but he persevered and became a legend.
Jon left us with this thought. “The path to success is never the one you can (easily) predict.”