Archives: Unified Symposium
Some of you have heard me say before that no, wine doesn’t begin with grapes, it begins with people. And you can see some of your favorite industry peeps, and meet some new friends and colleagues, at the 2019 Unified Symposium, the Western Hemisphere’s largest grape and wine trade show, in Sacramento this week. What am I excited about, besides getting to see so many of my fabulous, vinous tribe?
Lunchtime Keynote- Listening to and Learning From….the Spirits Industry!(?)
Talk about something new, this year’s lunchtime keynote will not be yet another wine industry luminary but rather Master Distiller Lance Winters from St. George Spirits, one of the most successful artisan distilleries in the country if not the world. So why are we listening to a guy who makes booze and not wine? Among many other reasons, because Lance and his team have always been way out ahead of trends, consumer needs and customer desires when it comes to alcoholic beverages. St. George is also always spot on with their ingredient-sourcing, packaging and marketing not to mention overall product deliciousness. Listen and learn…..
Tuesday Jan 29, 11:30-1:30, Sheraton Grand Nave Ballroom, priced separately and includes plated lunch and wine
New Exhibit Hall Floor Tour-Marketing Focus
One of the cool “underground” experiences that Unified offers are themed exhibit-hall tours so you can get a curated edit in a short amount of time without having to wade through miles of booths. In addition to the regular winemaking and viticulture tours, this year they are also offering a Marketing Tour, focusing on the marketing, sales, and PR services available to the wine industry. As we all know (or should know) it’s harder to sell good wine than it is to make it and as consumers are increasingly in demand of transparency, authenticity and quality experiences, every successful brand needs a stable of marketing and sales professionals on their side.
Wednesday Jan 30, 3:00-4:00 PM, meet in Sacramento Convention Center Room 203
Have a great brand idea but don’t have the juice to fill it? Have some amazing wines in your cellar but are looking beyond your winery’s brands in order to move it to the right customer? Wednesday’s “Alternative Routes to the Retail Market” will focus on how to make private, control and custom projects work for you. Of a similar vein but applicable to almost any winery or brand, “Outsourcing Success Stories: Leveraging Custom Crush and Processing Services for Growth and Profitability” speaks to brand pivots, SKU re-alignments and strategic growth. Disclaimer- I’m the moderator (I bring over 10 years experience in custom winemaking) and my expert panelists and I will lead you through the legal and practical why’s and how’s while showing you the pitfalls to avoid in the custom crush world.
“Alternative Routes to the Retail Market” Wednesday Jan 30, 1:30-3:30, Hyatt Regency Ballroom C
Hey, it may not be sexy but compliance, QC and food safety are a critical part of what we’re all about in the wine industry. “Do not pass go, do not collect $200”…..you know the drill. The FSMA (FDA Food Safety Modernization Act) legal and practical update has become a critical annual informational download and this year’s panel, led by Paul Huckaba of Bronco Wine Company and including Charles Breen, who is perhaps the most experienced FSMA consultant in the country, should be required attendance for small and large winery leaders alike.
Wednesday Jan 30, 1:00-2:15, Sacramento Convention Center Room 204
Want to explore even more about this year’s program? Check out this video intro and interview with Dr. Nichola Hall and Dr. Tom Collins, the Program Committee Vice Chair and Chair, respectively.
It’s impossible to see or do it all at Unified but hopefully the above gives you a sneak peek into what I’m thinking about as I pack my bag and wrap up work at the winery this weekend. Grab a copy of the schedule, get ready to party and I’ll see you, and all my other favorite Winemaking people, in Sacramento in a couple of days!
Alison Crowe is the Director of Winemaking for Plata Wine Partners, a supplier of coastal California AVA-driven wines. All of her wines are sourced from her company’s 100% sustainably-certified vineyards and clients include national brands, restaurants and retailers. Wines include Garnet Vineyards, Picket Fence Vineyards, Verada Wines and Buttercream Chardonnay and Back From the Dead Red. She has served on the Unified Symposium Program Committee since 2013.
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