Moving Beyond Survival: A Preview of Growth Strategies for Wine & Spirits Brands in the US Market in 2022

Sonoma Wine Business Institute

Vinexpo America | Drinks America and the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, a global leader in wine business education and research, present: Growing Brands in the US Market.

This 6-webinar series explores topics critical to brands looking to enter or expand in the US. The goal of the education series is to help producers navigate and better understand the complexities of working in the US market. Each webinar features industry experts discussing the latest developments in the industry, beverage alcohol laws and regulations, opportunities for market entry and expansion, and case studies of successful brands.

Moving Beyond Survival: A Preview of Growth Strategies for Wine & Spirits Brands in the US Market in 2022


This panel brings together experts with a wide spectrum of industry experience who share their projections on what 2022 might look like from their perspective in the wine and spirits value chain. They discuss national and local strategies for brands and what they are doing new and different to cope with a changed landscape. The panelists report on consumer insights and how they see the wine world better engaging with consumers post Covid. The panel also explores what key media elements a producer should be prepared with in order to engage both the media and consumers in 2022, including harnessing social media to make an impact.


Cara BertoneCara Bertone, Director of Sales, Avaline Wine; Co-founder, Be the Change

Cara Bertone is the Director of Sales for Avaline, a premium, natural clean wine company. There she oversees Avaline’s distribution footprint, national and strategic chain account business, pricing strategy, key account relationships and overall performance and growth goals. Cara has held leadership roles across every channel of the wine industry, starting as a Beverage Director in 2002, a Fine Wine Import Specialist for the 2nd largest distributor in the U.S., and most recently as National Accounts Sales for Folio Fine Wine Group.

An Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and Certified Specialist of Wine through Society of Wine Educators, Bertone also is the Vice President of Lift Collective and is the Co-Founder for Be The Change Job Fair and Initiative. Her work has been recognized by Forbes, Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, and featured by ABC and NBC news affiliates. She is also an active member of the Les Dames d’Escoffier’s Austin Chapter. Cara has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of North Texas. Above all, she loves traveling and spending time outdoors with her wife and two young children in Austin, Texas.

Thea SchlendorfThea Schlendorf, Vice President, Benson Marketing Group

Drawing on her experience working with Italian, Spanish and Portuguese brands, Thea manages media outreach, story pitching projects, trade promotions and social media campaigns that garner attention for a diverse array of wines and vineyards.

Thea joined Benson’s New York office in 2008 from Winebow, a successful wine importer and distributor located in New York. Working in the education department, Thea developed training materials to help the sales team and buyers better understand and sell the company’s broad portfolio of brands. Thea is a Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and graduated with a BA in history and economics from Colgate University.

Dale StrattonDale Stratton, Owner, Five Points Consulting LLC

Dale Stratton brings over 35 years of experience in the Beverage Alcohol Industry to his role as an independent consultant. Dale retired from Constellation Brands in May of 2019 where he was the Vice President, Commercial Insights working across their Beer, Wine, and Spirits divisions. While at Constellation Brands he oversaw consumer and shopper insights, consumer affairs, business analytics, market research, category management initiatives and the wine sensory program. Dale’s extensive work linking consumer and shopper insights and market analysis with business objectives and strategies enable him to translate insights into action.

Dale is currently President of the Wine Market Council and is also involved in projects with Azur Associates, Pix Wine, and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America’s SipSource Report.
Prior to joining Constellation Brands in 2006, Dale spent 22 years working at E&J Gallo where he began his career. During his tenure, he covered a wide range of responsibilities that included distributor management, account management, strategic insights, and Lean Six Sigma. Dale has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations from Colorado State University and an Executive MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.


Geralyn BrostromGeralyn Brostrom, Wine Business Instructor – Wine Business Institute, Sonoma State University
Principal, Italian Wine Central

Geralyn has held positions in multiple channels: winery, import, distribution, retail, and the non-profit wine education sector. She teaches in the MBA program at Sonoma State University and has taught wine business at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Her published books include Into Italian Wine and The Business of Wine, which was nominated for the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

As co-founder of the Italian Wine Central (IWC) website, Geralyn is involved in developing an international network for wine professionals wanting to learn and teach about Italian wines. Prior to starting IWC, she was Vice President of education for Winebow. Geralyn holds a BS in Management and an MBA in Marketing. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in innovation and business studies at Bocconi University in Milan. A dual citizen of the United States and the Italian Republic, her professional wine credentials include the VIA Italian Wine Expert, the Italian Wine Professional (IWP), the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) from SWE and WSET’s Level III Award in Wines and Spirits.


Ray JohnsonRay Johnson, Executive Director, Wine Business Institute – Sonoma State University

Ray is executive director of the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State, the first university in the United States to offer a BS in Wine Business in 1998, the first to offer a Wine MBA in 2008 and the first in the world to offer an Executive Wine MBA in 2012.

Johnson joined the wine business in 1986 at the Christian Brothers’ Greystone Cellars in Saint Helena, California. He went on to sell wine, first on the supplier side, and later in retail, working directly with consumers. He earned his Master’s in Wine Business from the University of Adelaide in South Australia and taught for fourteen years.

Johnson’s work has been published in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, the International Journal of Wine Business Research, Vineyard & Winery Management, and in reviews for consumers and the primer The Good Life Guide to Enjoying Wine.

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