I probably should have known better than to have decent expectations of a wine tasting event at the Grove that was not only a Groupon, but also a deal on two other group-buying type websites. There was a hard sell for this so-called “educational” wine event, but because I was gifted a ticket, I made my way over there in hopes that there would be at least something to “learn” or better yet, to fall in love with.
Needless to say, this event was more spit than sip. When I looked at the wine program, which featured over 35 wines from around the world, I was curious as to what happened to the original “California vs. Italy” theme that was scheduled on my ticket. I was about to start whining (no pun intended) about it, when I realized that there was a table featuring organic wines. I decided to stay.
What followed was a really sad outdoor tasting with a local wine distributor who was friendly and meant well…but was (in my opinion), pushing vastly inferior products. The sign “HOT ORGANIC WINES” was the red flag. “HOT?” I asked myself…I knew from the get-go that these were not meant to showcase the winemaker’s passion and dedication to the sustainable vine. Instead, it was a marketing tool aimed at poor souls still learning about wine, or those too indifferent to really do some digging to find out what they’re putting in their mouths. I decided to humored the man with his friendly demeanor and thick foreign accent.
We tasted nine wines in total from three different producers. Del Bondio, Heller, and Stacked Stone Cellars. The whites from Heller were the kinds of light and oaky wines heroes of mine like Alice, live to hate. New oak. Too much oak. No personality whatsoever. The Reds from the other two weren’t much better and while I jotted down pages of notes on them, I’m too peeved about tonight to even bother going into detail. In a nutshell, these wines (although certified organic), need a lot of work. Sure, no pesticides were used and many of them practiced dry farming methods, but when it came down to it, he couldn’t tell me any more about their process and that made me suspicious. I detected new wood, or dare I say it? Wood chips. An “off” taste that just didn’t feel right.
Regrettably, I wandered over to the Italy table. The man behind the table was friendly at first, but he lost points with me because he didn’t seem to know much about the wines on the table. How can you possibly tell me that the Barbera d’ Asti that I just tasted tasted the way it did solely because Piedmont has a “higher elevation?” I need more, man! You guys are marketing these people as wine educators…tell me about the producer! Where is this vineyard and what are the characteristics found in its terroir?? I was getting frustrated, but I remained polite. After a watery Barbaresco, I knew it was time to quit.
My disappointment even took my patience for free food. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I will suffer through an event if good, free food is on the line. However, the line for the Italian spread courtesy of Maggiano’s was pretty long and the crowd to get into the event was wrapping around the lawn area.
They probably over-sold the event. It was manageable when I first arrived, but an hour into it, and I was having trouble even seeing the tables, let alone getting in there for a taste. I skipped France, Spain, and their table of Eastern European wines. The latter which I am a little bummed on because the wines from Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia are ones I don’t reach for all too often. However, at the end of the night, I’m glad I left. My body started to get mad at me for ingesting so much toxicity.
I’ll definitely be skipping these from now on. Definitely not worth $50. If you really want to taste new wines and have an educational and memorable experience, visit your local wine shops. Many of them do regular tastings from smaller shops like Domaine LA and 55 Degrees, to even the big guys like K & L. More than likely, those wines will be infinitely better and the tasting much more intimate and inexpensive. If you do go to a big event, make sure to check out who will be there- that way you can make sure you’re getting your money’s worth.
Addendum: I do not endorse whatever advertisement comes below this post.