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Referee Jerome Boger and his crew are receiving plenty of criticism Monday after an awful officiating performance in Sunday’s Week 14 game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs.

There were plenty of missed calls throughout the evening.

Patriots rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry dove toward the pylon early in the fourth quarter for what looked like a touchdown. The officials ruled Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line even though replays clearly showed he hadn’t. The officials likely cost the Patriots a touchdown shortly before the Harry mistake when they ruled Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce down by contact and blew the play dead despite a clear fumble and recovery by New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had a clear path to the end zone.

Despite those glaring errors, the worst mistake from Boger’s crew might have been its inability to penalize the Chiefs the correct amount of yards on an illegal hands to the face penalty in the third quarter. Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif committed the penalty, which was the correct call, but Boger announced the infraction as a 5-yard penalty when the rulebook states it’s a 10-yard loss (click here to watch Boger incorrectly announce the penalty).

Mixing up penalty yardage would be understandable in most cases because the crew still has time before the next play is run to correct the referee and ensure the proper yardage is enforced. That didn’t happen, though, because none of the seven officials on the field noticed the error. The Chiefs, as a result, moved back from their own 44-yard line to their own 39-yard line. This Kansas City drive ultimately ended in a punt, which New England blocked to set up great field position for a possession that resulted in a Brandon Bolden touchdown run.

The Chiefs ended up winning 23-16 despite a late comeback attempt by the Patriots.

This kind of penalty mixup is inexcusable for any officiating crew, but especially for an experienced official like Boger, who’s in his 13th season as an NFL referee.

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Among Kansas City Chiefs fans, Daniel Sorensen has been a firecracker.

Since he joined the team as an undrafted free agent out of BYU in 2014, fans have tended to see the 29-year-old safety either as an up-and-coming homegrown talent or an overpaid depth player.

The more playing time Sorensen received, the more fan opinions appeared to turn negative — and this past offseason, they got worse. With the acquisitions of veteran Tyrann Mathieu and second-round draft pick Juan Thornhill — and with Jordan Lucas and Armani Watts already on the roster — there didn’t seem to be much reason to hold on to Sorensen and his $4.7 million cap hit.

But the Chiefs decided Sorensen was worth keeping.

Early in the year — as the Chiefs tended to use five defensive backs while working in various linebackers on passing downs — Sorensen only played about 20% of the defensive snaps. But after slot cornerback Kendall Fuller’s injury, his snap counts have increased — and it has resulted in some success for the Chiefs.

Let’s take a look at how the Chiefs have been deploying Sorensen — and why his role is becoming extremely vital at just the right time.
In the box

The most common way the Chiefs use Sorensen is as a dime linebacker. He was used this way before Fuller’s injury, but it was only in select situations.

On this play, Sorensen is lined up as one of two linebackers. He has man coverage on the running back out of the backfield. Sorensen does a good job angling out to the flat with the running back — and as the backflips his hips on the route, Sorensen is able to flip back around with him.

The Chiefs defense has been notoriously poor at covering running backs out of the backfield — and while Sorensen may not be the perfect guy for the job, he is the team’s best option. His angles can be off — and he doesn’t always play up to NFL-level athleticism — but overall, he has the skill set to match the shiftiness of running backs, along with the processing skills to identify where a back is trying to go.

So it would make sense for the Chiefs to play Sorensen as a linebacker against lighter personnel groupings — but his run defense isn’t ideal.

When playing the run from inside the box, Sorensen’s size becomes a problem — and his reads become cluttered. He doesn’t have the top-end explosion of a small linebacker or the size of a traditional linebacker. This makes it hard for him to challenge interior gaps by slipping or stacking up blockers. Even when working laterally from the box, he can be sealed off on the back side or slip under a block that takes him out of the play.

These limitations keep Sorensen from playing as a linebacker on any snap with 11 personnel. When he is in space, he does a good job tracking ball carriers — and bringing them down — but when he’s in the box playing the run, Sorensen simply looks like an average safety.
Apex defender

Since Fuller’s injury, there have been increased reps with Mathieu as the nickel cornerback — which often requires Sorensen to be on the field. Most of the time, he’s either in the box or back deep — but from time to time, he does end up as another slot or apex defender.

Here, lined up as an overhang off the edge, Sorensen is first responsible for anything coming into the flat, but also for any receiver that turns to a vertical route after flashing into the flat.

As the running back works outside, Sorensen is reading his hips and starts with a lateral slide — but with the back aiming towards the pylon, he quickly transitions to a shuffle. The flat route isn’t sold well — and the quarterback never sees him — but Sorensen plays the route perfectly by squeezing the running back to the sideline while keeping his eye on the ball.

Sorensen has always been a very opportunistic player. If a ball is lofting through the air in his direction or on the ground near him — or even if a receiver is in a vulnerable position for a big hit — he can take advantage. He shows natural ball skills and the knack for maximizing his opportunities to make plays, which is something that not every player — even a star player — can do.

So if he plays the run well in space and can excel in coverage, why not use Sorensen as a primary apex defender?

The problem is that when he is forced into man coverage against quality tight ends (and most wide receivers) — or when he is picking them up in zone coverage — his unnatural coverage mechanics show up. For a guy who has some of the best short-area quickness and change-of-direction testing on record, his ability to transition in coverage looks very segmented and stiff.

When asked to come downhill and attack a player in front of him — or shuffle/slide in one direction — he is fluid and does it at a good pace. But as soon as it becomes a multi-step process with direction changes and route diagnosis, he looks out of place. The issues are only compounded when he has to press at the line of scrimmage — and it often puts him behind when he’s also struggling to keep up.
Deep half

Another way the Chiefs utilize Sorensen is as a deep safety. While it draws a lot of ire from fans, it may be his single best role.

While Sorensen isn’t being asked to play deep on this play, it highlights the general skill set he displays at reading the field from the deeper alignment — that is, how safely he plays the position.

As he spins down, Sorensen is still able to see much of the field and process the route combination unspooling before him. He squares up to the swing pass — and even shuffles out over the top — but doesn’t commit downhill until the ball is thrown.

We see that same kind of safe play from Sorensen when he’s playing in deep coverage over the top.

It’s the same story against the run. While Sorensen has some issues reading the field when he’s close to the box, when he’s further away, he does a good job taking safe angles and reducing the number of directions the running back can cut.

Whether it’s against the run or pass, Sorensen does a good job staying over the top of potential threats, which reduces the chance for a big play. While this means he makes fewer plays than some other safeties in similar roles, it does serve a purpose.
The bottom line

While fans may have a wide range of opinions about him, Daniel Sorensen has settled into a niche in the Chiefs defense. He may not be stellar in any single area, but his ability to play all three of a safety’s roles at a competent level allows the Chiefs to utilize Tyrann Mathieu in multiple ways.

Furthermore, his ability to operate as a dime linebacker on passing downs will continue to give him snaps — even as the rest of the secondary returns to health. His sure tackling and ability to cover running backs out of the backfield give him an extremely important role — one that could be vital to the Chiefs down the stretch.

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The Kansas City Chiefs have a special media schedule this week with Christmas Day on Wednesday. Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes spoke to the media on Tuesday instead. If you want to watch the full Reid and Mahomes pressers, you may do so here.

Here were my five most significant items of note:
1) Reid tied up some loose ends.

Some quick Chiefs player notes from the head coach:

On RB Spencer Williams, who hurt his shoulder in the team’s game against the Bears: “If we had to practice [Tuesday], Spencer Ware would be questionable, but we didn’t practice [Tuesday], so he wasn’t questionable.”
On LG Andrew Wylie, who was ruled out of the Bears game due to a mix of ailments: “He was not on the list [Tuesday]. We didn’t practice. Still a bit tender, but we’ll see, see where he is, but there’s a chance [he will practice Wednesday].
On DT Xavier Williams, who the Chiefs need to make a decision on this week: “There are a bunch of things that go into it. Brett (Veach) weighs all that out. I stay out of that mix of it, so he’s got to juggle a bunch of different things with that, and that’s what he does. But we’ll see. We know he’s a good player and gives us quality depth there. That’s one of the things that Brett keeps in mind.”

2) Reid was impressed with what he saw from defensive tackle Terrell Suggs in his Kansas City debut.

The 17-year NFL veteran played 17 snaps against the Chicago Bears.

“I kind of liked what I saw,” said Reid. “He’s got a good energy about him, and you saw it on the first couple rushes… guys get upset if they don’t get a sack that first rush, and he was in that first third down. He chased the quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) from the pocket, was right there to take it and 55 (Frank Clark) got the sack.”

Here is the play:

“[Suggs] laughed about it. He goes, ‘Man, I worked [Trubisky]. My man here gets the sack. Well, good for him!”
3) Mahomes and the Chiefs’ ability to convert third-and-longs has become a topic of conversation after their win against Chicago. Mahomes explained his perspective on the success.

The Chiefs were 6 of 11 on third down, including conversions of third-and-10 and third-and-18.

“I think it’s coach (Reid) preparing us for those situations,” said Mahomes. “We have times in training camp where it’s just third-and-long, where we’re third-and-11 plus and we’re going against the defense. They’re more in the prime position, where they want to get those stops, but he’s putting us in those situations, so we’re prepared to either hit the first down or chuck it down and find a way to get the first down.

“I think it goes with a lot of trust between teammates. When you have a third-and-long like that, the offensive line has to do their job protecting for a long time and then the receivers have to do their job of getting open. They all have to trust that I’m going to put the ball out on time to give them chances to make plays. I think just preparing that way and trusting each other has given us the opportunity to make some of these third and longs happen.”
4) Mahomes confirmed he has felt healthier each week.

It has seemed over the past few weeks that Mahomes has grown more and more comfortable on the field and in the pocket. This could be because he finally feels healthy after recovering from left ankle, right kneecap and right hand injuries.

Mahomes was asked if he has felt stronger as the year has gone on in 2019.

“I think so,” said Mahomes. “Each and every week, I’m able to go through the rehab and treatment process and just prepare my body. I feel like this year I’ve learned that even if I am feeling 100 percent, I still want to go in there and take care of my body. Whereas, last year I would’ve just gotten out of here when I was done with my film study. I’ve really spent more time in the training room preparing my body just knowing I need to be in the best shape possible going into the playoffs.”

Mahomes said that pre-hab was his idea.

“As I was in the training room early with the ankle injury, I’ve kind of realized I just want to keep taking care of my body in that way. I thought I was before that but this year I’ve really understood that I can take care of my body even better.”
5) Reid plans to play all of his starters against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kendall Fuller comes from a football family, so Sunday night’s game between the Chiefs and Chicago Bears won’t serve as the first time he’s shared a football field with his brother Kyle.

But it’s the first time the brothers and former college teammates will stand on opposing sides of the field in an NFL regular season game.

Fuller said he and his brother call or text almost every day, but the schedule for an NFL player means they don’t get to see one another much once training camp starts each summer.

“During the season we rarely all are able to get together, so being able to get the whole fam out the Chicago and just chill, see our nephew and just relax, it will definitely be fun,” Kendall Fuller said.

The Fullers aren’t the only family with members on opposing sidelines. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub – who spent nine seasons in the same role with the Bears from 2004 to 2012, will see his Shane on the other side of the field. The younger Toub is an offensive assistant with Chicago.

The Toubs faced off last season in a preseason game, and the family took pictures and had a chance to talk with a lot less pressure. But dad says it’s always special when he gets to go back to Chicago, and having the family on hand is “going to be awesome.”

“I’m just so proud of him,” Dave Toub said. “He’s young, he’s 26 years old, and he’s in his second year in the NFL. From what I hear, he’s doing a really good job. I’m proud of him.”

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Kansas City could be the site of a 2020 comeback for free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant.

On Sunday night, the All-Pro receiver was asked by a fan on Twitter about a comeback to his former team, the Dallas Cowboys. While Bryant did confirm that he would entertain a reunion in Dallas next season, he also listed the Kansas City Chiefs among four other contenders he is open to playing for.

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The 31-year-old wideout hasn’t played meaningful NFL football in two years. Bryant did sign with the New Orleans Saints in November 2018, however, a torn Achilles tendon during his second practice with the team ended his season before it could even begin.

Prior to New Orleans, Bryant spent his entire seven-year career with the Cowboys who selected the Oklahoma State product with the first round (24th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft. Named to three Pro Bowls throughout his career, the 6’2,” 220-pound playmaker has 531 receptions, 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns to his name – including a career-high 16 scores during his only All-Pro campaign in 2014.

Back on July 30, Bryant tweeted that he has “no interest in playing football right now,” citing his mental health as a contributing factor in the decision.

About a month later, the Cowboys all-time receiving touchdown leader tweeted that he’d turned down a lucrative multi-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens, again citing his mental and physical health. The tweet has since been deleted.

“I turned down 30+ million from the ravens… all because how I felt and I wasn’t going to disrespect their organization and myself,” Bryant wrote on August 25. “I know what I can do if my mind and body is on the right track.”

In early November, however, Bryant shared that he was a couple weeks away from reaching out to NFL teams looking to boost their receiving corps. Given his current status as a free agent, it appears that no team took him up on his offer.

Outside of 1,200+ receiving yards from All-Pro TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City has relied on major contributions from five primary receivers this season – Tyreek Hill (799), Sammy Watkins (665), Mecole Hardman (508), Demarcus Robinson (425), and Byron Pringle (170).

With Kelce under contract through the 2021 season and speedsters Hill and Hardman signed until 2023, the Chiefs’ core pass catchers should remain intact for at least two more seasons. Following the conclusion of the 2019 season, the 25-year-old Robinson, who has put together a career year, is the only core receiver projected to become an unrestricted free agent.

The wild card that could determine the need for Dez Bryant’s services, however, is Sammy Watkins. Speculation surrounding the 26-year-old’s future in Kansas City has grown as the season has progressed. The former No. 4 overall pick is under contract through next season with a projected 2020 salary cap hit of $21 million, up from his current cap hit of $19.2 million.

Watkins’ contract structure allows the Chiefs a relatively cheap out after this season, though. Should Kansas City choose to release the sixth-year wideout, they would only incur $7 million in dead cap money, but would receive $14 million in cap savings. If the interest is mutual between Bryant and the Chiefs this coming offseason, the team’s financial decisions on Robinson and Watkins will be a telling sign of what’s to come.

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The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Denver Broncos by a score of 23-3 in Week 15. Snowy conditions, injuries and more have caused a few interesting developments in the snap counts.

Here’s how the snaps came down in Week 15:

Spencer Ware led the Chiefs’ RB group in snaps for the second consecutive week. Darwin Thompson was three snaps behind him and LeSean McCoy had the fewest snaps of the bunch. Kansas City clearly has a level of trust in Ware and he proved himself while carrying, catching and blocking in Week 15.

Travis Kelce had a monster day against the Broncos with 11 receptions for 142 yards and a lot of it had to do with the fact that he spent most of the day on the field. Kelce only came off for six offensive snaps during the game.

Mecole Hardman continues to struggle to find the field for playing time despite his impressive performances on limited snaps. For the second week, Hardman failed to play on offense for more than 15 snaps. I suspect his special teams contributions play a factor in this decision.

The Chiefs’ secondary continues to dominate on the field and dominate snap counts. The core group of Tyrann Mathieu, Juan Thornhill, Bashaud Breeland and Charvarius Ward did not come off the field against the Broncos in Week 15. Thornhill did get shaken up at one point during the game but did not miss a single defensive snap.

Frank Clark played 46 snaps despite dealing with a serious stomach illness. This probably wouldn’t have been the case had the Chiefs not lost Alex Okafor to a pec injury early in the game.

Demone Harris saw the most playing time he’s seen as a member of the Chiefs. This was also likely due to the fact that Alex Okafor suffered an injury. Harris kept the pressure on when he was on the field and played solid against the run, notching two tackles for loss during the game.

Anthony Hitchens led the Chiefs LB group in snaps. Surprisingly, Ben Niemann matched Damien Wilson’s snap total on the day with 26. Reggie Ragland had the fewest snaps of the position for the Chiefs.

Dorian O’Daniel, Jordan Lucas, Darron Lee, Armani Watts and Alex Brown once again only had snaps on special teams. Blake Bell was the special teams’ snap leader this week with 15.

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Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon is a talented defender, but he’s making a case for his talents on special teams.

In consecutive weeks against talented AFC teams, Kpassagnon has made impact plays on special teams, blocking a kick attempt during each game. Last week against the Oakland Raiders he blocked an extra point late in the game. It was returned by Charvarius Ward for two points in favor of Kansas City.

This week against the New England Patriots, Kpassagnon got his mitts on field goal and it was also returned by Ward. This time he only reached midfield before being tackled. Check out the play from Kpassagnon below:

Kpassagnon has really started to thrive under the new defensive coaching staff, but on special teams, they’ve also learned to use him as a weapon when blocking kicks. Something seems to have clicked for Kpassagnon and its happening at the right time for the Chiefs, when they really could use some help from their special teams unit.

Hopefully, Kpassagnon continues to carry on this impact on both defense and special teams for the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs.

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The Kansas City Chiefs have released their list of inactive players just before their contest at home against the visiting Oakland Raiders and it’s interesting to see who has been activated for the game and who will be left standing on the sidelines.

For the Chiefs, the biggest name was expected as running back Damien Williams is dealing with a rib injury that needed more time than the bye week allowed in order to fully recover. Williams will likely be back at some point down the stretch but the Chiefs are obviously taking it easy with him while keeping him on the active roster.

That move means that Darwin Thompson, the team’s sixth round draft choice this year, gets a chance at some real reps alongside Darrel Williams and LeSean McCoy.

Jordan Lucas, a veteran safety, is also a healthy scratch for another week which means the secondary picture is becoming clearer each week at safety as Juan Thornhill learns the starting role with backups Armani Watts and Dan Sorensen there to provide help and depth throughout the game.

Deon Yelder is also sitting this week which means Blake Bell is back and ready to be the No. 2 tight end behind Travis Kelce. Chad Henne‘s presence here also means Matt Moore has the backup role locked down for the time being.

A full look at the Chiefs inactives for Sunday’s game against the Raiders:

Nick Allegretti, offensive lineman
Jackson Barton, offensive lineman
Demone Harris, defensive end
Chad Henne, quarterback
Jordan Lucas, safety
Damien Williams, running back
Deon Yelder, tight end

Here are inactives for the Raiders:

Rico Gafford, wideout
Isaiah Johnson, cornerback
DeShone Kizer, quarterback
Preston Brown, linebacker
Josh Mauro, defensive line
Hunter Renfrow, wide receiver
David Sharpe, offensive line

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The equipment is where?

Word that a substantial portion of the Kansas City Chiefs equipment wouldn’t arrive until Sunday because of a travel snafu was not exactly what Tyrann Mathieu needed to hear before a big game.

“I was worried,” Mathieu told USA TODAY Sports. “I’ve kind of got the whole Deion Sanders pregame ritual. I like to lay my stuff out. So, I had to wait. I was hoping it didn’t affect my play. I’m very superstitious.”

The Honey Badger can exhale. It worked out.

The Chiefs (9-4) clinched a fourth consecutive AFC West crown with a 23-16 victory against the Patriots and collected some new gear – bright red T-shirts that read “The West is Not Enough” – that was right on time.

The pre-game anxiety, though, was caused by what a Chiefs spokesman called an “honest mistake” when equipment for more than half the players was diverted to Newark after the chartered airplane continued on after flying the team to New England on Saturday. Interestingly, the missing equipment wasn’t discovered until early Sunday because the equipment managers couldn’t get into the visitor’s locker room as they typically would on Saturday, due to high school games staged at Gillette Stadium that day.

Now we know: The Chiefs were prepared to adapt before and during the game.

“We were ready to roll,” Mathieu said. “I feel like we really prepared the right way this week. Coaches weren’t stressing us out about playing against the Patriots. It was a relaxed environment, but we understood the commitment that all of us had to make. A lot of guys made the commitment to really focus on the details this week. We tried to throw some different coverages in there. I thought that kind of helped us for about 3 ½ quarters, until Tom Brady figured it out.”

As he put on his new T-shirt at his locker, it was apparent that Mathieu’s pre-game stress had long been relieved. He was excited that the Chiefs’ oft-maligned-but-improving defense closed out the victory by shutting the door on Brady as the Patriots were in close range for a potentially game-tying touchdown.

“I’m happy we were able to finish the game,” Mathieu said. “There have been so many games in this season, specifically, I really count the four losses…defensively, we were on the field at the end and we didn’t make the play. Lately, we’ve been able to make those plays.”

On Sunday, it was a textbook pass defense in the end zone by Bashaud Breeland on fourth down from the 5 – the cornerback reached over Julian Edelman with one arm and slapped the football away – that sealed the deal.

With Mathieu and defensive end Frank Clark representing the most significant additions to a Chiefs unit that Brady shredded in overtime in last season’s AFC title game, the reversal of the crunch-time result in the latest matchup against the Patriots might have been the best indicator yet that the revamped defense is poised to bring a different mojo in the playoffs.

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December 23, 2019, Portland, OR…A host of exciting and topical seminars devoted to Oregon wine will be presented February 11-12 at the 2020 Oregon Wine Symposium, the Oregon wine industry’s business, farming and technical conference presented by the Oregon Wine Board. Now in its 14th year, the Oregon Wine Symposium attracts 1,700 attendees from all over the globe. With 24 educational sessions and 180 exhibitors at the accompanying tradeshow, the Oregon Wine Symposium represents the best and brightest of the burgeoning Oregon wine industry.

Participants are encouraged to register before Jan 15, 2020 to take advantage of the full-access admission reduction of 25% for early bird pricing, for two full days of education, tasting and networking, and fun value-added events like Soirée and the festive TricorBraun Mimosa Bar during a first morning break.

One of the most highly anticipated seminars will be held the second afternoon on February 12 under the DTC wine business track, entitled Building Diversity in the Oregon Wine Industry and its Customers. Moderated by Christian Miller of Full Glass Research, this seminar aims to help the Oregon wine industry adapt to and build on more culturally and ethnically diverse visitors to wine country. Differences in perceptions and behavior by age and gender will be highlighted as well as benefits of diversification of employees, visitors and consumers.

Another sought-after seminar is Whole Cluster Fermentation: Intent, Execution, Expression and Analytics, to be held on the first afternoon of February 11, under the enology and tasting track. In this seminar, winemakers Emily Terrell of Brittan Vineyards, Grant Coulter of Flaneur Wines and Tom Gerrie of Cristom Vineyards will join Dr. Federico Casassa, associate professor of enology & sensory analysis at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Wine and Viticulture Department, and will cover the measurable effects of whole cluster fermentation on wine chemistry and phenolic profile. They will also explore the chemical and sensory effects of whole cluster fermentation in a research and winemaking context, which will then be carried into the glass with an integrated tasting, followed by questions and a brief discussion.

Farming and Making Alternative Varieties for a Changing Climate and Maturing Market will be held February 11, the first morning of Symposium and promises a lively and thought-provoking discussion for winemakers and viticulturists alike. This seminar will address how our climate is changing in Oregon, making it vitally important for the wine industry to consider the impact on our landscapes, marketplace, and wine growing in Oregon over the next decade and beyond. Led by Claire Jarreau of Brooks Wines, the panelists are Dr. Damien Wilson, professor of wine business at Sonoma State University, Dr. Greg Jones, director of the Evenstad Center for Wine Education at Linfield College, Brian Gruber, winemaker at Barrel 42 Custom Winecraft and Quady North in Southern Oregon, and Scott Zapotsky vice president of winegrowing at Eola Springs Vineyard, Chehalem Mountain Vineyard and Geodesy Wine. Topics include potential solutions through varietal and site selection, grafting, adaptations in the cellar, and how informed choices can work advantageously in a maturing marketplace.

Other engaging seminars on the 2020 Oregon Wine Symposium docket include several Oregon Wine Profit Planner Workshops which will be capped at 30 attendees per session, led by Tim Hanni MW. Taste Oregon Wine the WSET Way will take participants through tasting Oregon’s wines through the lens of the WSET Systematic Approach to Tasting Wine®. Finally, Total Workplace Health Safety in Oregon is a two-part seminar offered with Spanish translation addressing the key wellness objectives delivered within Oregon Total Workplace Health Alliance Training and current OSHA rules surrounding the wine industry workplace.