Home Wine Business Editorial What to Expect When Cal Expo Hosts the Unified Wine & Grape...

What to Expect When Cal Expo Hosts the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium for 2020

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By Dawn Dolan

With the move to the Cal Expo for the 2020 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium (UW&GS), both attendees and exhibitors might have questions about what to expect.  What will be different, how does the facility impact how the trade show is presented, and are there changes to the programming? What is the situation with lodging and transportation?

Dan Howard, the Executive Director for the American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV), and member of the managing committee for Unified, has been handling all the details of the Cal Expo move. “We chose it [Cal Expo] because it has the space, and is close to the Sacramento Convention Center. (Unified’s usual location.) It was the largest venue we could find that was still convenient, still the same region.” He is enthusiastic, and touts, “It’s a great facility, with plenty of room for exhibits, sessions and parking.  It’s really a fantastic temporary home.”

Keith Striegler, who is the Grower Outreach Specialist for E. & J. Gallo Winery, is the co-chair for the 2020 UW&GS Program Development Committee, points out the new dates for the 2020 show, which will be the 4th-6th of February instead of the customary third week of January. He is excited about the change up of location, saying that the committee looked at this positively. “This was an opportunity for us to do things a little bit differently and provide additional opportunities for learning. We’ve added quite a few sessions, gathered input from people who are there [attending previous year’s sessions].”

Streigler continues, “We’ve added several labor, mechanization, and regulatory issues sessions, as well as some for sustainability and environmental issues.”  The additional space has allowed the committee to expand the tracks, categorized as Winemaking, Grapegrowing, Business Operations, and Marketing/Public Relations. The Spanish track focus is on grapegrowing and winemaking, and is also offering an expanded session list, and making a change to offer a full-day program now. UW&GS plans to offer CEUs for the afternoon sessions in Spanish.

Nichola Hall, past president of ASEV is a current co-chair of the UW&GS  Program Development Committee. She says that in looking at the programming and considering the amount of extra meeting rooms that Cal Expo afforded, they decided to hold a special meeting just to see what the challenges would be for the Program Committee. They surprisingly decided there were no logistical issues. But in looking at the response data for what was wanted as far as programming goes, “Everybody said “regulations””, she notes. “We have added a regulations program to each of the winemakeing and grapegrowing tracks, including one for the Winemaking track, titled, “Regulatory Compliance for a New Decade. What’s New, What’s Changing and When It’s Happening?”

Explaining the basis for the sessions, Hall clarifies, “We wanted all the information presented to be data-driven, not anecdotal.” She says that the goals were to provide sessions that are data-driven, relevant, and have cost considerations in mind. “We tried to think of who is our audience, and are we meeting their needs,” she notes about the sessions. These considerations also include the technical tastings, which she calls, “data-driven technical tastings”.

Although not all the technical tastings are set yet, the committee is aiming for one winemaking session and one grapegrowing.  Tuesday afternoon starts it off, in the session, “Thiols: They are in More than Sauvignon blanc! “This session is about how to farm for them [thiols] and optimize them for the winemaking process,” says Hall. She is pleased to be offering multiple such tastings, remarking that, “It is not often that a small facility has this opportunity – to taste so many permutations of a wine.” Technical tastings are planned for the winemaking track, within the theme of tartrates, and also for the vineyard mechanization session, with another possibly in the works.

Streigler discusses the added sessions for regulatory issues. “On Tuesday afternoon, we have one session called ‘It’s more than H2O‘ looking at water rights, and the implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. Every area has ground water management regulations, and is charged with developing a plan for not taking out more than is going into the supply. We’ll be looking at water rights in general.” Another session that is a very important addition this year is the “MRL Minimum Residue Level and You, a Global look at what your Strategy Should Be.” Streigler notes that in our global economy, understanding the regulations of minimum residue levels will be key, particularly for those wineries exporting goods, where restrictions may be higher than in the US.

Considering that the facility could impact how the trade show and program is put together, all three individuals are enthusiastic about the minimal to non-impact of the move, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities to create new experiences for all tracks. Howard reiterates, “There is virtually no impact. It’s just a different layout, split into three main buildings. One of the things we are excited about for 2020 is that it is all the ‘main floor’ [at Cal Expo].”

Because the Cal Expo is further from the downtown, shuttles will be available to transport guests staying in contracted downtown Sacramento hotels to and from Cal Expo. Guests staying in contracted hotels in the Greater Sacramento area will have Uber vouchers available for transportation.

For some exhibitors, one of the largest changes is the outdoor showcasing space at Cal Expo. Howard says, “One of the things is that it does allow us to have exhibit display outside as well as inside. There is a large equipment space outside, allowing for the showcasing of some large machinery. We are excited about this opportunity.” Additionally, the marshaling yard (typically an off-site location where shipping and deliveries are coordinated and controlled) is usually a few miles away. Cal Expo has one on location, making it really convenient logistically. Howard contentedly notes, “This move is pretty seamless. It’s temporary, but the change is good.”

Embarking on this large-scale project, the Sacramento Convention Center will undergo major renovations, known as the C3 Project. According to their website, “Renovation and expansion will improve event flexibility, increase exhibit space, provide larger meeting space and improve the guest experience with better circulation through and around the building.” Summarizes Howard, “When we go back in 2021, it will be two main levels, with the playing field evened out, and no one tucked into odd spaces. Once we move back, it will be bigger, better, grander space for the 2021 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium.”

For more information see this year’s schedule and the frequently asked questions about the 2020 UW&GS.

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