Enthusiast's Corner

A Memo from Adam Strum


Gloom and doom are not my default settings. I prefer to look to the future with hope. And as we approach the new year with an economy that's lost not only its wheels but its gears and steering mechanisms, I do see a ray of hope and it is, in a word, innovation. American ingenuity.

While our economic rivals in Asia and Europe have been pushing further into aerospace, computer technologies and communications, America has lost its edge. There seems to have been, at least in terms of political leadership, a lack of interest in science. And now look: the center of the financial world is shifting from Wall Street to who-knows-where; expertise in high tech is blossoming in India; China is making our ability to compete in manufacturing increasingly more difficult; and our dependence on foreign oil is creating a drag on our economy and casting a cloud over our future.

Ingenuity and innovation are what will bring America out of its economic, and, yes, our spiritual, malaise. If you want an example of how economic and political competition generated idealism, patriotism as well as practical innovations that made us the world's leader in high tech, look no further than the space program. It's a comparison that is made often, because it is so vivid. In 1961, President Kennedy declared his determination that America would be the first to reach he moon. A mere eight years later, in July of 1969, an American set foot on the moon.

Estimates are that 1,500 "spin-off" technologies (technologies that the private sector adapted) were derived from NASA's research and development. Integrated circuits and semiconductors made office and home computers possible; durable fabrics designed for astronauts are now protecting our firefighters; robot technology created for space exploration is now helping save the lives of our U.S. service men and women; water recycling and filtration systems to allow humans to survive in space are now giving the global poor access to safe drinking water; countless instruments that help us monitor our environment, respond to disasters, communicate more effectively… the list is nigh-on endless.

Whether it's medical advances, new sources of clean energy, entertainment devices, advances in communications—I hope the next great advances are created here and exploited here, financially. Our education system, pluralism, freedoms, equal opportunities and freethinking culture—all the elements are there in this truly magnificent country. What is needed is inspiration and leadership.

Those are the traits you'll find in abundance in these pages, as we focus on some of the leading individuals and companies in the wine and spirits industries. This is our annual awards issue, in which we recognize outstanding achievements in the creation, distribution and marketing of wines and spirits. You'll find our Man of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Wineries of the Year and more, starting on page 31. This year, recognizing that innovation is important in every facet of life, including the wine industry, we created an eleventh category: Innovator of the Year. The winner, Jean-Charles Boisset of Boisset Family Estates in Burgundy and Sonoma, is a leader in environmentally safe packaging of wine. You've seen his wines in recyclable Tetra-paks, PET bottles and aluminum bottles on your store shelves. You can read the details on page 48 (of our December 15th issue). 

Rob Sands, the president and CEO of Constellation Brands, is our Man of the Year. In addition to transforming the company's portfolio toward premium brands and high quality, he has shown outstanding leadership in making his company more responsive to environmental concerns. Constellation has recently opened a winery in California that will be 50% solar-powered, and the company is using sustainable practices wherever possible. They are not alone in these initiatives, but they are a leader.

And that is innovation you can enjoy when you pull a cork.


 Adam Strum

Editor & Publisher

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