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Q&A with wine pioneer Susan Sokol Blosser

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Friday, February 01, 2008

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EARLY THIS YEAR, Susan Sokol Blosser announced she was turning over control of Sokol Blosser Winery, the Willamette Valley establishment she founded and has helmed since 1991, to her children. Alex, 34, and Alison Sokol Blosser, 28, will serve as co-presidents, and Nik Blosser, 37, will remain chairman of the board. But don’t expect the 63-year-old Sokol Blosser, a pioneer of the Oregon wine industry and leader in green business practices, to be idle in her retirement. She will continue to act as ambassador for the winery and plans to devote time to environmental and writing projects. She offered Oregon Business some thoughts about the industry and her career.

What’s the state of the Oregon wine industry?

I think this is a very good time to be in the wine industry. It’s an extremely crowded market — there are new wineries coming on all the time — but on the other hand, wine consumption is increasing, and the appreciation of fine wine is increasing, as well.

I think Oregonians are very proud that in the space of one generation the wine industry has gone from zero to internationally recognized. I see that continuing.

There certainly will be hard times ahead. That’s not to say it’s a perfectly rosy future. But I think that it is an industry that has found its niche in Oregon and will just continue to get better.

Your greatest achievement in the business?

I’m proud of being part of the pioneering group that set the standard for collaboration. One of the things that is distinctive about the Oregon wine industry is that we work together. We realize that we will accomplish more by working together than we will being at each other’s throats, vis-a-vis the national market, for example, or the world market. That’s one of the reasons that the Oregon wine industry has come as far as it has in one generation. And when I look at the early pioneers who did that, we were just one of them. There are a number of people who really work together to make this industry what it is.

What advice do you have for Oregon’s wine industry?

I would say keep working together. What happens is that’s sort of the position of the underdog, and once you get out of that position and the industry matures, you start going after each other. I hope that doesn’t happen. We always have to be collaborative rather than competitive. Ultimately, we’re all competitive, but collaboration comes first.                                                                                                 

JAMIE HARTFORD


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