On the flight from California, two hours from our final destination, we discovered the itinerary for our most recent sales trip to Ohio. Not because we wisely used our time on the cross-county flight to catch up on emails, but because we overheard the conversation in the row behind us. The typical in-flight tête-à-tête perked our interest when we realized that half the conversation was about our trip. Four trade shows in four cities in four days on a bus filled with 64 wine suppliers for Wine Trends. Sounds like a rock star tour.
There are not many new ideas when it come to distributor trade shows, but kudus to Wine Trends for coming up with beautiful venues and for treating their wineries like, well, rock stars. Day One was at The Cleveland Arcade, an ornate Victorian-era mall. The parade of linen covered tables under the six-story glass dome was impressive and beautiful. Even more impressive was the Wine Trends Survival Kit waiting atop our table. The snacks inside were welcome, but the discovery of the logo wine key felt like a blessing. Wine Trends obviously knows all about TSA-confiscated corkscrews. The day was snowy and cold, but the arcade lit up and warmed up as it filled up with restaurateurs and retailers and the buzz of wine. The true troupers of the day had to be the group at the check-in table who were blasted by the icy wind every time the huge entrance doors opened and who valiantly fended off the curious public and one homeless gentleman who must have thought he stumbled onto nirvana.
Day Two started with a four-hour bus trip to the Cincinnati Music Hall. What on paper seemed arduous turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. We had a chance to catch up with old friends and spend some time meeting new. Traveling and wine tasting probably seems like the most glamorous job on earth. We happen to be the lucky 1%, a husband and wife team who gets to travel together, which heightens the adventure factor of these trips. But almost everyone else on the bus was on week two of living out of a suitcase, facing another week away from home and family. Clearly not glamorous. Yet if there was road fatigue it was not evident. Everyone’s passion and pride for the wines they sell fueled the bus with energy.
The penultimate tasting venue was the most beautiful by far. Our tables were set among the paintings and sculptures in the rotunda of the Dayton Art Institute. We tweeted and texted and posted throughout the day, but a little phone photo just couldn’t capture the grandeur of the setting. The fact that DAI allowed food to be served and wine to be poured amidst the priceless artwork defines the generosity of Midwest hospitality.
By Day Four the trip’s tenor had turned familial. The mood in the cozy room at The Lincoln Theater in Columbus was relaxed and jovial as we all roamed from table to table mingling with the guests for final samples of each other’s wines. The goodbyes during our final dinner together felt like the end of a family gathering. And like a grand matriarch, Wine Trends promised a reunion in 2015.