Guest Blog: It was a Very Good Decade (for Texas Wine and a Lot More)

by Bobby Champion (Ex-Texas State Coordinator for Wine Marketing, Texas Department of Agriculture)

Ten years of Texas Wine Marketing – this calls for a toast!

As most of you know, this is my last day as State Coordinator for Wine Marketing at TDA. Beginning Thursday, I am the agency’s new Food and Beverage Coordinator. It seems like only yesterday that I first walked into this office and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”

It turns out, I’d gotten myself into the best events, best conversations and best friendships in Texas. So if you don’t mind, before we all take that next step forward, I’d like to take just a minute to look back.

In 2001, progressive Texas winemakers, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and Commissioner Susan Combs worked side by side with our Texas Legislators to launch the Texas Wine Marketing Assistance Program (TWMAP), a different kind of partnership that would provide the industry with new resources and promotional tools.

Wineries and retailers displayed the newly created GO TEXAN logo alongside Texas wine banners, posters and other marketing items, giving the state’s industry a continuing, unified theme. Ad campaigns put Texas wine on the tip of consumers’ tongues. The program expanded to include seminars, wine pairing classes, grants, restaurant partnerships and other initiatives to encourage wine tourism. Lawmakers joined in, passing bills allowing wineries to sell in dry areas and ship wine anywhere in the state. It was an exciting time for Texas wines… and it was only the beginning.

I’d like to extend my personal thanks to so many people, and especially to the late Senator Frank Madla and his family for helping make all of this possible.

When the Legislature expanded our outreach capabilities in 2005, our industry’s economic impact was $997 million. Currently, it is $1.75 billion and growing.

Six years ago, the challenge was to take a booming industry and find ways to push the marketing envelope even further so it could reach its full potential. The injection of new funds and the arrival of newly-elected Commissioner of Agriculture Todd Staples provided new opportunities. It also meant our impact and impressions had to be bigger, better and stronger.

We geared up for a surge. In marketing, we expanded our media outreach by hiring public relations firm Hahn, Texas and aligned ourselves with Texas wine powerhouses like Russ, Ron, Jeff and Guy. We established the State Fair of Texas wine garden, implemented the Texas wine passport program, created the Texas wine website, elevated social media activities, launched the “GO TEXAN or GO THIRSTY” campaign and established the Texas vineyards grants. None of this would have been possible without the expertise and assistance of the people in the Texas wine industry. You have embraced and supported every initiative and, as a result, each of these programs was successful and very well received.

Despite recent legislative cuts, the Texas wine industry is still strong and well positioned for future success. Continuing the climb will take the involvement of every industry stakeholder—a challenge you’ve proven you’re more than capable of meeting. You have an excellent voice in TWGGA and your grassroots efforts in Austin and Washington will pay big dividends in the future.

The beauty and strength of our dynamic industry, in my humble opinion, is that while we may compete with each other on some level, we are all proud Texans who work hard and honestly care for one another. We have excellent grape growers, fantastic university resources and winery owners who are creating world-class wines. While TDA is honored to be part of your story, it’s you and your hard work that are responsible for elevating the Texas wine industry to unprecedented heights.

My hat’s off to you. Well done.

I close this communication with a heavy heart. I’ve made many good friends and this experience has been much more than a job for me. I care for each and every one of you and consider the people of this industry part of my family. While I embark on a new role here at TDA, I will still be here to help you in any way that I can. If you ever need anything, please let me know.

However, this isn’t the end of our story. It’s just the next page. But, I wanted to take this moment of transition to say thanks for the memories and for doing so much to help me, this program, and this industry be the best we can be.

It’s been a fun ride! I hope we’ve made a difference in your life. You’ve definitely made a big one in mine.

Sincerely,

Bobby Jr.

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NOTE: During the past ten years, Bobby Champion has been there behind the scenes helping support and build our Texas wine industry. His efforts are appreciated and his results have been well received. The Texas wine industry is something of which we can all be very proud, and we have Bobby to thank for bringing it to this high point. Bobby, a toast to you, my friend.

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.