Wine Industry Leader

SSU Positioned as Industry Leader with Government Hearing on Wine Business
November 2, 2015

Sonoma State University will further establish itself as an important player in the future of California's wine business industry when it hosts a joint hearing of the California Senate and Assembly Select Committees on Wine on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2-4:30 p.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

Legislators will hear from a panel of industry experts during a hearing on the future of the industry that generates an economic impact of more than $60 billion annually. Topics include the state's drought and farmworker housing and education.

"The presence of this hearing is really a turning point for Sonoma State, for the Wine Business Institute, and for the academic talent amassed here on campus," said SSU political science professor David McCuan.

Assemblymember Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) are respective chairs of the Assembly and Senate Select Committees on Wine.

"The wine industry has a significant impact in our region and across the entire state. That's why it's critical to bring the Assembly and Senate Select Committees on Wine to the heart of Wine County to hear firsthand from the experts and evaluate how the state can improve our policies," said Assemblymember Dodd. "I could think of no better host than Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute for this important hearing, and I look forward to strengthening the partnership between the legislature and SSU."

Hearings like this are often "info gathering" sessions, says McCuan, and are used to help generate new policy ideas and bring new information to legislators and their staff on a given topic. "The fact that this hearing is on campus illustrates how important the university's Wine Business Institute is to policymakers and opinion leaders on what the future of the wine industry looks like in California," he said.

Dean of the School of Business and Economics William Silver says the university serves as a convener of different groups and thought leaders of the wine business world seeking common ground on today's toughest challenges. "Questions of sustainability, inclusion and innovation represent the pressing and significant issues of our time," he said. "Our hope and expectation is that this discussion will facilitate public policies that make sense for California's wine industry and its workers, families and businesses, both today and for generations to come. We look forward to working with Chair Dodd and Chair Wolk on legislative solutions to the challenges faced by one of California's most dynamic industries."

The hearing will address issues impacting the California wine industry and will be structured as three panel discussions: water and sustainability issues; labor and farmworker housing; and innovation and entrepreneurship in wine-related education.

Growing with the Drought: Water and Sustainability in Wine Agriculture" panel experts include: Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines; Susan Boswell of Chateau Boswell Wines; Amrith Gunasckara, science advisor for California's Department of Food and Agriculture; Jim Verhey of Verhey Advisors; Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma County Water Agency; and John Stayton, executive director of MBA programs at SSU, including the Wine Business MBA and Executive MBA.

"Cultivating the Future of the Industry: Strengthening Farmworker Housing" panel experts include: Larry Florin, Napa County director of housing and intergovernmental affairs; Pete Richmond with Napa Valley Farmworker Foundation; Laura Whittall-Scherfee, deputy director of California's Department of Housing and Community Development; and Angel Calderon, manager of River Ranch farmworker housing.

"Cultivating the Future of the Industry: Promoting Awareness of Wine Education Programs" panel experts include: David Block, viticulture and enology department chair at U.C. Davis; and Ray Johnson, director of the Wine Business Institute at SSU.

For more information contact the School of Business and Economics at 707.664.3501 or visit

Media Contact

Nicolas Grizzle