Wine Festivals – What to expect

wine festivalsWine Festivals

By Mark Adams

Mark is a professional winemaker, former winery owner, author and frequent speaker on wine.  He currently teaches wine classes throughout the United States.

Did somebody say gigantic wine party?  That’s exactly what wine festivals are.  With wine, food, music, shopping and great weather, it’s hard to not have a great day!  Festivals are also a great place to taste lots of different wines!

Most all states now have some type of wine festivals.  Some can be only a couple of thousand of people, others in the more traditional wine states can be 20 to 30,000 people.  Some times they are one day, usually Saturdays.  Sometimes they can be combined with food or other events and can be 3-4 days.

But almost all of them with have great food and a stage or bandstand that will feature several different bands throughout the day.  Figure on about $20-25 per person to get in.  That usually will include a souvenir glass that you use to taste at each booth.  Regardless of the type or size of the event, I would encourage to check one out.  It’s a really fun day.  You’ll be glad you did.

You can expect to see several different wineries at a festival.  Since most wineries are still family owned operations, many times you will get to chat with the owner and the winemaker.  Before I opened my winery, I always found this to be interesting and educational.

In addition to making a new friend, you get to discover what is important to the winery and how and why they make their wines in a certain style.  To me, this is the main reason I go to festivals.

I realize we live in a world of excessive emails and social networking and the opportunity to connect to another person other than through typing seems to be a lost art.  But the more we become impersonal as a society, the more important it is to actually talk to and be around other people. But then again, I always enjoyed talking to the author who wrote his or her book or the chef who prepared my meal.  I think it just adds to the total experience.

Click the links to learn about wine or view online wine classes.

Didn’t I just say a couple of paragraphs ago that you get to taste a lot of different wines??  Well, OK you get to do that, too.  Here are a couple of tips that can enhance your the festival experience.

1.       After 6 or 7 samples your taste buds get saturated.  It’s very hard to go from booth to booth and taste several different varieties.  You simply can’t taste the wine and by this point your tongue is numb and it all tastes the same.  Spread your tasting out and over time.

2.       Have an idea of what you would like to taste.  For instance if you are in a mood to try something new, try only wines varieties that you have never had.  If you are loyal to a certain wine, try only that variety at each booth.  If you are in a Jimmy Buffet type mood go with the flow and ask each booth for a recommendation, then buy a bottle of your favorite and then go sit and listen to the music.

3.       Be careful how much you drink.  Taking very small samples can creep up on you.  For me the last hour or so of the festival can sometimes be difficult.  It’s not uncommon to see a small number of people who don’t understand that wine is about quality, not quantity.  It doesn’t even need to be said, but be extremely cautious if you are planning on driving after the festival.

4.       Most booths will offer some type of show special on a few bottles.  Case discounts can be even greater.  Most booths don’t want to cart home those heavy cases of wine and will be receptive selling at a discount in the last few minutes of the festival.  The downside is that you wait, what you like may have sold out.  Most booths will have some type of available specials sign, but if you don’t see one, ask.  Remember the whole purpose for wineries to be at a festival is to sell their wine.

5. Festivals make purchasing wine very convenient.  Most are set up that when you purchase wine at a booth, the winery gives you a number and then attaches the same numbered sticker to the wine and then they hold it for you until you are ready to leave the festival.  In many cases the wine will even be delivered to the exit area where you simply show your ticket and pick up the wine on your way out.  It’s kinda like checking your luggage at the airport, except in the case, no lost luggage!

6. Wine Festivals are really fun.  I hope you can attend one.  If you happen to be at one we’re doing, please stop by and say hello.