It’s ironic that it took a global lockdown for the wine industry to work out what it is about wine tastings and talking about wine in a meaningful and memorable way that works..and does not. The California Wine Institute is looking to capture all that in a new in-person, interactive wine event that hopes to share its unique wine story in a way that involves all our five senses. Its new ambitious, breakthrough Eureka! event is being launched in London between June 8-9 and here Honore Comfort, vice president of international marketing at the California Wine Institute, explains what we can expect.
From a Virtual Vineyard to a Sensory Garden the California Wine Institute‘s new interactive Eureka! wine event looks like being a wine tasting that nobody has experienced before. You can find out how below and register to attend here.
You have launched a new consumer and trade initiative called Eureka. Can you tell me what that is about?
“Eureka!” is the state motto of California, meaning “I found it!”. It ties back to the gold rush when our state was founded by people looking for a better life, and today it underscores California’s inherent spirit of discovery and innovation. This new initiative is designed for the wine trade and wine enthusiasts to experience and discover wines from California in a whole new way and enjoy a taste of the California lifestyle here in London.
How did you come up with the idea?
We started this idea in 2019 as a way to introduce many in the wine trade to the wines and wine styles coming from California today, as well as highlight some of the innovations and ideas that are driving California viticulture and winemaking forward. During the pandemic, when no one could travel and all trips and tourism to California paused, we realised that we needed to find an innovative and compelling way to bring California to our trade and consumer partners. We also recognised the need to reinvent the “trade tasting” event and offer people an opportunity to learn about wines and a wine region in a new way.
We developed this program around using all five senses to learn about our wines and to get people out of the somewhat staid and expected routine of a walk-around tasting. As California, we leaned into our tech roots and created an innovative solution to the traditional trade seminar that leverages immersive 4D video to explore geology, terrain and climate. We’ve brought the outdoors in to expand the environment and create room for the trade to engage and learn about the wines with space and time to talk. All of this has been designed to be enjoyed in a healthy and safe environment with small numbers of people and a “paper-free” experience, yet provide the opportunity to taste more than 250 wines over the three days.
It’s quite brave and different to host an event that is going to be relevant to both the trade and consumers – why are you bringing the two together?
We will be offering sessions exclusively for the trade during the day on both June 8 and 9. Trade attendees can register to attend either the morning session or the afternoon session, and trade attendees can register for more than one session since the wines will change each day. During the evening on June 8, when the wine trade is either done for the day or during service, we’ve opted to invite interested wine enthusiasts and collectors to come and experience Eureka! and have the opportunity to taste a range of wines that would rarely be available at one time. Frankly, Eureka! will be too interesting and exciting not to share with anyone interested in wine and food. The link for consumers to buy tickets at £30 a person is here.
Can you talk through some of the content and how it is going to work? You have some interactive elements to it?
We have woven interactive experiences throughout the event along with the opportunity to taste wines from producers across almost every region of California. People learn best through memorable and immersive experiences, and that is at the heart of Eureka! and our approach to creating a California experience.
At the event we will launch the Virtual Vineyard, a new approach to a wine seminar that is built around a series of 4D videos that show the geologic formation of the state and how the resulting terrain works with our climate to create California’s diverse growing regions. Each section explores a different aspect of California from the coastline to the mountains, and Master Sommelier Will Costello will lead guests through the tasting.
We’ve also created an outdoor Sensory Garden that links flavours and aromas to wines, and Tucker Taylor, the head of the Culinary Gardens at Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma County will be on hand to talk about the garden design and his approach to sustainable and organic gardening. Kendall-Jackson’s executive chef, Justin Wangler, will connect sustainably produced wines and produce through his wine and food pairings and cooking demonstrations in the garden.
Wines on a Mission will be a walk-through exhibit that provides insight into how California winemakers and winegrowers are responding to climate change and preparing for the future. An innovative self-pour area developed with Eurocave gives guests the opportunity to taste and explore wines on their own. The Loft offers a rotating selection of wines to taste, many from micro producers and wines new to the market. All wine information will be available via a smart phone app with QR codes throughout the event linking attendees to details and information on the wines and wineries.
How have you designed the content and brought it together in this interactive way – it all sounds very different to a normal trade event?
Yes, this is intended to offer a completely different experience to the trade, while still offering them the opportunity to find new wines that will appeal to their customer and work within their selection or portfolio. After two years of virtual seminars and tastings, we want to bring a fresh, vibrant, engaging experience to our trade partners that will energise their palates and satisfy their curiosity. Our aim is to redefine the traditional “trade event” and offer an innovative way to discover wines and learn about a region that many people have not had an opportunity to visit.
What do you hope people will get out of it?
Our goal is to provide guests with an expanded sense of what California has to offer and an increased curiosity about wines from California with a desire to taste and discover more wines., Most of all we hope that people will have an invigorating experience that stimulates their palate and mind after a long two-year hiatus of being together in the wine trade.
Who do you hope the event will attract – be most relevant for?
This event is designed specifically for the trade, with the level of detail, wine selection, information and education that they expect. A small number of interested wine enthusiasts, from collectors to the newly curious, will have a rare opportunity to taste wines and cuisine from California in an innovative, exciting and relaxed environment.
There is also a strong emphasis on sustainable winemaking in California at Eureka?
Yes – we think it is important to offer insight into the practices and approaches that California winemakers and growers have embraced for decades, and how we are planning for future that we can sustain for generations to come. California’s wine community is deeply committed to working together to create solutions and make the choices now that will matter into the future. There is a lot of science and detail behind sustainable practices and at Eureka! we hope to connect it to the wine in your glass and the bottle that you choose.
Anything else about Eureka! you can tell us about?
(Watch the teaser video for Eureka!)
Our commitment to sustainability goes beyond winemaking. At Eureka! we will be using two different platforms to track and measure our carbon footprint and we have made choices throughout the event to minimize or eliminate waste, to use recycled or reused materials, and to be transparent in our approach. For example, we are working with Social Pantry, an environmentally conscious kitchen and catering company that works with local growers and producers to source sustainably and organically grown produce and products. We plan to recycle the corks from the event and have eliminated all paper, using QR codes and digital information instead of paper.
Anything else in the pipeline for California wines globally?
Yes, we have several new initiatives that are underway. Earlier this month at ProWein we introduced a new, small footprint walk-through experience “Explore Sustainable California” that offered a self-guided tour with audio files and a tasting curated by Elaine Chukan Brown, executive editor of JancisRobinson.com. We also launched the new California Road Trip in key markets across Canada that offered an innovative approach for the trade to taste and learn about California wines by region.
This fall we will launch the first Global Buyers Marketplace with 80 buyers from 26 countries coming to California for an immersive week of grand tastings, seminars, winery dinners and tours of California’s wine regions all designed exclusively for buyers interested in expanding their selection of California wines. Finally, we will be launching a new website for the California Wines Export program designed specifically for anyone interested in doing business with California wines around the world. The site will offer resources and information, as well as a winery and importer database.
- Eureka! runs between June 8-9 at the Truman Brewery, Boiler House, Shoreditch, E1 6RU. You can register for the separate 2.5 hour or 3 hour sessions here. They run from 10am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5pm. You can also sign up for 45 minute Virtual Vineyard Sessions during those time slots.