Wine Executive Grad Touts Program

Registration open now for 2011 course at the University of California, Davis

by Emilee Schumer
uc davis wine executive program
Many Wine Executive Program courses are held at the Maurice J. Gallagher Jr. Hall, home to the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.
Davis, Calif.—A registration packet arrived last week from the University of California, Davis Wine Executive Program, reminding me all over again that even in these tough economic times, the wine industry continues to invest in its future. The program, hosted by the Graduate School of Management and the Department of Viticulture & Enology at UC Davis, will be back in March for an 11th year, with a full schedule of lectures and networking opportunities for folks in the wine industry.

Last year, my boss invited me to attend the program, a rare treat for a busy circulation manager who spends most of her day buried beneath spreadsheets, far removed from the action of harvest or tasting room sales meetings. I jumped at the opportunity to get out of the office and learn more about the industry that provides me with a paycheck.

During the course of the four-day schedule, an array of experts lectured on topics ranging from how to tackle vineyard pests to marketing for the wine industry. Marc Rafael, who oversees business operations at Domaine George Rafael in Napa, Calif., said that for him, the highlight of the program was the diversity of perspectives. “I especially enjoyed Alison Crowe’s discussion (‘Winery Challenges: Maximizing Quality in Today’s Economic Environment’) because she had hands-on experience with winemaking, but was learning the business side through her MBA program. She brought a really interesting perspective.”

The program took place on the UC Davis campus for the first time last year; previously it was hosted in nearby Sacramento. Being in Davis allowed our class to tour the heralded Robert Mondavi Institute and see first-hand the extensive work going into building the first-ever LEED Platinum-certified winery that will serve Davis’ student winemakers. We also got to attend classes in the impressive sensory lab, where students learn to evaluate food and wine with help from technology.

Something for everyone
While the facilities and content of some of the sessions were interesting to a five-year industry veteran with no prior knowledge of phylloxera or the meaning of “strategic cost management,” I found the group of attendees most inspiring. There were approximately 60 of us from all over the globe, including India, Argentina, China and both coasts of the United States. Peter Mitham, our Wines & Vines Northwest correspondent, trekked down from Vancouver, B.C., to participate. “For what wasn’t supposed to be an international course, it turned out to be very diverse,” Rafael commented.

In addition to the geographic diversity, the group came from a wide range of career backgrounds. Every corner of the industry seemed to be represented, from winemakers and winery owners to importers and marketing directors. “There was something in it for everybody,” Rafael said.

The number of new faces surprised me most. Despite a tough economy and rumors of winery closures, I was pleasantly surprised by the troves of people changing careers and looking to get into the wine industry. Rafael is new to the industry himself after several years in hotel sales, and he saw the Wine Executive Program as a smart way to get acclimated quickly. “It was a brilliant learning opportunity in a short space of time,” he said.

Time will tell if the tools provided by the program’s lectures and seven-pound binder pay off, but the group of upbeat, friendly classmates sent me home feeling confident and hopeful about the industry’s future.

Registration is open for the 2011 program, with early bird discounts available if you sign up before Feb. 4. Early registration is $4,200 for the entire four-day program and $3,700 without the Monday Boot Camp. The program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2011, and more information is available online at wineexecutiveprogram.com.

Emilee Schumer is the circulation manager of Wines & Vines.
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