Wine industry place to be
Sacramento symposium, trade show draw 10,000 guests from around world
Published: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 2:04 a.m.
It may not have the star power of the Consumer Electronics Trade Show or the geek allure of Macworld, but this week's Unified Wine and Grape Symposium is still the wine industry's party of the year.
UNIFIED WINE AND GRAPE SYMPOSIUM
Symposium begins Tuesday and runs through Thursday at the Sacramento Convention Center.
Two-day trade show begins Wednesday.
477 exhibitions expected to draw 10,000 visitors.
About 65 Sonoma County businesses have rented booth space at a cost of about $1,700 per 10-by-10-foot booth.
The annual symposium, which starts Tuesday in Sacramento, is the largest single event for the American wine industry, and will draw more than 10,000 guests from around the world, organizers said.
Sonoma County wine industry suppliers - from label makers and vine researchers to accountants, architects and engineers - have been planning their sales pitches for weeks.
"If you are making a product to sell to a winery, you absolutely have to be there," said Jeff Sherman, the regional sales and marketing manager at Tonnellerie Radoux USA, a Santa Rosa barrel maker. "Everyone in the wine industry is going to be there. It's going to be a full two days of nonstop meetings and talking with customers."
About 65 Sonoma County businesses have rented booth space at this year's symposium, which includes a two-day trade show with 477 exhibitors.
The symposium will fill the Sacramento Convention Center and spill into nearby hotel conference rooms, organizers said. Hotel rooms have been booked for months and there's a waiting list to get an exhibition booth.
The trade show, which starts Wednesday morning, is generally the best place to introduce new technologies and attract customers, suppliers said. The trade show floor will be buzzing in between classes and lectures.
"It's the biggest shebang of the year," said Zack Scott, head of administrative sales at Petaluma's Scott Laboratories, which is sending 18 people to the symposium. Scott said the company will be showing off its new automatic sorting equipment and an air cleansing system called AiroCide.
"It's probably the best forum in the industry to reach the most people with all the new things that are happening," he said.
The trade show isn't a cheap venture. It costs about $1,700 to rent a 10-by-10-foot booth, and for companies like Tonnellerie Radoux, that square footage isn't enough. The cooperage is renting a space four times that size to hold a 6-foot-tall oak tank, along with barrels and other oak supplies.
Then there's the cost of putting up employees for a night or two in Sacramento - Tonnellerie Radoux is sending eight people, including two executives from the company headquarters in France. Plus it's only natural for a wine industry supplier to have a few bottles of decent wine on hand for potential customers.
"We rent a booth, and then we have display racks, and then the wines that we bring to display. There are hotels, the food, the show itself," said Tony Jackson, a sales representative at Paragon Label in Petaluma, which is known for its laser dye-cutting process of making wine labels. "The company probably lays out five digits, easily."
But the cost is worth it, Jackson said. In years past, he's seen 300 people or more over two days at the booth, and he said 30 or 40 of those people contact him after the symposium.
"It's kind of a salesperson's dream when they're coming to you versus you dogging after them," he said. "If you don't go to the symposium, you're messing up."
Paragon Label has been around for only six years, but even decades-old, well-established wine industry suppliers say the symposium is the one event of the year they have to attend.
"People expect us to be there," said Jane Rogan, marketing director at Summit Engineering in Santa Rosa, where about 60 percent of its business is in helping build wineries. "We can generate up to 20 or 30 business appointments. But just being part of the wider community of the wine industry is what's important to us."
For many suppliers like Summit, the symposium isn't so much about reaching new customers as reconnecting with old ones. Because the symposium takes place in the off season for domestic grape growers and wineries, it's the one event of the year that everyone can attend.
In the Kendall-Jackson Nursery booth, General Manager Ernie Bowman plans to be surrounded by greenery - he's bringing half a dozen or so different vines to show potential customers.
But the event, he said, isn't so much about finding new customers as "just having a presence."
"We sell a lot of vines to Ohio and some to Texas and the East Coast, and a lot of those people will attend," Bowman said. "You may talk to them on the phone a couple times a year, but it is the only time that I see those people face to face.
"I'm not much of a talker usually," Bowman said, "but I do a lot of talking there."
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