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Letter from 2020 OWB Chairman Bob Morus

As we head into the holiday season and end of the year, it’s natural to reflect on our Oregon Wine community. Together we faced the stresses of the pandemic and poor fruit set followed by unprecedented smoke exposure. For many, traditional avenues of wine sales collapsed. However, an analytical assessment of the period reveals some producers, especially “value” brands with broad chain store placements, actually performed quite well as people stayed socially isolated, enjoying their favorite bottles of Oregon wine at home. Those business models represent an important segment of our industry, but do not reflect the majority of smaller, family owned enterprises pervasive in our community. The Oregon Wine Board recognizes a snapshot of robust Nielsen sales data does not capture the complete impact of COVID-19. There continues to be tremendous suffering within our community. Closed restaurants, grape growers with canceled contracts and restricted operations for tasting rooms negatively impact a huge swath of businesses, families and friends.

I’m proud of the way our community stepped forward to secure guidance for both tasting rooms and field operations. Mike McNally, Leigh Bartholomew and Anthony King deserve our special thanks for disseminating critical, timely and useful information. The research team at Oregon State University similarly rose to the occasion when growers and wineries could not access critical lab analysis on smoke impact. Their work today provides a backbone to further research designed to protect and enhance your personal business investment.

As your Board and volunteers addressed needs of the industry during successive waves of challenges, the OWB staff continued the professional work of strategic planning and re-branding Oregon Wine’s image to the outside world. Whether the existential crisis is the pandemic, smoke or the Ducks’ loss to the Beavers, your team continues to move the ball down the field, positioning Oregon Wine to be ready to seize market opportunities and promote tourism in a better environment.

In our efforts to engage in meaningful dialog across the multitude of Oregon wine regions and advocacy groups, the OWB has promoted a mediated forum called Oregon Solutions. The goal is to spur participants into mutual understanding and better service to the industry. The OWB at its last Board meeting authorized financial resources to continue the process, because we believe speaking in one voice amplifies the message of Oregon Wine.

Two Board directors leave us at the end of the year. Kevin Chambers is a stalwart volunteer for the industry. His accomplishments both in business and public service are too numerous for my column inches. However, his greatest service may have been navigating the full separation between the Oregon Wine Board and the Oregon Winegrowers Association. We endured past times in our industry clearly calling for common directors to serve both boards. We now enter a new, more mature phase of our industry, making distinct boards possible, pragmatic and advantageous to building on past success.

Barbara Steele of the Rogue Valley departs the Board after only a year, but will be sorely missed. Her unique background in accounting and auditing helped us modify our public reporting to more clearly reveal the complexity of our revenue stream and activities. She possesses an innate ability to grant fresh perspectives to long term vexations. We wish her our best as she and her husband Bill blaze a new path forward.

With my term as the Chair of the Oregon Wine Board coming to a close, I want to give special thanks to a truly fine team, assembled to work on your behalf. All of the staff members recognize the goal of their collective efforts is to raise the tide of consumer demand and critical acclaim—floating both business success and your personal aspirations. Donna Morris takes on my role with greater intelligence, charm and capabilities. She is joined by Hilda Jones as Vice Chair and Justin King as Treasurer. It’s been an honor and a highlight of my 30 years in wine to briefly guide the team.

Raise a glass to perseverance and better times to come!

Robert Morus


OWB COVID-19 Toolkit Provides Up-to-date Resources

With the governor’s new Risk and Protection Framework impacting tasting room operations and OSHA temporary rules affecting all businesses, OWB is keeping its COVID-19 Toolkit current with guidance and resources to help you navigate the changing requirements. 

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 | Application Deadline: Dec. 11

The USDA is implementing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 (CFAP2) for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Grapes are an eligible commodity crop in this latest version of the assistance program, which has an application deadline of Friday, Dec. 11.


Navigate New Instagram Features with Overview from Lunabean Media

Last month, Instagram made meaningful updates that may impact how your business can use the platform to its full potential. Lunabean Media offers a helpful blog post to explain the changes and offer advice on how wineries can adjust and make the most of new features like Reels, Keywords and Guides.

Travel Oregon’s Give the Gift of Oregon Campaign

Give the Gift of Oregon is a holiday campaign to inspire Oregonians to shop at local businesses this holiday season. The campaign will run until Dec. 31 and prominently features the OWB’s Giving Season promotion. Learn more about business participation, including displaying your products on the Built Oregon marketplace.

Add Your Wine to the Built Oregon Marketplace

Built Oregon has developed an online Marketplace to support Oregon companies and communities. The Marketplace will enable consumers to discover and shop Oregon products by region, category and collection and is an integral part of Travel Oregon’s year-end Give the Gift of Oregon campaign. Learn more to see if the Marketplace is right for your business.


December 2020 Weather and Climate Forecast

On Dec. 3, Dr. Greg Jones of Linfield University published an updated weather and climate summary and forecast. This report looks back at November conditions and forecasts conditions for December, January and February.


2021 Oregon Wine Symposium Program Now Available

From Feb. 16-19, the virtual Oregon Wine Symposium will deliver timely lessons touching all parts of wine and grape businesses. The curriculum each day will feature two-part seminars on viticulture, business and enology, plus research updates and informative general sessions. Register by Jan. 15 to take advantage of the 20% Early Bird discount.

NW Center for Small Fruits Research Conference | Dec. 14-16

Join NCSFR for a three-day conference that kicks off Monday, Dec. 14. The tentative agenda includes updates from USDA leadership, research presentations, a NCSFR short film premier and virtual poster sessions. The conference concludes with an awards lunch hour with raffle prizes.

OWRI Webinar Series: Grape Red Blotch Disease | Through Dec. 15

Join OSU’s Oregon Wine Research Institute (OWRI) for a free live webinar series on Grape Red Blotch Disease. These seminars will focus on research findings from Oregon-based studies conducted by researchers at OWRI and partners at USDA-ARS covering virus epidemiology, vector identification and biology, grapevine performance, wine production, fruit and wine composition, and wine sensory results.

WISE Academy Offerings for DTC Professionals | Starting Jan. 7

WISE Academy is offering several courses in the new year that may be of interest to direct-to-consumer sales professionals, including DTC Metrics Intensive and Virtual Tasting Fundamentals. Each of these offerings will take place over three sessions during January.

DTC Wine Symposium Presented by Free the Grapes | Jan. 19-22

The virtual DTC Wine Symposium, presented by and a fundraiser for Free the Grapes!, will take place Jan. 19-22. The 2021 program includes speakers discussing innovation, diversity, legislation and marketing, with workshops that dive into practical ways to help set your business up for success.


Organic Certification Cost Sharing Program | Deadline Extended: Dec. 15

Oregon producers who have paid eligible organic certification costs between Oct. 1, 2019, and Sept. 30, 2020, can apply for cost share assistance from the USDA. Costs of certification received from or renewed through a USDA-accredited certifier are eligible for 50% reimbursement up to a maximum of $500​ per annual certification scope. The application deadline has been extended to Dec. 15.

Share Your Community’s Story with the OWB

The Oregon wine industry is full of clubs, committees, co-ops, partnerships, friends and neighbors. We want to get to know you and your community. One Tuesday afternoon each month, the OWB team will host representatives of 3-4 wineries for a 90-minute virtual happy hour. Sign up to share what brings you all together, your collective goals, challenges and, of course, your wines.


Oregon Micro Fund Accepting Loan Applications

USDA Rural Development renewed its investment in the Oregon Micro Fund (OMF), which provides loans up to $50,000 for businesses in rural Oregon focusing on craft beverages. OMF not only provides working capital but also invests time and resources in entrepreneurs and small business owners to ensure long-term success. OMF is now accepting loan applications. For more information, contact Quinton Jay.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Program Application Period Open | Deadline: Jan. 29

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is now accepting proposals for the USDA’s 2021 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Approximately $1.5 million is expected to be available to agriculture industry associations, producer groups, processors, commodity commissions, non-profits, for-profits, and local government agencies in Oregon. The application deadline is noon on Jan. 29.


The OWB’s industry website hosts a calendar that includes industry-facing events as well as events with significant industry participation. Consult it when scheduling or rescheduling events to avoid conflicts, and don’t forget to post entries as well.

Links to post to both the industry calendar and the OWB’s consumer-facing calendar can be found here.

NW Center for Small Fruits Research Conference

Virtual | December 14-16

Unified Symposium

Virtual | January 26-29

Oregon Wine Symposium

Virtual | February 16-19

Copyright © 2020 Oregon Wine Board. All rights reserved.

4640 SW Macadam Ave., Ste. 240
Portland, OR 97239

December 8, 2020|Grapevine Newsletters|0 Comments

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