(Originally posted in Planet Fess)
This is a revised post on my journey into the world of wine festivals. And....what a journey! I had plenty of passion, pleasure and adventure in crossing this off my life to do list! In fact, I plan to cross this off my list every year because it is that much of a good time. Even if you are not a wine drinker, I still highly recommend attending a wine festival. You never know, you just may open yourself to a new passion.
“ A BOTTLE OF RED, A BOTTLE OF WHITE, WHATEVER KIND OF MOOD YOU’RE IN TONIGHT” - “SCENES FROM AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT” -BILLY JOEL
|Oh, don't you worry. I will certainly enjoy the wine festival!|
A Wine Festival is a gathering of wine making proprietors whom, for an entrance fee, furnish their clientele with samplings of the various pedigrees of wine that they consummate at their vineyard. Vinification is an art. And like any work of art, there is a delicate, time consuming process involved in the journey from the grape cluster suspended on curling vine to the bottle of liquid sunshine sitting on your dining room table.
|Becky and Caryn getting a little Nautie!|
Did you know the main difference between Red and White wine is the use of the grapes’ skin during the primary ferment? White wines have little contact with the skin of the grape after the initial crushing of the grape commences although certain variations of lighter colored wines do have a minimal amount of contact with the skin to create a rose or blush color. Did you know high proof brandy is a key ingredient to making port wine? Port wine is a very heady wine. Eating a little semi sweet or dark chocolate with a port wine brings out a sensual flavor that is quite addicting. I highly recommend trying it. I also recommend Chocovine, a Dutch wine that looks like a lot like Yoohoo but is an absolutely fabulous chocolate red wine. Trust me, you will love it!
|Sweet Lolly Red is a little taste of heaven on earth!|
Speaking of taste, wine quality depends on many factors, one of the most important being the hand picked grape versus the mechanically harvested grape. Most wines made in the United States and Europe are hand picked giving it a superior flavor quality versus countries where the labor is neither as knowledgeable nor readily available so mechanical harvesters must be implemented. Why? It comes down to the human touch really. A machine cannot tell if a cluster is ripe for the picking, has bunch rot, or if bird’s nests, rocks and other nuisances are hiding in the vines. Naturally, the above mentioned factors will play a key role in the flavor of a wine.
|Sampling Kings Garden Vineyard wines. Very Nice!|
|Pazdar's Vineyard is not only creative in naming their wines but their wine is absolutely incredible!|
If you ever hear the terminology Old World and New World being used in reference to wine, the most important factor to remember is that Old World Wine is wine that is produced in the classic wine making regions of Europe such as the Bordeaux, Beajoulais, and Provence regions of France, and the Toscana, Calabria and Lombardia regions of Italy as well as many other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Germany and Greece. New World Wine is wine that is made everywhere else including the United States, Australia and South America.
|Some Finger Lake vineyards have very amusing names as well as creative names for the wines they produce.|
|Nadalie getting a little lift!|
|Do I see a theme here?|
One other important factor to note concerning Old World and New World wine is the difference in taste. Old World Wines are more subtle in flavor because the condition of the soil as well as the soil location are the driving force behind the vintors of the European classics. Soil grade and weather have the most effect concerning the taste of the grapes. Old World wines seek to create the epitome of flavor each specific grape type can produce whereas New World Wineries often fuse grapes of all qualities from different locations to create vibrant and unique styles of wine. New World Wineries are also more experimental in the use of different fruits to compliment their grape derived wines. Old World wines tend to be smoother in taste, allowing for the flavor of the wine to be translated by your pallet as a solitary flavor, based solely on the grape used to make the wine while New World Wines are bursting with many different, complimentary flavors challenging your pallet to define each ingredient.
|Vintors displaying their wine selections.|
|Penguin Bay wine selections.|
I recommend becoming familiar with and enjoying both Old World and New World Wines. I subconsciously find myself drinking Old World Wines when my life is more hectic, my mood melancholy, the weather grows colder or when I am making dishes that have many competing ingredients. New World wines I tend to drink with simpler dishes, when the weather warms or when my mood is more serene or upbeat. I also tend to bring New World Wines to parties and social events because of their vibrancy. (It’s funny how we can sense our little idiosyncrasies in something as mundane and everyday as purchasing wine. The subconscious mind is a thing of wonder to behold.)
|Pleasure, Passion and Adventure? Yes please!!|
Before I get to the dos and don’ts list concerning my experiences at wine fests, there is also one other important wine I highly recommend trying to broaden your pallet. That wine is Mead. Mead is most often associated with the Vikings, Viking Mythology, the Dark Ages and The Renaissance. The main ingredient in Mead is honey, in other words, Mead is made from honey. Mead is best aged and is not as easy to find as Old and New World Wines. It is however making a comeback in the United States. There are now over 150 wineries that vint Mead including some in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is an acquired taste, I will say that. It is not for everyone, but trying something that’s origin dates back to ancient times, has been written about in countless historical tales and was favored by many powerful historical figures over the course of man is way too extraordinary not to try at least once in my opinion. (Can you tell I am a history buff?)
“STEP INSIDE, WALK THIS WAY, YOU AND ME BABE” - “POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME”- DEF LEPPARD
|Red Cat Red Cat It's An Aphrodisiac!|
So without further ado, let’s get to the main event….The Wine Fest. I am an intermediate wine drinker. I would not consider myself an expert in the world of wine, I am surely not a sommelier, but I do know enough to be distinctive and can knowledgeably converse about wine. That being said, I did not feel I was validated as an intermediate wine drinker because I had never been to a wine festival. When a few lovely friends invited me to a girls weekend that included attending one of the biggest wine festivals on the East Coast, I was more than excited for the opportunity. This is what I learned from attending. I hope it helps.
“CAUSE I NOTICE WHEN YOUR SMILIN’, OUT IN THE SUN, HAVIN’ FUN, FEELIN’ FREE” - “SMILEY FACES” - GNARLS BARKLEY
|Becky looking sexy as hell in that Hazlitt hat!|
DO check the weather for the day of the wine fest. The wineries in NY were staged under big white tents at Watkins Glen International Speedway. If it is raining out, there is protection from the elements, but if it is 90 degrees and humid, it feels 110 and is super muggy under the tents. Lighter clothing makes the temperature much more bearable. Some people were dressed casual while other people dressed a little more fancy. It doesn’t matter the style you dress. Everyone is there to have a good time, just make sure you are going to be comfortable.
DO NOT wear high heels if you are not experienced walking in them obliterated. Sprained ankles, twisted knees and the occasional scrape or bruise can occur when you fall repeatedly on your ass. I knew better than to wear heels but did make a faux pas in my dress. Do not wear clothing that you have to constantly adjust to prevent from showing perhaps more than you care to because the more you drink, the less concerned you are with adjusting. Later in the day you may find yourself looking over pictures you have taken and realize your purple bra became your shirt or perhaps your mini skirt rode a little too high on your hips as you bent over to pick up stuff you dropped because your fine motor skills went to hell after your 90th sampling of wine. No one is going to point out that your undergarments have become your outer garments because why would they? My advice, leave the stripping to the professionals and wear something flattering but not busting out at the chest!
“A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR A WASTED, I’M BASTED” - “SPACESHIP”- PUDDLE OF MUDD
|Feeling pretty good now!|
DO drink plenty of fluids and eat something! This particular wine fest had little stations with water containers and trays of crackers located throughout the wine fest as well as plenty of food stands. Take advantage of them.
DO NOT be in denial. It’s ninety degrees. You are thirsty. You need to stay hydrated. 250 samples of wine will not keep you hydrated. Just saying. Some of us more stubborn alcoholics look at the water containers and think “Why the hell would I drink water when there are all these handsome men dying to pour samples of wine in my little wine glass?” Well….the water helps dilute the mass consumption of wine so you can drink more wine. Water is absorbed into the body enabling us to stay hydrated. Alcohol has the opposite effect. Saying “I am thirsty” and proceeding to sample 8 different types of wine at a winery stand then sampling the same 8 wines three more times because you are so incredibly parched is in essence, not the correct thing to do. You are just asking for trouble.
Also, treating the companies offering samples of their dips, hot sauces and olive oils like an all you can eat buffet should not be considered a proper meal. When has a tiny pretzel stick dipped in hot sauce ever been considered a meal? I guess when you have lost all touch with reality it is a meal. And by the way…It’s HOT sauce! Hello? You are a wuss. Eating that habanera sauce then running to the nearest wine stand to get 20 wines samples to clear the burn from your tongue….yea, that didn’t work did it? But then again, you are already in a purple haze so it’s all good right? You are a big dawg. You don’t stay on the porch, you run with the pack. Hell you lead the pack. (Especially when you don‘t have to drive. All bets are off when vehicle operation is not a factor for Fess.) Bottom line….if you have been walking around consuming wine for 8 hours and haven’t had to use the restroom once, that is a blazing red flag that perhaps you are dehydrated. Man up and drink some damn water so you can drink more wine!
“GRAB THE BULL BY THE HORNS THE OLD ADAGE GOES, NOBODY TELLS YOU WHERE TO GO FROM HERE” - “BECOMING THE BULL" - ATREYU
|Slainte!! Drink up girls!|
DO get plenty of rest. Wine fests are technically a sport. The more alcoholically enduring you are, the more you can drink. The more liver stamina you have, the more you can out last the youngsters. “Yea buddy, you may be 25 but I can Outwit, Outlast, and Outplay because I just freakin rock.” (It has been rumored that the Irish side of my family has an iron liver gene because I never saw my grandmother eat a piece of food in her life but man..... I watched that woman drink. She woke up in the morning and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. By noon it was Pabst with Canadian Club chasers. By the evening, it was Canadian Club or bust! Same for her brother. Neither of them passed from complications due to liver disease. Both lived into their 80’s.
Who can compete with Irish Iron? We are Champs! Well they were. I do not consume THAT much alcohol because I am only 3/6ths Irish which is like half Irish now that I am looking at that fraction in writing. ( In other words, I am half Irish. ) As for my strategy…I just make it up as I go really because I am a genius. Perhaps under the third tent we visited, I almost fainted not once, but twice. Not wanting to alarm my friends, I casually wandered off without letting them know and sat on a bench in the blazing sun. Eventually my friend Becky found me sitting upright, my knuckles white from holding onto the seat of the bench for dear life. Perhaps Becky sat next to me. Now I am not saying that we didn’t nap publicly for about 20-30 minutes but someone may have had drool running down her mouth while the other one almost fell forward off the bench several times cuz her knuckles had become numb from trying to hold her drunk sleeping ass upright. Needless to say, we got some much needed rest and some wicked uneven sunburns.
|The Fessminski napping bench.|
DO NOT Stay up until 4:30 in the morning drinking around a campfire crocheting little wine glass holders for your friends the night before wine fest because sometimes an Eagles fan gets stuck sleeping next to a Steelers fan wearing a 2x jersey like a night gown, who pretends to sleep while said Eagles fan is telling the boat cat to hush 13 times before eventually exiling kitty to the great outdoors. The Steelers fan may have been trying very hard not to crack up while NOT assisting her very tired good friend in the quieting of the cat because that is what good friends do.
“LYING IS THE MOST FUN A GIRL CAN HAVE WITHOUT HAVING TO TAKE HER CLOTHES OFF” - PANIC AT THE DISCO
|This red cat is lewd and tattooed!|
DO invest in a wine glass holder that you can wear as a necklace. A friend gifted the group of us with lovely crocheted wine glass holders. Being new to wine fests, I thought it was very sweet but did not realize just how important this little contraption is. Walking around wine fest I noticed many, many people with all types of wine glass holder necklaces thingys. I thought it was just something wine fest denizens did until I heard the first uproar from the crowd. I thought people were just cheering because they loved wine. Then I heard the second, then third, then fourth uproar. “Wow, all these people love wine just as much as I do!” I thought. I even participated in the uproar. It was when we had moved to our second tent that I realized why there were all these uproars. You see, as I mentioned earlier, mass wine consumption effects your fine motor skills.
Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscles such as the muscles in your fingers in conjunction with your eyesight. Do you get where I am going with this? I am going to explain anyway so no worries. Things as simple and everyday as buttoning a coat, zipping a zipper, and yes, holding a wine glass can become rather difficult when inebriated because your vision is most certainly affected by the inebriation pretty much throwing manual dexterity out the door.
In other words, drunk people drop and break things like wine glasses causing cheers from the crowd. This can be quite catastrophic because unless you have a back up glass handy… Broken Wine Glass = No Wine Samples For You. Yea…that blows! Sucks being you buddy! As the day wore on the cheers became more and more frequent. (Gee…I wonder why?) I was so thankful for my wine glass necklace holder thingy because I am a clumsy gal. I managed to keep my wine glass from breaking thanks to my thoughtful friend and was able to sample many wines all day making me a dehydrated, still fighting off the fainting spells, completely dazed and confused but nonetheless happy gal.
|Your wine glass is your life line. Protect it at all costs!|
In fact, people were so enamored with our crocheted wine necklaces that we were approached often throughout the day and asked “Just where did you get these awesome homemade necklaces?” Our response.....“Our friend Becky sat around the campfire all night crocheting them for us.” People were so impressed by the skills and talents of our dedicated friend Becky. Now, that may have been the complete truth had it not been for the lady that actually made them walking around selling them throughout the wine fest. Like we are going to see any of these people ever again.
DO NOT try lying if you are not very good at it. Say you are semi buzzed and have lots of misguided confidence flowing through your bloodstream. You want that Red Cat bag but refuse to pay five bucks for a raffle ticket to get the bag for free because it really isn’t free if you have to buy something. (Yea…they aren’t fooling this bird!) So maybe you wait until the raffle ticket guy has a crowd around him then walk up to the stand, planning to just lift the bag. At that very moment he makes eye contact with you and smiles. He’s cute and you go stupid. Being the quick on my feet thinker that I am, I'm able to rebound rather quickly.
I go to Plan B…. which went down like this. “Yea, I bought a raffle ticket but you forgot to give me my bag cuz you were busy.” If there was ever a more unconvincing lie told by someone over the age of 3 I would be completely floored. He totally didn’t buy my story. Maybe it was the strawberry blonde hair. Maybe it was just pity for this train wreck of a girl with her purple bra hanging out of her shirt and stickers about being Nautie hanging from her hair. Perhaps it was all the purple wine stains marring her light green crocheted necklace thingy because her manual dexterity was in question. It could have been the way she swayed back and forth with this sinister drunkin grin on her face standing in front of him like a little shoplifting angel/devil. Perhaps I am just THAT charming. I will never really know what caused him to cave in to me but he did. He gave me the bag. Victory is Mine!! Yes!!
“DRINK UP IT‘S LAST CALL, LAST RESORT. I‘M ONLY YOUR FIRST MISTAKE TONIGHT” - ’DANCE DANCE” - FALL OUT BOY
|Sinister Sister...hey, if the shirt fits the wearer.....|
DO crash any VIP event you can. In fact, not only should you crash the event, you should sit right smack in front of the event holder and eat his food even though you are missing the pink wrist band that technically entitles you to the food. In fact, grab a water and a bag of chips for your friend who had the sucky job of wheeling the shopping cart full of wine purchases seven miles back to the car. Maybe someone accosted her on the way to the car, eyeing up the wine purchases. Maybe she gave him the verbal tongue lashing of his life and could really use that bottle of water you were so thoughtful to steal for her.
|This was only a portion of the wine purchased.|
Pay no mind to the people dumping water over the lady passed out with heat exhaustion on the ground by the side of the bus. ( She should have taken a nap on a bench….just sayin.) It’s a party, you weren’t invited, but it’s all good because you are drunk and don’t give a f@ck! Life is short…Lick it!
DO NOT rub it in the party goers face too much that you and friends are way cooler than them and know how to have a good time.
“ SHE’S NOTHING LIKE A GIRL YOU’VE EVER SEEN BEFORE” - “SEXY BITCH” - DAVID GUETTA
DO use your gender to your advantage. If you are a female and you are at a wine stand, go to the male bartender. He is more likely to give you as many samples as you like and the samples sometimes turn into full glasses of wine. He may even forgo people waiting in line to reach over and personally serve you because he recognizes a rockstar when he sees one. My friend Becky in particular had a male bartender practically pour us an entire bottle of wine just by making eye contact with him. The Love Boat….well not really but it was pretty fantastic watching him turn to putty in her presence. Girl power!
|He was like an M&M in her hand!|
|The boys doing their thing.|
DO NOT go to a female bartender and expect the same treatment from males. Quite a few of them roll their eyes at you or give you a condescending look. Not that THAT stopped me. If anything, I took it upon myself to make her life a living hell by insisting on several samples, refusing to leave the stand until I got my fill. Don’t challenge me darling, you won’t win if I'm in the mood to f@ck with you. Not all the females were like that. Some were very friendly and helpful although the one gave me a crazy look when I told her my friend’s dad sometimes took his boat from Lake Seneca and sailed it to Ontario. Yea…unless the boat flies, that is not possible. What I meant to say was that he…did something that brought him out to the Atlantic, I think. That story must have been stored in one of the many brain cells I offed that day because I forget it and it is rare that I forget anything, drunk, sober or otherwise. It’s a blessing and a curse.
“ALL THE SMALL THINGS” - BLINK 182
|Our mascot....Mr. Weebles sitting in Mr. B's recliner. Bad Mr. Weebles!!|
Some other smaller things to remember.
DO yell across the crowds to find other friends that are attending the wine fest. Random people will also start yelling your friends’ names which better assists you in finding them by the port a potties.
DO NOT send your friends smart ass texts at the Winefest. (Corey) When I text you and ask “Where are you?” and you reply “Here.” it just leads to more texting. “I know you are here. Where here?” Responding “By the giant Sunoco sign.” does not help either since there are 30 things surrounding the giant Sunoco sign. This inevitably leads to the yelling for your friends thing.
|Corey, Becky and Jilly! Love these people!|
DO take the breathalyzer test if it is available. Not only do you get to blow into a straw which is fun in itself, but that 2.2 you were willing to take bets you were going to get can sometimes turn out to be a .02. “You are just a good alcoholic” may be uttered by one of your friends in front of the cop who nervously points to driving scale that says you are only slightly inebriated even though you almost fell on your ass walking to the table. You may have also blatantly stole more that one Frisbee even though it was a one per person deal right in front of his law enforcing butt while he looks at his little machine and wonders if it is malfunctioning. ( If you have not noticed an underlying theme by now, I sometimes get a touch of kleptomania when drinking but it is only harmless little things. I promise.)
DO NOT really drive even if your test comes back .02 when you can barely stand. You know yourself better than anyone. Let someone else drive or park it until you can drive. It’s not worth the risk or all the future fun times you will be sure to miss by being careless. Also, when the friend that is driving is handing the cop doing the field sobriety tests his ass by firing away answers to his questions correctly in rapid succession, don’t try answering the questions too. It just makes your brain hurt and confuses the cop. Some of the questions he was asking Becky I would have had to have clarified even if I was sober. Becky does rock!
|.02 Yea...I'm that good!|
DO talk to the vendors of the vineyards you are especially fond of. They welcome the conversation and often times give you deals on their wines as well as the best times to visit their vineyards for some great specials and events.
DO NOT be rude. If there is one thing I noticed at the wine fest, everyone was smiling, happy and having a great time. There was such a positive vibe in the air. Even the cops were cool. They did sobriety checks on all cars leaving the wine fest, but rather than issue DUI’s, they just made people park in the field until they could pass the test which I thought was totally cool.
|Caryn being Caryn! We love her!|
DO get the two day pass if attending the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. The gals and I were not sure we could handle going two days in a row. It is only $10 more and when we woke the next morning, we were raring to go again. There were so many things we did not get to see the first day including the Brewer’s Circle which for an extra $10 gives you access to unlimited microbrews and various other beers produced along the Finger Lakes. We also missed the Cooking Circle which gives demonstrations on various cooking techniques as well as more sampling and you know how I heart samples.
DO NOT chug a 24oz Twisted Tea five minutes before entering the wine fest. Dumb move on my part.
DO bring a bag for smaller purchases but definitely take advantage of the reserve order system. It makes life so much easier, especially if you purchase a large amount of wine.
DO NOT lose your reserve order tags because unless you have them, the wineries have no way of verifying what wine purchases are really yours.
DO help yourself to plenty of stickers with sexual innuendos to pass out to your friends at work.
Do NOT be shy about covering yourself with wine fest bling. Where else can you wear a sticker that says “Spit or Swallow” and not get crazy looks. (Not that crazy looks have ever stopped me.)
|Proud to be a redneck!|
DO keep an open mind. Even if you are not a wine drinker, wine fests are such a fun time. I highly recommend attending one just for the atmosphere. There are other beverages available at wine fests and people were walking around with beers they brought because they wanted to have fun with their wine drinking friends.
DO NOT be afraid to try new and different things. You would be surprised how tasty different variations of wine and microbrews can be!
|The sign I wanted to "gift" Becky. Mr. Chicken rocks!|
Attending the wine fest was such a great experience for me. I found some new favorites as well as some really great vineyards I plan on attending next time I am in the Finger Lakes region. For those of you unable to attend the wine fest, the vineyards and breweries are all condensed along the Finger Lakes. It would make for a great little weekend getaway. Some of the vineyards join together and create a passport, which for a small fee, entitle you to free samplings at all the vineyards on the passport. Usually there are 30+ vineyards on the passport, which ranges in price from $12-$20. The vineyards also offer coupons off their products and some supply you with free glasses and other little gifts just for visiting.
“MY BEST FRIEND GAVE ME THE BEST ADVICE, HE SAID EACH DAY’S A GIFT NOT A GIVEN RIGHT.” - “IF TODAY WAS YOUR LAST DAY” - NICKELBACK
|Living it up in the Finger Lakes!|
To the lovely ladies I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with, thank you so much for the invite, for laughing with me as well as supplying me with plenty of laughs and for giving me a “You can’t make this shit up” weekend! To Captain B, thank you for allowing me to steal your recliner in front of the air conditioner yet again for a nap and for taking us out on Lake Seneca! I swore I wasn’t going to go swimming but ended up in the lake anyway because I always do things I swear I would never do and I like it that way! Il mondo e tuo!
Fess' list of the best in show wineries for taste, presentation, and personality:
1. Pazdar Winery- (Secret Lovers, Eden's Crush) The gentleman was so patient. We practically tried all 20 wines. He happily obliged us. Becks and I made BFF's at this stand. A little on the pricey side but for good reason. They are all good. They even have 3 different degrees of habanero wine and 6 different chocolate wines. Will definitely visit this winery.
2. Three Brothers Winery and Estates- (Barely Naked, Flirtation) Fun bunch, gave generous sample portions. The wine names were the best, but they also tasted fantastic. And.. they were in the mid-range price. Will visit this one too.
3. Hazlitt Vineyards- Just all around perfection and fun! A good time winery with fun, fresh and fabulous wine.
4. Glenora Wine Cellars - Probably the best tasting, smoothest wine I have ever tried from a US vineyard. The Blueberry Breeze is terrific. Wish I had more money because they are pricey. Bottles start at $12 but well worth it. The staff was really nice too. Will visit this one.
5. Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery - This stand was so incredibly busy but the staff was so nice. The Lolly Red was so good. It has become a new favorite for me. Worth the wait for the samples. Wish I could have gotten more than 1 bottle. They are priced fair and had specials. Will visit this winery.
6. Kings Garden Vineyard - Another fun bunch. Very nice and helpful. Good sample sizes. The wine is pretty good and the prices are great. Bottles start at $6.99. Will visit here.
7. Montezuma Winery - Love the Dragonfly wine. The Diamond was also really great. Affordable. Great staff. Little chintzy on the samples. Will visit this place.
8. Earle Estates Meadry - I love mead. It is an acquired taste though. Don't know many who like it. However it is something I would only drink on occasion so for me to buy a whole bottle at this time, just couldn't afford to. Told them they should think about doing mini bottles. The Apple Enchantment is fabulous. Will visit here.
9. Knapp Winery - Limoncello, Loganberry, wonderfull staff, generous samples....very expensive. Will have to save up for this one!
10. Pleasant Valley Wine Company- Chocolate Lab Wine. Wow!! And Cheap. Great mixed with their Strawberry to Blackberry Frost which is only $5.99 a bottle. Great samples. Will visit this one!
Honorable Mention- Lucas Vineyards- Was not a big fan of their wine but loved their spirit. They are a fun bunch and always have great deals. This year they had the Butterfly Wine. Now I have a reason to love them. They have a wine I love. It's beautiful. Will visit them for sure!