Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Four Takeaways from Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

What can I say, I'm a sucker for a trade show.  Events where exhibitors and merchants gather, walk the aisles to buy, sell or swap stories. It's an environment I've enjoyed from my earliest days in business.  After hearing about it for years, I finally ventured up to Sacramento, California's State Capital, to visit the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, the largest wine industry trade show in North America.  

700 Exhibitors and 14,000 attendees took over downtown Sacramento's Convention Center January 24-26 and there was much for the eye to behold.
2 minute video at Unified

Here's a list of four takeaways from this year's event by a first time visitor:

New Wine Regions Discovered

There were two wine regions in attendance that were unfamiliar to me.  Although I've known there is wine being produced in all 50 states in the U.S. I didn't know that Arizona is gaining some momentum with their wine production.  Enough so that they poured samples of Arizona wines during a regional wine tasting.  Arizona was the only place outside of California represented in the regional wine tasting.  Quite good, I thought.  Hints of cactus and red rock...

Wines from Arizona

There were also some attendees from an emerging wine region in Mexico.  I'd been told that I need to investigate Mexico further so it was nice to meeting some folks attending from the Baja wine region.  It's only about an hour and a half from the California border, I learned from Demian Sandoval and his family of wine partners, including his sister Ivonne.  The Guadalupe Valley in Mexico is where visitors are starting to come for a wine country escape and I hear it's lovely.  

Representing Wines of Mexico

 Sustainability has Arrived as a Movement

 Sonoma County, California is leading the movement on Sustainability in what has become a statewide initiative for the California Winegrape Growers and the Wine Institute.  Sustainable winegrowing is a comprehensive set of practices that are environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable.  In the coming years, wineries who meet the criteria will be able to identify their bottles as sustainable with a new symbol which was unveiled at the symposium by Karissa  Kruse of the Sonoma Winegrape Growers where 85% of the vineyards have already achieved this designation.    The research is bearing out that consumers will be more likely to purchase wines that meet this criteria.

The new Sustainability Logo for California 

 Wine and Viticulture Technology Advances

You could find anything you need from vineyard management, to corks to bottles to custom crush wine making at this conference.  However, it's been told to me that one of the reasons the quality of wine making in the New World regions, such as California, has improved so quickly is because of constant improvement in wine making technology. This can range from analyzing vineyards with drones, to devices that more accurately measure the proper levels of chemicals that make a wine taste better.  Lots of friendly representatives were available to show the new ways of the world.

Airstrike Bird Control
Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services
Allary Cooperage from France
Pouring Santa Cruz Wines
Amorim Cork America

After Party by Toneleria from Chile


Sacramento is an ideal location for this major wine industry show due to it's proximity to the Northern California wine regions in easy driving distance.  However, there are 14,000 people attending this show and Sacramento only has 2,000 hotel rooms downtown adjacent to the convention center.  The exhibit halls were filled to the brim and a rooftop area was covered with a tent to accommodate some of the overflow exhibitors.  The center is just a block away from the State Capitol Building and an easy ride to popular attractions such as Old Sacramento.  Local news media was reporting about the possibility of moving the city's premier industry trade show of the year which fills the hotels, restaurants and bars with guests for several days each year.  However, the show is already showing that it is booked in the "City of Trees" in 2018.

Old Sacramento or "Old Sac" as the locals say
Delta King Riverboat Hotel 

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