Twenty-Twenty, Too

At the outset of 2021, I heard a quip I found as humorous as it was hopeful: that the new year would be pronounced “twenty-twenty won.” To me, it signaled that, as rotten as the previous year—the start of the pandemic—had been, we’d move forward collectively, maybe even return to relative normalcy. And yet…

As the calendar turned to 2022, I heard a resigned riff on that old theme: that this would be “twenty-twenty, too.” Indeed, the year opened with all the well-worn anxiety and uncertainty of 2020. At any moment in January, if you’d have asked me how I thought the month would end, I would’ve given you a different answer.

You see, NGRA’s Annual Meeting and First-of-Year Board Meeting was planned to be held in person in Sacramento on Monday, January 24, to coincide with the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. With Omicron surging across the country, throughout the first two weeks of January, we debated whether to gather in real life. We surveyed stakeholders about meeting, crunched the numbers on canceling, and privately (e.g., in my head) decided, undecided and decided again. Ultimately, we stayed the course (as did Unified).

For those who couldn’t or preferred not to join us in person, we offered a robust virtual option and half of attendees tuned in via Zoom. What we found was, the camaraderie and interaction at this Board meeting was much greater, certainly among those of us in the room but for those on Zoom, as well. There seemed to be something magical about having people in the same place that elevated and enlivened the conversation.

I felt the same about Unified. I’m glad to have been able to attend in person and was grateful to connect with colleagues in more than two dimensions. Kudos to co-organizers the American Society of Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) and California Association of Winegrape Growers for the fortitude to forge ahead.

The NGRA Mid-Year Meeting will be in July, and there’s no telling what Covid will bring us by then. But hopefully, we can persist in inviting our stakeholders to be present in person if possible. Now that we’ve made one small step toward normalcy, it’s a little easier to envision another.

In the end, January was terrific—better than I could’ve imagined. In some ways, I suppose it was all the worry that made the positive outcome so remarkable. If there’s any lesson in “twenty-twenty, too,” maybe it’s just to plan for the worst…

But dare to hope for the best.

Donnell Brown