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Bordeaux Wine & Spirits MBA Students Learn from North Coast Industry Leaders

January 18, 2012 7:00 AM

January 17, 2012

Bordeaux Wine & Spirits MBA Students Learn from North Coast Industry Leaders

h_comfort_svv_bordeaux_120111_lr.jpgRohnert Park, CA: "There is no place on earth quite like Sonoma," read the opening slide in Honore Comfort's presentation at the Sonoma County Vintners last Wednesday. The words of James Laube were an apt framework for the twenty graduate wine business students from around the world who are here to learn from leaders across the North Coast wine industry.  The two-week session hosted by Sonoma State's Wine Business Institute is year one of a collaboration between two of the top wine business programs in the world.

Tasting through the wines, Comfort gave an overview of the distinctive features of Sonoma's AVAs and the students had an opportunity to see the different expressions of the grapes grown in Sonoma County. In addition to practical lessons for the students, the program provides a voice for regional leaders into the 20 countries the students represent, to the people who are influencing others in the trade and consumers around the world.

"Coming to Sonoma allows us as a group to learn key insights of the Northern Californian wine industry, the challenges that they face with the U.S. domestic market, what they face when it comes to exporting outside California, and how the wineries deal with marketing their wine," said Krister Bengtsson of Stockholm. 

The day in Sonoma County continued with a visit to Korbel where Gary Heck and his team walked the cohort through the complexities of sparkling wine production at the winery on the Russian River. Here, a key lesson was in production size and how to balance the nuances of large scale production while maintaining consistent quality.

bordeaux_hobbs_120111_lr.jpgLater, Paul Hobbs and his team discussed the business of import and export of their luxury brands in California and Argentina. On another day, the students stopped at Sonoma Cellars where they appreciated the distinctive licensing arrangement where multiple wineries are represented in one venue operating as a wine bar, in addition to tasting room.

While here, the students will also see Napa Valley from Carneros to Calistoga and meet leaders from Michael Mondavi, Treasury Wine Estates, and Chateau Montelena.  

"Participating in this program gives me broad international exposure, an understanding of customer needs and tastes that vary across the world and the chance to know each of the different consumer markets better," said Irving So of Hong Kong, who is currently based in Japan. 

These field lessons are combined with classroom lessons in wine marketing, strategic management, corporate finance and supply chain management from industry experts Lewis Perdue, Tim Hanni, Mario Zepponi, Pete Scott, and Jim Bielenberg, as well as distinguished faculty from Sonoma State Armand Gilinsky, Janeen Olsen, Liz Thach, and Tom Atkin.

"The skills and the experience of the faculty are why we chose to partner with Sonoma State.  I knew that they use the latest information in the classroom with our students because they are at the forefront of research in the wine industry," states Hervé Remaud, academic director for Bordeaux Management School, who guides the group through all the segments of the program.  In addition to Sonoma and Bordeaux, these include visits to Adelaide and London, as well as online classes.

bordeaux_devincenzi_korbel_120111_lr.jpgThe students conclude their North Coast intensive on January 20th and will return to their home countries - from London and Lebanon to Argentina and Australia, from Taiwan to Portugal - with strengthened relationships with California industry leaders and a deeper appreciation of the United States wine market, a market that we call home. 

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Picture Captions:

Upper-right: Honore Comfort of Sonoma County Vintners walks Bordeaux students through the distinctions of Sonoma County grapes. Download a high-resolution version of this image.

Middle-right: Paul Hobbs shares insights on luxury brands during a tasting and tour at the winery. Download a high-resolution version of this image.

Lower-right: Louie DeVincenzi, AVP for Sales & Marketing at Korbel, continues lessons on sales management over lunch. Download a high-resolution version of this image. 


For more information, contact:
Annemarie Brown, 707-664-2221,


About Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute:

Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute is located in the heart of California wine country and was created through a public-private partnership between the university and the wine industry. Founded in 1995, it is the first program in the United States to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry. In addition to its academic programs, the Wine Business Institute offers an array of professional development courses for the industry. Its faculty members are published experts, active researchers, and requested presenters on pressing industry topics.  The Wine Business Institute operates within Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics, a fully accredited AACSB institution. Learn more at

About Bordeaux School of Management:

Founded in 1874 by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BEM is one of the oldest Management Schools in France. Located in Bordeaux, Paris, Dakar and Malaysia, BEM offers 12 management programs ranging from Bachelor to MBA courses. It now has 3,200 students, 12 diploma programs and 110 partnerships with schools in 40 countries. Recognized for its expertise in supply chain management, purchasing, wine and creative industries, BEM stands out from other schools with its pioneering commitment to produce responsible managers. A member of the "Conférence des Grandes Ecoles", BEM awards certificates which are either recognized or approved by the State. BEM is accredited by EQUIS, AMBA and AACSB. Learn more at   

Contact SBE
Contact SSU
Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics. Reach.
1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA, 94928 • 707-664-2377 10374