This Tuesday, the world of wine in the US all converges on Sacramento, CA for the annual Unified Wine and Grape Symposium. I haven’t personally been to Unified in several years. It, for some reason, ended up conflicting directly with the Master of Wine Residential seminar and (for those of you who have followed my journey through the MW) I’m sure you can guess what won. That being said if you plan to attend Unified this year, even if it is just the trade show portion I recommend coming with a strategy for navigating the show. It’s all about strategy.
I’m excited about this year’s programming. I’ve signed up for the entire show starting with the Keynote Speaker Luncheon on Tuesday given by the President of Jackson Family Wines, Rick Tigner. It looks like an incredibly fun talk going over important issues such as constraints of label growth, foreign market opportunities, and sustainability challenges and costs. After that I am torn between a Marketing/ PR session entitled “Content is King” and a Winemaking session focused on achieving quality in “Lower-Brix” wines. I sense that will be a game day decision.
Tuesday is the easy day to plan since the talks are not competing with the trade show. This by itself would take up the entirety of the remaining two days if you really needed to talk to a lot of the vendors who come to pedal there wares. It’s very much like an industry Bazar with unexpected treasures lurking around every corner. Need a new barrel washer? Why yes, maybe I do? A discounted subscription to Wine Business Monthly? Sign me up! A T-shirt that proclaims “I like to Wine” in sparkly rhinestones that would make any 80s bedazzler fan proud? They have that too. Tackling the trade show is all about strategy. Who do you want to see really? What are your top 2 things you need to look for? Add at least an hour and a half for talking with people you randomly run into and haven’t seen in years because that WILL happen.
Wednesday morning is dominated by the State of the Industry address. It is a not to be missed panel featuring what’s hot and what’s not in the industry right now. The afternoon is broken up into a series of very tempting talks and the ever present hum of the Trade Show ( You know, I really would like to see that Shaker Table!) after which comes a Regional Wine tasting because up until this point there really hasn’t been enough wine at this wine industry event. After that, of course, comes the ever popular Alumni and “Friends” gatherings of Fresno State and UC Davis. Oh, Cal Poly has joined the party as well! (Mental note to see if we can organize something for Cornell next year…)
Thursday tends to be more low key. Many of the suppliers start packing up early so if you want to go check out the latest in Stainless contraptions it’s best to go early but if you got all that done yesterday perhaps you want to listen to how to “Future Proof” your buisness. With a great panel of speakers covering a dire set of predictions (no water, no labor, high energy costs, earthquakes, fires, floods, freezes, locusts, plagues… Ok I added those last two) this could be very interesting.
After lunch I’m torn again between another marketing session focused on “Craft” and opportunities for the wine industry ( I sense an MW exam question in the making here) and Sustainability Certifications in a Global Market. (Darn you organizers! Why must you put so many intriguing topics all at the same time!!! Oh look, a new optical sorter! Shiny!!!)
You get the picture. It’s madness. It’s crowded. It’s fun. It’s educational. It’s where anyone remotely interested in wine should be this week. Just make sure you have a game plan, bring a back pack for all the random papers and pamphlets you’ll pick up and don’t get distracted by the shiny objects.
See you there!