A Slice of Heaven

NGRA holds three Board meetings each year, and we plan all three a year in advance. Normally, the mid-year (June/July) and end-of-year (November) meetings take place in different grape-growing regions around the country, while our first-of-year (January) meeting is always held in Sacramento, CA, where NGRA is based, the week of the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium.

Like most gatherings, our Board meetings moved to a virtual format in 2020. But a year ago, we audaciously scheduled our November 2021 End-of-Year Board meeting to be back in person, in St. Louis, MO, timed to coincide with the “Grafting the Grape” exhibition at the Missouri Botanical Garden and hosted by longstanding NGRA member-organization the Missouri Wine and Grape Board. But Covid concerns drove us back online, and the meeting took place on November 18, via Zoom.

I am thrilled to say that, barring an Omicron curveball, NGRA will resume in-person Board meetings this January. Our Annual Meeting of the Members and First-of-Year Board meeting will take place on Monday, January 24, 2022, in Sacramento, kicking off the week of Unified (which is back to its in-person format this year, too).

That week also will bring the live presentation of the Rich Smith Distinguished Service Award. Since its creation in 2017, the award has always been conferred by The Smith Family and the three sponsoring organizations (NGRA, WineAmerica and Winegrape Growers of America) at the WGA Annual Leadership Luncheon during Unified. Last year, due to the pandemic, it was presented to honoree Donniella Winchell via Zoom. Not this time! Join us to surprise and honor the 2022 winner in Sacramento at this year’s WGA Leadership Luncheon on Wednesday, January 26, 2022. Tickets are on sale now.

National organizations, by definition, rely largely on technology to carry out our work with far-flung stakeholders and supporters. Email and Zoom are the backbone of our communications. I’m grateful for these tools and can’t imagine trying to operate without them. But the last two years have underscored the value of meeting face-to-face. When you’re in the same room, crosstalk and eye contact and body language elevate and enrich the conversation. And there’s the ritual of the Board meeting: the cadence of the thrice-annual schedule, the pre-meeting dinner for those flying in, the catching up among colleagues and friends, the indulgence (as it seems now) of a day-long agenda and, it has to be said, the occasion to wear heeled shoes and pants with a waistband. Oh, how I have missed these things!

We cannot wait to gather with our stakeholders again, and restore the magic of meeting with other humans, live, in three dimensions. From the Board meeting to the conference to the award presentation luncheon, the week of January 24 will be a slice of heaven. I hope to see you there!

Donnell Brown