Drinking in January or The Unified Wine and Grape Symposium

As it is January, let’s discuss the Wine & Grape Symposium that’s going on this week. Every year on the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of the last full week of January, wine industry people from California, Washington, the east coast, and the rest of the world, descend on downtown Sacramento, CA. For 3 days you can’t get a table at a good restaurant, good coffee is a serious wait, parking is absolutely impossible and very expensive, and Ubers and taxis have surcharges during the middle of the day- just from being busy.  The event is held at the convention center with a Keynote speaker discussing the state of the industry, and multiple series of classes in both English and Spanish being held on all sorts of things from vineyard management and green fertilizer advancement, to packaging and bottling changes, to regulations, to advertising. But I ‘ve never been to a single one of these classes. I do what most other attendees do, and walk the trade show floor, see what new products are out, connect with suppliers, bump in to old friends and colleges. Often times one-on-one meeting are set here but the real connections happen off the floor. Or at the wonderful and ever busy Mukini sushi restaurant for lunch, one of the happy hours, nice dinner places, private hotel room parties, or late night at the dive bars. One supplier told me that you lose customers if you aren’t at the Torch Club Wednesday night.

So, it flows like this, people come into town on Tuesday- set up, etc. That night they have dinner meetings with suppliers or people who set it up a head of time. Wednesday morning most people walk the floor or attend more meetings or the classes. At 4pm there is a wine tasting and the real drinking begins. It’s then hopping from hosted event to hosted event, dinner, and the late night party spots. Thursday is a late start for most, with people grumbling that they set up meetings for that early hour of 10am. By then it’s visine eye drops, more walking or working the floor, some food and a little hair of the dog, and then it’s pretty much wrapped up by 3pm, and everyone heads home to their normal life.

Symposium is the real reason I never start a New Year diet plan till February. Because it is pointless. It’s always a boozy week and a lot of fun.

This year is a little different than those of the past. I was taken out to a wonderful dinner with a supplier on Tuesday night (a first for me). Then I skipped all that activity on Wednesday, instead attending a Committee meeting for the Make-a-Wish Food and Wine event coming up. And then I’m walking the floor today (Thursday). My friends that I normally hang out with are all else where: one is now head winemaker at a big Napa winery, and was simply slammed ordering fun new tools and toys with her cellar crew; another winemaker is in hospital on maternity bed-rest; and another friend is slammed with meetings for POS and labels. I’m planning on meeting up with another friend from out of town, but who knows how that will all play out.

No matter what, it will be interesting to see what’s on the floor, what new treads are there, hopefully zorks and cement eggs are not the end-all-be-all again, and I’m hoping to see some old friends and have good conversations.

Well, now for some food and a start to this Symposium day!



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