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Mar 11

Surviving the Cincinnati Int’l Wine Festival, 2009 Edition

The days are numbered. The Cincinnati Int'l Wine Festival is this weekend. Hundreds of wine, hundreds of people, and you with your tasting glass. How on earth do you survive it?

I have my own tips for Wine Festival Survival. I polled a large group of wine bloggers on Twitter and discovered that my tips are everyone else’s as well. These tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered.

So, from the collected wisdom of the Wine Blogging Twittersphere and in no particular order, here some ways to survive tasting hundreds of wines:

1. Make a game plan. Let me make this easier for you. You can download the Tasting Guide. In this you can find the list of attending wineries, the corresponding floor plan, and the list of wines in the Special Tasting Room.
Plan ahead. See what looks interesting. Accept that you can’t possibly try everything. You may want to decide to divide and conquer within your group of friends.

2. Eat a big meal before hand. You’ll stay sober longer. You may want to follow your festival experience with a large meal afterwards. Either way, it’s a busy weekend downtown, and the St. Patrick's Day parade and festivities fall on Saturday. Whatever you decide, make reservations.

3. Consider a designated driver, cab service, or hotel room. Kevin & I just succumbed to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and are getting a hotel room. The Wine Festival is smartly offering hotel packages and it’s an opportunity for a romantic evening. Thinking of a cab service? You can always use FETCH (513-35-FETCH).

4. Dress comfortably. There is no need for high heels. Pull out your Easy Spirits, ladies. You can look cute and trendy and leave the stilettos at home. You will be walking a lot, standing even more, and jostling in and out of a lot of people. Also, expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people can do that to a room.

5. Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it's just about Spring, but don’t pull out your sundresses and pastels. Even if you manage to avoid spilling red wine on yourself, someone else might very well careen into you. Lots of people + lots of alcohol = Tide Stain Sticks and dark colors.

6. Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get crowded. Enjoy being early.

7. Spit.
What? Yes, I said spit. It’s actually an accepted practice. However, even at the Trade Tasting you don’t see it that often. One of the wine makers commented to me a few years ago that Cincinnati is strange because hardly anyone spits.
Some thoughts on spitting:

  • Carry your own spit cup. Dixie cups work, as well as those Solo plastic cups. When a table is crowded, it’s hard to get to the bucket, nor do you want to be in someone else’s spit stream. Also, it’s easier to be discreet when you are spitting into your own cup.
  • Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. Judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me. But in our weird lack-of-spitting city, I get really self-conscious. So I take a small sip or two, try to really glean something out of it, and dump the rest of the wine into the bucket. It’s expected. You’re not wasting wine or hurting anyone’s feelings.

8. Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.

9. Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.

10. Stop by the bathroom periodically – not just to use the facilities, but to really rinse out your glass. It doesn’t take long for your wine glass to be sticky and filled with the residue of previous tastes.

11. Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers.

12. When possible, rinse out your glass with wine instead of water and then dump. It works better – trust me.

13. Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my scale, occasionally I’ll write a sentence. There will be no time for detailed information, nor will you really have free hands or space for writing.

14. Try new things and don’t ignore the little and/or local guys. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they’re bad. Truly, some of the booths have the name of the distributor, but they might be featuring three or four different wineries. This is a perfect opportunity to branch out and explore a little. Who knows what you’ll find?

15. Start at the end. Most people will start at the beginning. Starting at the end (or back) will allow you to fight a smaller crowd – at least until you make it to the middle.

16. Carry a small bottle of Wine Away or a Tide Stain Stick. Even if you don't need it, someone else might. I mentioned dark clothing, yes?

17. Save those dessert wines for last. Last year I succumbed to temptation and had the Trentadue chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next 10 wines still tasted like chocolate.

18. Most importantly, have a fantastic time!  We’ll have a follow-up post next week, so we look forward to reading your comments.

There are some other fantastic guides to suriving a tasting out there as well, including Alder's post on Vinography and a survival guide by 1 Wine Dude.

(This post is an updated version of a post from 2008.)

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Posted by Michelle at 8:30 am in Cincinnati, Tastings, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments (3)

3 Responses to “Surviving the Cincinnati Int’l Wine Festival, 2009 Edition”

  1. Tom says:

    It was great!

  2. Ativan says:

    I was there too. It was fantastic!

  3. […] 13, including the various dinners and tastings. As usual, we’ll prep you and offer our own festival survival tips the week before the […]

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