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Wine Event Strategy – Have a Plan But Be Flexible!

A lively crowd at Wine Events!

A lively crowd

With the Boston Wine Expo coming up this weekend, Cheri and I were talking about how to attack our one day at the event, and she reminded me of how many of the best moments, and wines, were the ones we stumbled on at the last minute, or on our way out, or out of the corner of our eye as we were walking to someplace else.  It happens a lot, not just at wine events either.  We can pull up examples from just about everywhere, most readily from our family trips to Walt Disney World.  There we were always executing the flexible plan approach, having a good idea of what we were going to do but always ready for the unexpected, and ready to embrace it.  We learned early on that being intractably attached to your plan is a recipe for disaster, as we witnessed family after family dragging miserable children (and adults)

There will be people!

There will be people!

hither and yon, following the exact steps on their typed itinerary for the day.  Never mind that there was

Terra Cotta Soldiers inside the China Pavillion at EPCOT

Terra Cotta Soldiers inside the China Pavillion at EPCOT

a talking trash can right in front of them with something to say, or that you would turn a corner to find Belle and The Beast, with no one else around.  The itinerary blinded were far too focused to be distracted, whereas we would always stop and chat with the trash can, and say hello and take pictures with Belle and The Beast.  We have a list a mile long of wonderful things that happened because we took the time to let them.

A few specific wine examples are the Bolgheri blends from Podere Sapaio, which we stumbled on while leaving the Newport Wine and Food Festival two years ago.  (read more about that here)  These were maybe my favorite wine for the money of the whole event.  At Mohegan Sun two years ago, Cheri felt a

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

The excellent Austin Hope Syrah

little ill and sat down for a few minutes, and I wandered about ten feet to two tables we were going to skip.  They turned out to be Bravium and Hope Family Wines.  The Bravium Signal Ridge Pinot Noir was fabulous, and I had a great conversation with Derek Rohlffs.  Right next door the Austin Hope Syrah was

a revelation.  (You can read more about these wines here) Of course, there’s always Casey Flat Ranch,

Casey Flat Ranch Wines

Casey Flat Ranch Wines

which we hadn’t marked off on our list of vendors, but the woman in the cowboy hat pouring wine from glass decanters was too intriguing to miss.  She  turned out to be Brenda Bullington and the Casey Flat Ranch wines became some of our favorites anywhere. (here’s the Newport review from that year)  We found Shaw Vineyard at Greenwich, being poured with a specialty Rum and Vodka.  We almost passed that by, but are very glad we didn’t.  (read about Shaw here)  You never know.

But in this blog we’re discussing wine events, large ones to be more specific.  If you only have one day at these, as is usually the case, then you simply can’t hit every table and every vendor.  There might be hundreds of wines and fifty different restaurant offerings.  They are only open for three to four hours.  You have to pick and choose at some level.  Or do you?  (if you are drinking everything thrown at you the answer here is a definitive yes – because you will pass out otherwise)

For the more serious winers, there is probably an advantage to a plan of attack.  You have an idea of what you like and don’t like,

Suprising and delicious Shaw Pinot Noir

Suprising and delicious Shaw Pinot Noir

recognize a lot of the names on the bottles and may have a new area or two you’d like to explore.  You should have a plan, and identify the tables that are really important to you.  For three hours I would limit that list to fifteen or so, or five an hour.  At some point you’re going to need food, you’ll likely need to use the restroom and you might want to actually talk to a person or two.  Maybe a few surprises await  at some tables, with wines you weren’t expecting that open up entirely new possibilities and cause a bit of re-planning.  Leave some time for all of this to happen.  Let the event come to you a little in between the items on the list.

If you’re just going to have a good time, learn a little about wine and generally bop around, then you might want to forget the detailed plan.  Bop around, try anything that seems reasonable, and talk to the people behind the tables.  If something strikes you follow that thread.  If you decide you don’t like wine go watch a celebrity chef and find the beer table.  The point is there’s always something around the next corner, go find out what it is.  Maybe your plan is not to have a plan.

As for us, we have to balance it a bit more these days.  There are some wineries we need to visit as we are planning upcoming blogs on their areas or their specific wines.  There are also good opportunities to get a feel for some possible future stories, such as the wines of Georgia for example.  That’s the country in Eastern Europe, not the state.  It’s generally accepted that this is where wine making began some eight to ten thousand years ago.  There’s a couple of tables with Georgian wines in Boston, made from grapes you have probably never heard of.  This is the kind of opportunity large wine events are perfect for.  I mean, where else can we do this?

So have a plan, whatever it is, even if it is a conscious “no plan at all”.  Try all the Cabernets, all the Pinot Noir, discover Argentina or maybe South Africa.  Try some Georgian wines.  Just be flexible, and roam around at least a little bit.  Remember this is supposed to be fun.

A votre sante!

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