Summer has arrived, and with it many activities to get us out of the house to enjoy events that are held all over the country. One of these events that really take off in Spring / Summer is the Wine Events and Festivals. As the population of wineries increases to different parts of the country, you can find one of these events almost everywhere. It used to be a given that to visit Wine Country, a trip to Napa / Sonoma was in order, for “good wine” anyway, but today things have changed.
North America had developed wine regions virtually everywhere it seems, and is still growing. From the early development of the grape and its delicious and trendy fruit product in California, it has spread to Oregon, Washington, Texas, Great Lakes, New York State, Virginia and many other states, and let’s not ignore our neighbors in Canada. I have attended events in all of them and I have to tell you, that’s the best venue to find new “favorites” and enjoy them.
You can find many different choices of venue for wine and food events, from the formal “limited attendance” events, to events held in museums as well as in big tents or hotels. Some events are specifically paired with certain food, like the Astoria Oregon Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival I recently attended in Astoria Oregon this past April. There I was able to enjoy fresh crab, oysters, scallops and shrimp with a variety of white and red wines while enjoying conversations with the winemakers that produced the wines.
You see, today’s wine industry see’s the advantage of pairing wine with food, as a way to market their wines, and do it with class. For anyone who really has taken wine seriously, you know that sipping your wines at the proper temperature has the effect of making that wine taste better, because it releases the flavors meant to be released. The same thing can be said for tasting wine with foods that enhance the flavor of the wine, and assist you in locating those hidden flavors. Believe me when I say, there isn’t anything better than having fresh Dungeness Oregon Crab in your mouth and taking a sip of a nice crisp bright buttery Chardonnay. You will immediately find that this crab needs no butter, it’s in the wine.
With hundreds of wines to try and other than a few recognized names to attract you to the booths, one asks themselves, “Where do I sip next? “. You will find that these are social events, and with that you will also find that attendees actually talk to each other, as well as give directions to their favorite wines and wineries. In Astoria this year, I had no fewer than twenty fellow “sippers” direct me to winery booths and specific wines that they had found excellent in their opinions. And, I will tell you that I had owners, staff, and winemakers actually tell me that I needed to try specific wines from other wineries than their own, which rarely happens in business, but does in the wine business.
Now some of these events can get a little crowded, as well as “exciting” as you can imagine, especially because they attract a much younger crowd these days, so if they are held near a college expect some noisy crowds. However, I will say that the security for these events is always top notch, and people are there to just have a lot of fun. But know this, the chance of a close encounter with another body, and your oyster and or Pinot Noir ending up on a white blouse is most definitely a possibility.
Some hints for making your day at the food and Wine Festival an enjoyable experience are as follows. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, unless of course you are single, and looking for love. I say this because I have noticed inside the tent on a canvas floor in Astoria, with cords running across floors, and lots of people, young girls in 8 inch heels and slinky red dresses walking around and talking about the “hunks in attendance”. I have also noted them tripping and ending up with food and wine on themselves while looking for love and not where they were going. Just saying that it’s something to think about.
You can find water bottles being sold everywhere at these events and in some cases given out for free. The reason for this is because dehydration is your enemy when drinking wine. If you are allowed to, bring a bottle of water, or buy one of the bottle holders with a cord that goes around your neck. The rule of thumb is to drink an equal amount of water for the same amount of wine you drink. The benefit to staying hydrated is prolonging your fun experience at the event, and to wake up the next morning without a screaming headache or worse.
Now my next statement may irritate some people, but most will agree. When you seriously taste wine in a wine sipping environment, it’s a “no-no” to wear cologne or perfume, because when tasting wine, at least half of your “taste” come from your nose. The scents you pick up from the wine when you swirl and sniff assists in the development of the taste you will enjoy. If you are sniffing and sipping next to someone with heavy perfume or cologne on them, it does have a negative effect on your senses. That being said, I have found that at these wine and food festivals, nobody is there expecting professional tasting conditions, and should never be there to rate wines other than whether the wine tastes good to them or not. It’s just not the environment for a structured tasting, in my opinion.
It is however an excellent environment to find what wines you like if you are a novice or to find some different wines that you may have never tasted before. One of the wines that I have grown to enjoy, and one that really pairs well with seafood and white light fish like Halibut, is Gruener Veltliner from Austria. I have found that most people have never heard of this marvelous wine, and those that have don’t realize that it is being grown in the U.S. in a few states, including three vineyards in Oregon. Another wine that is overlooked or unknown by many is the Malbec made famous in foreign countries, but also being grown in many states here in the U.S. , and increasingly becoming famous from Argentina.
These wine events are another great place for another reason, getting excellent wines directly from the wineries at “Event Prices”. Most of the wines will be sold for dollars less per bottle at these events, for a couple reasons. One being that the wineries want you to discover and fall in love with their wines, and the other is because they really don’t want to haul the boxes of wine all the way home. The last day of the wine event you will be amazed at the price per box or case, and can stock up quite well for your next event.
So, the next time that you are planning a vacation or even a weekend trip outside your home state or area, it might be fun to jump on the internet and type in “wine events Mars” or wherever you are going and see what comes up. The world of wine is really growing and with it a whole new world of happenings. From stand along wine events, to wine tasting tents at state fairs, to “Crab Fests” and “Grape Stomps” at local wineries, your world of wine events and fun await you, so let’s explore.