Today officially concluded the four-day event that is the largest industry gathering in the nation. Hosted by American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) and the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG). This event serves as the wine mecca for information on the current status of the industry, and the latest products being released. For three days the Sacramento Convention Center and all the surrounding hotels fill with industry professionals from around the world who then fill the various conference rooms soaking up as much knowledge as possible. There are general sessions covering the major issues and breakout sessions for each segment of the industry to stay plugged into the current research of the day. There is also a trade show that takes place for two days and it is the best place to see all the latest high tech products and equipment advances that are hitting the market. This year for the first time, there was a fourth day added to the program. It was an 8 hour Aroma Symposium with prestigious speakers from across the globe presenting their research on aroma compounds and complexities, along with a wine tasting for sensory analysis.
As wonderful as all of these official events are, the part of this event that really impresses me is the part that takes place outside of the convention center. Beginning Monday evening, industry friends begin arriving at the adjoining hotels, and immediately head to the lobby bar to start mingling. Each night it gets more crowded with a more diverse mixture of people, all passionate about the same things, and eager to exchange business cards and a laugh. During the week there are also several industry hosted parties at various surrounding restaurants. A favorite of mine includes the Bottle Bash hosted by Wine Business Monthly at Pyramid Brewery. The place fills with people all wanting to share their latest wine and great free food. Other parties that take place later in the evenings, including the notorious Scheid party held at The Park Ultra Lounge, are still full of enthusiastic individuals that manage to make business connections even over a gin and tonic and Britney Spears in the background.
From the moment I crossed J & 13th Street I could feel the buzz. Being from this city and having walked that area many times, I can tell you it never feels as alive and exciting as it does during the week of Unified. Everyone comes to Sacramento with the same idea in mind: to connect with people. Whether it's to hear the state of the industry, buy new products, connect with old friends, or make new networking connections, everyone is about having a good time and commingling over their mutual passion (because everyone in this industry knows it had better be a passion since we don't get into it for the money!) that is wine.
I learned quite a lot this week, and not just about Grenache from the amazing session led by Dr. Patterson of Cal Poly State University, or about the latest web platform from VIN65 that will enhance a winery's website beyond its wildest dreams; I also learned about people and the power of a handshake and your word. No matter how large this industry gets, it will always be a small world for those of us within it, therefore integrity means a lot in this business. It is a business or which I am proud to be a part.
I am glad I was able to share the great times with everyone this week, and I look forward to seeing all of you again next year!