I was lucky enough to pour for Wine Trends (distributor) on Saturday at the Wine Festival, and I ended up in two remarkable booths: TGIC (with all Chilean and Argentinean wines) and Epiphany / Fortress (with Santa Barbara County / Fess Parker-related wines). I had a fantastic time. Admittedly, it’s hard work, but time flies by, and I had great company in the booths.
However, being behind the table instead of in front of it, where I’d spent most of Friday, brought a couple of things to my attention. These are behaviors that I’ll change in myself, or that I was surprised to see in general. I’ll definitely be adding some of these tips to next year’s Survival Guide.
Hold your glass up and don’t tilt it sideways. Think about it - the wine will spill out. Holding it up higher makes it easier for the pourer to reach over all the bottles. Guys were better at this than gals, most likely because guys are just taller in general. Reach out with those glasses ladies!
The pourers are not bartenders. Seriously, don’t bang on a bottle with your glass expecting service. (And no, I’m not kidding.) And while we’re on the topic, say please and thank you. Just because you’re thirsty for wine, doesn’t mean that all good manners get thrown out the window. Some of the pourers are just volunteers and aren’t being paid to be there and everyone has been working hard for at least two days; in the case of winemakers, they’ve been going non-stop for nearly a week.
Try a new grape or ask for guidance. There might be something you really like, even if it’s not Merlot and Chardonnay. The two questions I heard the most on Saturday night were “Do you have any Merlot? Do you have any Chardonnay?” The answer is not always yes, and there are some really exciting grapes out there that are not merlot or chard. If you see an Alicante Bouché for example, try it – you might be surprised. Chances are, the person behind the table can tell you a little bit about the grape as well, and if you don’t like it, then dump it.
During the afternoon session, I led a lot of people to the Torrontes we were pouring when they asked for a Chardonnay. I don’t really see any similarities, but when I said “light and summery”, people went for it. Most of them loved it as well. In the evening session, I poured a lot of Merlot-seekers the award-winning wine on the table, Epiphany Revelation, which is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Petit Sirah. Almost everyone enjoyed it.
Take a minute to talk. You’ll notice special badges on some of the folks or signs hanging on their booth. Most of the time that means there is a winemaker present. No one can tell you more about their wines. Several years ago I met Milla Handley of Handley Cellars by striking up a conversation. That’s the year I fell in love with her rose. I almost always appreciate wine a little more when I get to know the person who made it.
Move out of the way. I can’t stress this enough for the evening sessions. You don’t have to leave, but get your wine and move to the side. Don’t step back two steps, you’re still blocking the three people behind you.
Don’t waste water between reds. You see, rinsing your glass is necessary occasionally. But when you’re switching between white and red, ask for a wine rinse. No one will complain. If you’re switching between the reds at the same table, you don’t need to rinse your glass between every one. Not only do you waste water, but no one ever gets all the water out of their glass. You know what that leads to? Watery wine, and you certainly don’t want that.
And finally, don’t expect your friendly wine blogger to get you free tickets. Sure, when I was working I was there free, but I paid to get in on Friday night. It’s a charity event. In fact, I believe 50% of your ticket is a tax-deduction as a charitable donation. So don’t try to get in free and skimp on those charities, okay?
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