The annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is the largest wine trade show in the Western Hemisphere and for the last 23 years has attracted thousands of wine industry folks from around the world. It was started in 1995 by two non-profit groups, the American Society for Enology & Viticulture (ASEV) and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG) as a way for the industry to keep up to date on information and technology.
This January over 14,000 winemakers, executives, grape growers, vineyard workers, consultants, marketing professionals and suppliers converged on the Sacramento Convention Center in what some have described as “The City’s Biggest Party”. Whether one comes for work, pleasure or a little of both, the Unified Symposium is the premier event for education and networking in the U.S. wine industry.
I stopped a few folks in the hallways to ask what they got out of this year’s event and what Unified means for them. Here’s what they said:
Ray Johnson, Executive Director, Wine Business Institute, Sonoma State University
“It’s an opportunity to connect with the people who are making it happen in the wine industry.”
Tim McDonald, Chief Everything Officer, Wine Spoken Here Communications
“I have attended Unified from the start and this year was perhaps my favorite because of the outside-of-the box sessions! It started with a ‘bang’ when a wine journalist speaks about transparency and ingredient labeling. You have to be authentic and have to have a dialogue vs. a monologue with our consumers as well as empathy for them too. Learn, be inspired and most importantly, act! Plus I loved the berry to cannabis exploration… brilliant.”
Erica Moyer, Broker and Partner, Turrentine Brokerage
“Unified means being able to get together with friends, drink a little wine and eat good food. Everyone seems to let their hair down a little.”
Pete Opatz, Vice President Vineyard Operations, Silverado Investment Management Corporation
“Going to the general sessions to get the trends and information is great, but seeing everybody is just as important. Networking is right up there with content.”
Chris Younger, Vino Farms
“We come to see the technology on the exhibit floor and in the sessions. The State of the Industry talk is great- it’s interesting to see a wide perspective.”
Brant Burgiss, Winemaker, Thistle Meadow Winery, North Carolina
“I come for the lectures and to see the vendors. I wish there were more lectures in fact! Coming all the way from North Carolina was totally worth it.”
Steve Burch, Regional Sales Manager, Tonnellerie Radoux
“I look forward to the Unified Symposium every year to both catch up on emerging technology in the wine industry and catch up with relationships built over 20 years in the business.”
Learn, Act and Be Inspired
Part alumni reunion, part deep-dive into technology and trends, it’s our annual industry get-together and learning opportunity. On Thursday morning, Amy Hoopes, President of Wente Vineyards lead a TED-style panel called “Adapt or go Extinct”. “Let’s be curious and engage in that which is outside our own silos,” she said. “We need to learn, be inspired and act.”
The most important thing we can do after Unified is to act on what we’ve learned. Follow up with that supplier who could really impact your business in a positive way. Jot down some ideas that inspired you. Write a thank-you note to someone who gave you some great coaching over coffee and shake the hand of a young first-timer. You never know who you might teach and inspire, or what you might learn to move your business forward.
Did you attend the 2017 Unified? Please tell us what Unified means to you by filling out our attendee survey form and session surveys:
A big thanks to the staff and volunteers that make Unified Symposium possible- from the Sacramento Convention Center workers to the CAWG and ASEV boards to the Unified Symposium Program Committee and beyond.
Alison Crowe is an award-winning consulting winemaker and author based in the Napa Valley. She is a member of the Program Committee for the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.
Her wines (among many other wine projects):
Her book: The Winemaker’s Answer Book
UW&GS and the UW&GS Logo are licensed trademarks of Unified Wine & Grape Symposium LLC
Friends and colleagues around the world have seen pictures of a very wet wine country in the media and many have contacted me wondering what the impact of all of these storms will be on grapevines.
Here’s what I posted on Facebook on Tuesday, January 11th after the first big storm (about 4.5 inches in 72 hours at our house in Napa) rolled through the area:
“Question: What do the recent rains mean for Napa and Sonoma grapes? I’ve seen pictures of flooded vineyards on the news and online.
Answer: Grapevines can tolerate flooding/”wet feet” for around 20 days. In fact, the French once used vineyard flooding to control the Phylloxera root pest. The recent Napa/Sonoma rains were acute (and did produce some “clickable” photos) but short lived. The few affected Napa valley floor vineyards I’ve seen this morning are draining out. Like everywhere else, the ground is saturated so you can bet everyone is going to be keeping an eye on trees, slopes and vineyard architecture (posts, trellises) to make sure we don’t have negative effects due to erosion and downed trees. I’m thrilled our vineyard reservoirs are full and that water tables are getting replenished- it bodes very well for the 2017 harvest.”
We are now facing another series of storm cells lined up off the Pacific Coast. It started with yesterday’s (Wednesday, 1/18/17) wet and windy day and isn’t supposed to stop coming until this coming Monday. The forecast is for around five inches to find its way into Napa and Sonoma Counties in as many days.
I predict that, once again, the news folks will be out snapping photos and shooting videos for their nightly newscasts. Once again, we’ll be sharing our soggy vineyard pictures on Instagram and reacting with the Facebook “Wow!” button when we see the Conn Dam spillway back in action.
For water-starved Northern Californians, I have to admit it’s been pretty fun to be able to finally see creeks rise and reservoirs get full-to-bursting, even though of course we don’t want anyone to get hurt or suffer serious property damage. The truth is, there will always be the low-lying areas (like poor Guerneville on the Russian River) that get waterlogged for a period of time. We will always have those corners of our vineyards that get “wet feet” and dry out later than everywhere else.
Even if pruning has to be delayed a little bit in some places, there is still time to get the work done before bud-break in early March. After years of drought and parched vines struggling under super-dry conditions, I’m happy to see this season’s turn-around. Because these acute periods of rain so far have been followed by at least a few days to dry out (we have at least six sunny days forecast starting Tuesday), many of us in the wine business have been saying, “Hey, we’ll take it!” I’ll even take a few vineyard blocks with wet feet because, after all, that’s what’s “normal” for this time of year in Northern California. For once, in an industry that increasingly values the rare and extreme, normal feels pretty good.
Alison Crowe is an award-winning winemaker, blogger and author who lives in the Napa Valley.