The days are numbered. The Cincinnati International Wine Festival is this weekend. Hundreds of wines, hundreds of people, and you with your tasting glass. How on earth do you survive it?
Welcome to Wine-Girl’s 3rd Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide. Every year I poll a large group of wine bloggers and find out if there are any outstanding tips, which I add to my own. These tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered.
(Need a printed copy of this? There’s a better than average chance you’ll find it in today’s MetroMix!)
So, from the collected wisdom of the Wine Blogging Twittersphere and in no particular order, here are some ways to survive tasting hundreds of wines:
- Decide when you want to go. The Friday Grand Tasting has always seemed more manageable to me, with slightly less people. The Saturday Grand Tasting is generally the biggest event, with what seems like an unending number of people. My favorite session is Saturday afternoon, as fewer people attend and I can get more face-time with the winemakers. This year you’ll find Kevin & I enjoying the Friday night session and I may be pouring wine for both Saturday events.
- 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. Whenever you decide to eat, make reservations.
- Consider a designated driver, cab service, or even a hotel room. Last year we decided to succumb to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and we got a hotel room. The Wine Fest web site offers several hotel packages downtown, and we often find great last minute deals at The Cincinnatian. This year we landed at the Hyatt, courtesy of Hotwire.
Thinking of a cab service? You can always use FETCH (513-35-FETCH), which routes a cab to you from an available company.
- Make a game plan. Let me make this easier for you – you can download the 4-part guide from Cincinnati Magazine.
In the guide, 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.
- 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.
- Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers and you’ll last longer if you try those in between the big reds.
- Save those dessert wines for last. One year I succumbed to temptation and had a chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next ten wines still tasted like chocolate.
- 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?
- Dress comfortably. Seriously, ladies, there is no need for high heels. You can still 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. Expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people and red wine can raise the temperature in a room.
- Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it’s almost 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 = lots of wine accidents. Dark colors are your best bet.
- 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?
- Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get really crowded really fast. Enjoy being early.
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 winemakers 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 quietly spitting into your own cup.
- Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. When I’m judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me to spit into a personal cup. 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.
- Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.
- Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.
- Stop by the bathroom periodically and I don’t mean to use the facilities. You need to periodically rinse out your glass. It doesn’t take long for your wine glass to be sticky and filled with the residue of previous tastes.
- The caveat to number 10 is that you should also try to rinse your glass with wine whenever possible and then dump. Rinsing with wine works better than water (although it won’t make the stickiness and red fingers go away). Just ask the nice person behind the table for a rinse. Heck, they might even respect you a little more for asking.
- Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my happy face 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.
- Most importantly, have a fantastic time! We’ll have a follow-up post within the week, but I really look forward to hearing your own thoughts.
Posted by Michelle at 7:46 am in
, Wine Events