Orlando, Fla.—The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) 68th Annual Convention & Exposition concluded in Orlando with a General Business Session featuring former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Close to 1,900 WSWA members and suppliers from leading wine and spirits companies attended the three-day convention that featured several successful new attractions.
New this year were general sessions on all three days. The Opening General Session featured retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, a former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan. The second day keynoter was Daniel Okrent, author, editor and actor, who recently published "Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition" (2010).
During the third day General Business Session, WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf delivered his remarks with the backdrop of his upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Wolf, who is also a captain in the U.S. Army Reserves, JAG Corps, talked about the successes of this year’s convention and how pleased he was overall. “WSWA’s convention has evolved to include exciting tasting and mixology competitions, educational sessions and enhanced media opportunities for our supplier partners. We also developed online electronic registration capability, as well as a streamlined and efficient onsite check-in process.” This year’s convention attracted over 120 exhibitors and more than 100 hospitality suite participants.
Wolf praised the successful new Wholesaler “Iron Mixologist” Competition (sponsored by The Tasting Panel magazine) and the continued participation of famed mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim. “These new events, along with our ever popular 'Opening Night Reception/Taste of the Industry,' created opportunities for our suppliers—large and small—to market their products. We hope they will continue to take advantage of the opportunities our convention offers,” concluded Wolf.
During the closing day, Wolf also presented WSWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Bill Goldring, Chairman of the Sazerac Company and Crescent Crown Distributing Company. In presenting the award, Wolf acknowledged Goldring as a longtime friend and supporter of WSWA, stating, “He has served on our board since 1966 and is our longest-serving board member.” Wolf went on to say, “Bill has dedicated his entire career—more than 45 years—to the beverage alcohol business. This award is a wonderful and much-deserved recognition of his many contributions to the industry that he has helped to transform.”
Upon accepting the award, Goldring stated, “The three-tier system has served me, and all of you, very well for the better part of a century now. It has been a true godsend.” He reminded the audience that, “The wholesalers’ work has benefitted suppliers, retailers and consumers.” However, he added this caution: “Should any one of the tiers get greedy and think for a second they can live without each other, and we don’t hang together, we will hang separately.”
Today’s keynote address was given by former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy Bill Richardson. Richardson, who also served two terms as Governor of New Mexico, spoke about the positive impact WSWA members have on the economy as they are a source of good paying jobs. Richardson also stated he agreed alcohol regulation should remain at the state level within the legislatures.
After Richardson’s remarks, Wolf presented the new “Hot, New, Now” Media Award to TY KU White Sake, as voted on by registered media representatives attending the convention. Accepting for TY KU was CEO Andrew Chrisomalis, Danny Primo, head of Southeast Sales and Mike Howard, National Executive Vice President.
Wolf closed the meeting by inviting all to attend next year’s convention, which will take place at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas April 2-5, 2012.