Saturday, April 02, 2011

Virginia Rising by Jim Trezise

Virginia Rising by Jim Trezise The New York Wine Press April 2, 2011 For me, the highlight of this year's Wineries Unlimited conference was hearing back-to-back speeches by Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell and Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore at the "Best of the East" gala dinner. Their basic messages: We know that the wine industry is a major economic engine. Therefore, it is one our top priorities in terms of government support in all forms. Even though Virginia faces challenging financial times, we are investing an unprecedented amount of public dollars to support the growth and development of the Virginia wine industry. We will also use our bully pulpit to encouage citizens of the Commonwealth to consume Virginia wines. We want Virginia to be the #1 wine state on the east coast. Etc., etc. Wow! Do these guys get it or what? Through WineAmerica, the American Wine Society, and other organizations, I have known many wonderful Virginia colleagues for decades, and I could not be happier for them. But I also encourage them to seize the moment because it may not last. For one thing, in Virginia the system is "one and gone" for Governors who, by law, may not run for a second term; and who knows who will be next? In past years, the Virginia government has enacted some laws inhibiting the industry's growth and success and, perish the thought, that could happen again. Also, public funding support is highly cyclical and mercurial as we know so well in New York. Another example: Our friends in Texas had $3 million last year which is now at zero and may not return. In any case, it is very uplifting to hear the top public officials of a state--any state--recognize the importance of the wine industry and publicly commit to its success. Go Virginia! Hooray for Jim! It's an absolute shame New York state and Jim don't get this kind of commitment from the Governor's office in New York! And like Jim, I say Hooray for Virginia. Nice to see a state that gets it.