My husband and I are fairly new to wine. When the opportunity to take a vacation came up, we immediately decided a road trip to the Finger Lakes was in order, and it just so happened that Finger Lakes Wine Festival fell during that time frame. Of course, we immediately bought tickets, not fully realizing that the Finger Lakes Wine Festival is a bit like ComicCon for wine lovers -- intense, overwhelming, and impossible to conquer in a day.
Thinking about going to the FLX Wine Festival? DO IT! Here are some tips - especially for newbies - to make the most of your experience.
1. Go both days. Heck, if you can, go Friday night for the opening party. Fireworks, togas, launch of the lakes -- soak it all in.
2. Camp out at the festival. Cops line the exits and breathalizer tests are required upon exit. If you're a serious drinker, park and hang out for three days.
3. If you aren't a camper, there are tons of cute places to stay in and around Watkins Glen. Some hotels even offer packages that include transportation to and from the event. Take advantage!
4. Try to get in a few days before the event. We had time to visit a few wineries beforehand. All of these folks are seasoned fest participants and they will happily share the lay of the land with you - when to go, what to expect, what to bring, etc. Get the inside scoop.
5. If you can only attend one day, choose Sunday. We received the tip early on (see #4) that Saturday is the Drunk Fest. Hey, everyone drinks wine for their own reasons and everyone unwinds differently. If, like us, you're into wine for the full experience and prefer to avoid folks getting plastered at 11 am, wait until Sunday. The crowd is generally calmer, especially during the first half of the day when the Saturday folks are still sleeping it off.
6. Bring nosh. Technically you aren't allowed to bring food into the Festival, but we saw a few girls munching on pretzels handily strung up around their necks like candy necklaces. Brilliant idea. Most tables do not have pallate cleansing munchies and the sandwich you get in the food area - no matter how tasty - is not going to balance out the amount of wine you will drink.
7. Speaking of which - don't drink every single wine. There were 90 wineries in attendance last year. 90 wineries offering a minimum of 5 wines to taste. Do the math and you'll quickly realize how incredibly impossible it is to taste all that wine. Take it from someone who tried and burned their taste buds very badly (not to mention couldn't eat anything for at least a day - your stomach can't handle that much wine, either) even your best game face can't match the power of that many grapes.
The best advice I received from a winemaker was to set your mind on 1 or 2 varietals and sample those at each table. You'll be able to better distinguish what you like from what you don't and you'll learn more about why you like or don't like a certain varietal. You aren't there to conquer the world of wine - you're there to become a part of it and learn from it.
8. Beware of broken glass. The FLX Wine Fest crew does an INCREDIBLE job of sweeping up broken glasses 5 seconds after they crash to the ground, but keep an eye out, especially if you're wearing flip flops. You'll know instantly when a glass has crashed, because even if you haven't heard it smash to the ground you'll hear a cry of "AAWWWWW!!!!" from at least 50 onlookers. It's a festival tradition.
9. By 2 pm it is packed. Be patient. Table hop. Stick your glass in when you see a chosen varietal coming your way. Be prepared to be knocked into at least 2 or 3 times. It's all part of the fun, unless you're claustrophobic, in which case you wouldn't be there anyway.
10. Classes are offered - but it's hard to find the time to attend. This is where choosing a couple of varietals comes into play - you can hop tables a lot faster and find the time to attend at least one seminar and learn a thing or two.
11. Stay hydrated! Water coolers are everywhere for you to rinse - take a drink or two or three as well! The biggest cause of a wineover is dehydration - stay hydrated.
12. If you are driving - stop drinking by 2 pm. I can't stress enough - cops are posted at every exit and while the sign says "voluntary" -- that breathalizer isn't.
Have fun and share your stories and favorite flavors with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/winegirlblog !