WSWA Leadership Conference Wraps in Austin with Record 89 Attendees

Jul 26, 2017
One of the beverage alcohol industry’s most popular and long-running training and development programs for rising executives concluded last week with record-breaking attendance and participation.

One of the beverage alcohol industry’s most popular and long-running training and development programs for rising executives concluded last week with record-breaking attendance and participation.  The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Council for Leadership Development (CLD) Leadership Skills Conference was held July 16-18 at the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, Texas with 89 distributor executives attending from every corner of the country.

“For over two decades, the WSWA CLD program has provided a training ground to equip rising executives with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in a constantly-changing business climate.  This year’s event set a high bar, arming executives with information, deeper industry connections and understanding.  CLD is truly one of WSWA’s best legacies and a program we are proud to offer for our members,” WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf said.

“A special thanks is due to our industry partners and supporters who help make this event possible, and to supplier partners Born and Bred as well as Deep Eddy and Tito’s Handmade Vodka for giving us all a Texas-style welcome to a truly great American city,” Wolf added.

This year’s program featured several panel discussions showcasing some of the industry’s top brands and faces sharing their expertise as well as impactful keynote presentations from industry advisors and senior executives.

Speakers and panelists included:

  • Amy Hoopes, President of Wente Family Estates and a former top executive at E & J Gallo, spoke about empowering women leaders and her experience with leadership, mentorship and working within family-owned companies;

  • John Esposito, Chairman of Real McCoy Spirits and a 40-year industry veteran of Moet Hennessy, Bacardi North America and High West Distillery, among others, shared his insights on leading in the fast-changing world of beverage alcohol;

  • Mark Teasdale, President and CEO of Proximo Spirits delivered an overview of spirits industry changes, brand and segment growth trends and lessons learned over his long career;

  • Steve Fox, Director of VS Strategies, talked about state-level ballot initiatives to legalize/decriminalize marijuana, impacts on the beverage industry and state tax revenues as well as federal policy issues related to the rapidly-expanding group of states where marijuana has been (and is expected to be) legalized;

  • Jean-Charles Boisset, Proprietor, Boisset Collection, talked about his family’s history in the French winemaking industry, its expansion in Napa, and insights on connecting and sharing passion while engaging with customers;

  • Danny Brager, Senior Vice President, Beverage Alcohol Practice, Nielsen, provided an up-to-the-minute look at the latest on- and off-premise beverage sale trends and a look at traits shared by successful recent launches and repositioned brands alike;

  • Scott Metzger, Founder of Freetail Brewing Co., led a panel discussion looking at the hot craft beer segment offering expert perspective from prominent regional brewing pros that included Kevin Lemp, Founder, 4 Hands Brewing; Rob Cartwright, Co-Founder, Independence Brewing; and, Paul Kirbabas, Chief Revenue Officer, Sweetwater Brewing;

  • Philana Bouvier, Senior Vice President, New Business Development, Young’s Market Company, led a panel discussion about managing and shaping a family-owned brand in a changing marketplace.  Panelists included: Jennifer Engel, Vice President of Sales, Santa Margherita, USA; Vittorio Marzotto, Owner, Business Development Director, Santa Margherita USA; Riana Mondavi, Co-Proprietor, Dark Matter Wines, Aloft Wines, C. Mondavi & Family and Director of National Accounts On-Premise, C. Mondavi & Family; and, Reagan Rombauer, 3rd Generation Rombauer Family, Sales and Marketing Support Manager, Rombauer Vineyards;

  • Don Carlson, attorney and leadership consultant with Lansberg Gersick,spoke on managing leadership, transitions and family engagement in closely-held family-owned businesses;

Sessions also included in-depth briefings from cutting-edge industry technology companies: Ken Aufiero, Executive Vice President, Sales, Beer, Wine & Spirits Networks, Moblty; Eric Ludwig, CMO/CDO Moblty; and Andy Ellwood, Co-Founder and President, Basket.

Sponsor presentations and support were provided by long-time CLD Leadership Skills Conference partner Inventiv Software, as well as Idealease, and Beverage Media Group.  WSWA staff members also provided updates on government affairs, PAC and communications programs in support of distributor members.

The program began with an evening cocktail reception featuring a welcome from Republic National Distributing Company Partner and WSWA Past Chairman Alan Dreeben. Over the next three evenings, the group worked in some fun off-site socializing including an evening meet-up sponsored by Born and Bred Vodka, a river cruise sponsored by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and an evening tour and gathering at Heaven Hill Brands’ Deep Eddy Distillery.  

The WSWA CLD Leadership Skills Conference, curriculum and program is assembled by the group’s Advisory Board: Chairman David Rosenberg, Hartley & Parker Limited, Inc.; Vice Chairman Michael Hertz, United Distributors, Inc.; Secretary Lee Hastings, Moon Distributors, Inc.; Treasurer Chad Stone, Breakthru Beverage Group; At Large Member Hamilton Callison, Breakthru Beverage Group; and At Large Member Philana Bouvier, Young’s Market Company.  Lacey Sadoff, Badger Liquor Company, was elected to join the Advisory Board; Sadoff and Philana Bouvier are also members of the WSWA Women’s Leadership Council Advisory Board.

WSWA is the national trade association representing the wholesale tier of the wine and spirits industry, dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of wholesalers, distributors and brokers of wine and spirits.  Founded in 1943, WSWA has more than 370 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia, and its members distribute more than 80 percent of all wine and spirits sold at wholesale in the U.S.  Visit to learn more.