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Local Government

Two Napa County supervisors to attend Germany wine confab — virtually

From the Napa Valley Wine Insider Digest: Oct. 16, 2021 series
Great Wine Capitals logo

Great Wine Capitals is a network of 10 wine regions globally.

Two Napa County supervisors usually travel each year to a foreign country for the Great Wine Capitals Global Network conference, but this year there’s a twist.

Supervisors Alfredo Pedroza and Ryan Gregory will be participating in the conference to be held from Oct. 24 to Oct. 29 in Mainz, Germany. But instead of flying to the Rhineland for meetings and winery tours, they’ll stay in Napa Valley and use their computers.

Chalk it up to Delta variant pandemic precautions and opportunities offered by modern technology. What is usually a marriage of business and pleasure on the taxpayer’s dime will be one more Zoom meeting.

“We’re going to miss out on a couple of things,” Pedroza said on Monday. “We’re going to participate as much as we can virtually.”

Meanwhile, the conference will proceed as a live event in Germany, for those who choose to go there.

Virtual attendance could lend itself to such conference sessions as the “think tank” on innovative ideas for wine tourism after COVID-19 and the effects of climate change on viticulture. The same is true of the executive committee working session.

But the boat trip on the Rhine River to a world heritage site, wine tasting at the Chateau Schembs and the international gala closing ceremony don’t translate to computer participation. Those are some of the events listed in the conference program.

That gala as described in the program includes an “exclusive three-course meal." It is to take place in the ornate Electoral Palace, where the Archbishop of Mainz lived during the latter part of the Holy Roman Empire.

Besides San Francisco/Napa Valley, the Great Wine Capitals are Adelaide, South Australia; Bilbao/Rioja, Spain; Lausanne, Switzerland; Mainz/Rheinhessen, Germany; Mendoza, Argentina; Porto, Portugal; Valparaiso/Casablanca Valley, Chile and Verona, Italy. Each year, one hosts the annual conference.

Napa County usually sends two county supervisors and the county agricultural commissioner as the government representatives. The county in 2020 allotted a total of $17,500 for travel and conference expenses for the three.

This year, the county doesn't need to allot money for the conference. There is no fee for virtual attendance.

County officials have long said the Great Wine Capitals conference is no mere junket but has tangible benefits. One example they give is how contacts made at the conference helped the county in 2009 respond to an outbreak of the vineyard-maiming European grapevine moth.

Pedroza on Monday said a drawback with the virtual participation this year is not experiencing the community and not having in-person meetings.

Napa County last made a trip to the Great Wine Capitals conference in 2019, when Supervisors Diane Dillon and Brad Wagenknecht traveled to Bordeaux, France.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to learn about the competition,” Dillon said after returning.

The 2020 conference was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. County supervisors also didn’t attend the 2017 conference in Chile because Napa County was dealing with Tubbs, Atlas and Nuns wildfire recovery.

Napa Valley Vintners and Visit Napa Valley typically send representatives as well, but not at taxpayers’ expense. Pedroza said the entire Napa County contingent is attending virtually this year.

It remains to be seen whether the Napa contingent will be attending next year’s Great Wine Capitals conference live. That event is to be held in Mendoza, Argentina.

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You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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