by Michelle Metter
An integral member of Team SommCon with vast experience in nearly every aspect of the hospitality industry, Woody Van Horn spends 5 minutes with SommCon producer, Michelle Metter to talk cannabis, education, and the evolution of SommCon.
Last fall you moderated a panel discussion at SommCon West on the convergence of cannabis and the wine industry. Is this really having an impact or do you think we will see the attention fade?
As the cost of doing business rises, chefs are exploring new markets, including private events that feature cannabis. Investors, developers, and hoteliers are all branching into this market as well. So I agree it’s a disruption in the normal cycle of the food and beverage business. Watching the cannabis industry navigate distribution, brand identity, education, as well as the marketing that goes along with all of that has been fun to watch. I don’t think cannabis is being anymore disruptive than craft beer or cocktails have been. Wine isn’t going anywhere, it’s just the nature of business to change and evolve.
There is an effort to create a certification system in the cannabis industry, similar to that of becoming a sommelier. What is your opinion on this and is there risk of confusion in the marketplace by the use of the title sommelier?
The sommelier role and education get a lot of support from the producers, because there is a proven ROI with sommeliers and education. Cannabis has yet to prove the same model, so for the time being, a lot of cannabis companies are going with the Budweiser girl model of the 80’s. Beautiful women and influencers getting paid for placement in their media and content. That is one thing that is holding back the cannabis sommelier role. Another hard thing to nail down is who the governing body is. The Court of Masters has history and was established before the internet. A lot of things have changed and it’s difficult for the cannabis community to all agree who a governing body would be. One person can’t be in charge.
You have been part of SommCon since its inaugural year in 2015. How have you seen the conference change?
It’s awesome to see this conference mature and gain its own identity year after year. The content, the contributors, and the team gets stronger each year.
Last year at SommCon DC you were part of the leadership team, helping to mentor the scholarship winners for the Young Leaders Summit. What was your experience of that program?
It’s great to see so many young somms networking. They have an inherent knack for marketing and I love seeing all the avenues that they are taking the wine industry.
Tell us a bit on what you are working on these days?
I have been consulting for a few years now. I have a few private cellars, I take on 1-2 restaurants at a time, plus private events. Currently I am getting ready to open a restaurant and winery in Temecula, plus I am working with a couple restaurants in San Diego. I also travel for conferences and events. I have a great life.
You have 10 minutes and one glass of wine. What are you drinking and who are you with?
Champagne with Bourdain.
About Woody Van Horn: Woody has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, working at some of the best restaurants and hotels in the country, earning numerous certifications, degrees, and recognition from the top institutions in the hospitality. A California native, Woody is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and accredited through The Court of Master Sommeliers and Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Leveraging his vast experience in nearly every facet of the hospitality industry, Woody now works with clients in a consulting role to bring their restaurants, events, businesses and products to the next level.