Jim Trezise, Allegheny ’68, became president of WineAmerica in 2017 after serving more than twenty years on the organization’s board of directors and executive committee that was tasked with protecting and enhancing the business climate for the American wine industry through national grassroots public policy advocacy. WineAmerica is the National Association of American Wineries, which represents over 500 member wineries from forty-four states.
In 1981 he went to work for a nonprofit called the New York State Wine Grape Growers Association. The New York grape industry was in danger of collapse, but Trezise was brought on by Governor Mario Cuomo’s administration to work up a solution. Through hard work and public policy, they were able to grow from thirty wineries in 1981 to around 450 in 2020.
Jim is revered for his efforts in helping open up New York State for direct shipments from out-of-state wineries, in the face of objection from retailers and distributors.
For Trezise, unity, mentoring, membership, and respect are the words he lives by. “‘Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power,’ has been my sermon for the last thirty-seven years, whether at a state or national level. It is not just a phrase, but the truth. My principal role and value, I believe, is bringing people together and convincing them to believe in themselves and each other.”
The New York Wine and Grape Foundation honored Jim as its founding president at the B.E.V. NY Unity Banquet on February 28, 2018 with the inaugural Jim Trezise Lifetime Achievement Award. The new award will recognize individuals who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to the New York wine and grape industry and who have made contributions that advanced the industry.
Trezise has received many awards over the years. Asked which means the most to him, he says, “The Wine Integrity Award from the Lodi Winegrape Commission is especially meaningful because of what it stands for, and because other recipients include people like Robert Mondavi, Robert Young, Karen Ross, and Dr. Curt Ellison. The Jim Trezise Lifetime Achievement Award from the New York Wine and Grape Foundation is also very special, given that the organization is my ‘baby,’ and I’ve spent about thirty-five years nurturing it.”
Jim has served on the boards of national and international organizations involved with public policy, research, marketing, and trade. He is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and judges in many wine competitions around the world.
Jim earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from Allegheny College, and master of arts in international communications from American University in Washington, DC. He lives and works on Keuka Lake in New York’s fabulous Finger Lakes wine region.