Posted by: Thomson Vineyards | January 28, 2010

Millennial Winos & Baby Boomer Farmers

Jennifer R. Thomson, Strategy & Development, Thomson Vineyards

I’m a Millennial and I feel fine about it. There I said it.

I’ve been pushing back on this label for several years now. Maybe because I was born in 1981 and just on the cusp of the generation. Maybe it’s because when I was working at Cal Poly and UC Davis as a fresh out of grad school young professional, it was hard to look at 18 year olds sitting in my corner office and identify with their Ugg wearing, Sparks drinking, social media mayhem causing antics. But I’m over it and I have the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium to thank for it.

Full disclosure, I was not at the Social Media & YOU Panel yesterday*. I admit I tried my best to bully my way onto the panel even challenging @eljefetwisted that if he wanted to go head to head with a Millennial, that I was available at 2 p.m. Apparently they had already filled the Millennial spot with @winemutineer who I’m assuming was the 26 year old some Old Timer in the back of the room was huffing about. Admittedly, I was doing what @AshleyBellview was doing, being a Millennial, sticking my tongue out and waving at these guys. But for good cause. CAWG and  Unified Wine & Grape Symposium organizers, the greater wine industry and even the panel itself, who very well could have self-regulated and challenged itself beyond the usual suspects and usual answers, I’m pretty sure left out three essential components to this discussion.

1. Women

According to the Wine Institute, women purchase 57 percent of the wine consumed in the United States.  Therefore, one would think the industry would be a bit more inclusive and encouraging of women. Now, anyone who’s met me knows I hold my own with the old guys pretty darn well. But when I attend Napa Valley Grapegrowers meetings, the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, or any other industry event for that matter I know that I represent the micro-minority (Side Note: I am fine with this. I know this is the landscape of the industry). However,  less than 10 percent of the population at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium yesterday were women and I think that should be noted.  Also, according to a Rapleaf study published in Business WeekFacebook users are 63% female and 36% male. So, just how was that 63% represented on the Social Media & YOU Panel? I believe they were not. Because we all know, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Paul, Alan, Jeff and Rick don’t live in Napa – they live on Mars. Okay, I don’t really know where they live, but you get the point. 0-1.

2. Growers

Paul, Alan, Jeff and Rick.  One runs a social media company, one has something to do with a magazine, one carries around a chicken and the other is an import from Colorado. I maintain that if the industry intends to recover, it must address and adequately represent the supply chain from beginning to end. From the clod kicking growers to the to the no guts no glory winemakers. From the (insert verb) distributors, to the marketing social media gurus sitting in the offices (not the vineyards or the cellars)  – in order to rebound. We hear a lot about telling your story, creating authentic relationships,  having a dialogue. You know which wineries my friends choose to spend their disposable income at? The wineries who let them walk the vineyard while drinking. I protest every time, because I spend a good deal of time in the vineyard as it is, but no – out we go to walk row by row in heels among the dirt clods. And then, we come back in the tasting room, each buy a case and head to the next farm-centric winery.  Supporting statistic: Next to the Boomers, us older Millennials have the second highest disposable income among the age groups, according to the US Census Bureau. So perhaps, the industry should get real about this age old grower vs. winery dispute and recognize that if you want to target the generation that has the deepest pockets, give them the story about the Farmer, talk to them about the fruit, truly recognize that the fruit, the Farmer, the vineyard makes a substantial contribution to wine, and ensure that component of the supply chain is adequately represented when considering the options. 0-2.

3. Efficiency, Business Operations, and Innovation

So what can the grower offer to the objective of shortening the supply chain and driving a stake in the ground as far as the industry goes? That brings me to my third point, which I suspect fell off the radar yesterday at Social Media & YOU.  Social Media has the capability to go beyond the usual answers. Dialogue, community, relationships, brand, B2C sales. Instead of going into lengthy detail, I instead offer this suggestion and ask you (respectfully) to acknowledge the potential to have an innovative, intelligent discussion beyond the usual answers and social media: Imagine the potential to sync grower relation reps, field and vineyard managers, winemakers and Farmers up via Twitter and use the tool to dispense valuable real time information about block rotation, pruning, spray applications, weather conditions, harvest schedules, picking crews, and delivery windows. The efficiencies created in that one idea alone, for the multiple wineries we  sell fruit to, for them to make wine into, and their marketing and sales departments to get into the hands of consumers already shortens the chain, makes our business operations leaner, our communications faster and ultimately acknowledges that without innovation, the industry will not survive. 0-3.

Where does all this leave us? Well, gentlemen yesterday I was the cute girl in the kahki dress and leopard print cardigan you were looking up and down as you passed me on the trade show floor. I was the one who exhibitors, brokerages, and all the rest were asking for two cards rather than just one – one for business one for personal use. I’m not complaining, it works for me. But beware, when you look me up and down, you’d better think twice about talking me down on the price point for the Napa Carneros Chardonnay I’m about to sell you. For that look it’ll cost you an extra $200/ton and word to the wise: check yourself when you go into negotiations with me. I remember each and every look.

I also didn’t write my MBA thesis on the Economic Status of the California Wine Industry and not plan to use it. I’m available to represent Growers, Women and Millennials on social media panels if you think you can handle going head to head with me. And yes I am sticking my tongue out at you right now, waving and saying “catch me if you can” because if the wine industry knows what’s good for it, it will sit up and listen to the Millennials and not just about how many bottles we can put away at happy hour and how we make our wine purchasing decisions  based on Yelp reviews; but you’ll listen to us about how to do things differently, more efficiently and ultimately make it a better industry for all you old men, ahhem, excuse me, I mean Baby Boomers.

*I did not attend the Social Media & YOU presentation yesterday, because as @eljefetwisted knows, the poor Farmers didn’t make enough profit this past year to warrant my paying $225, $425, $480, or $680 to attend the Educational Sessions. Instead, I was on the trade show floor creating better foundations for more stable relationships so that I can contract the 2010 Thomson Vineyards crop of Napa, Carneros Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Call me if you want to talk shop… social media or grapes, at 707.227.8745


  1. Very nice post! I’m not a Millennial. I’m a Gen-xer, but I’m also a woman. I hear you sista.

    I think you suggest some interesting ideas regarding the use of Twitter. While I’m not sure that Twitter would be the best tool to sync up your growers, farmers, etc. to discuss biz operations efficiences, it’s a good point and I have no doubt there are other digital media tools that would best serve this purpose. I think people focus these conversations only on Social Media. Unfortunately, that was the topic for unified. Social media tends to lend itself to conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Linked in vs. look at all media digital tools that are available in the toolbox such as Webinars, video, etc.

    You will be happy (I think) to hear that I am on a panel with Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW, Rick Bakas and Paul Mabray on Sat where we’ll be addressing the impact of digital media on the wine business to several MW candidates. I hope Mary and I will infuse something fresh into the conversation.

    Very best and thanks for the follow on Twitter.


  2. I indeed enjoyed reading your blog and mark in it both instructional and interesting. I fancy be fateful to bookmark it and stick out in it as again as I can.


    Bernice Franklin

    UGG Boots

  3. Cheeky! very Cheeky!! You got my attention for sure 🙂

    I am a Venusian on the cusp of Gen X – Gen Y (it has its merits), launching a wine brand for my germinating half (no pun intended) – the Gen Y!!! Putting a lot of thought into every detail : what wine, what message, how, when … but most importantly …why.

    Would love to chat with you sometime 🙂

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