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DC Wine and Food Festival


lperry
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I've been watching the ads in the Post for the sixth annual D.C. International Wine and Food Festival. Has anyone been? Is it worth a trip or am I better off at the weekly tastings at the local wine stores?

-Linda

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I am surprised that the Ritz Carlton in Tysons is not holding their event again this year. That was superb.

Having said that the one at the Convention center, for me, is well worth it. I went both days last year and probably tasted over 200 red wines, maybe 300, learning that to survive I must spit out the wine. At a show like this I am looking for wine in the $10-20 range that I can buy aftewards and it is absolutely invaluable for this. In fact you WILL SEE many people in the restaurant industry walking with notebooks, pocket recorders, etc. doing the same as I except much more extensively. They'll come away from this show with bottles that will later show up on many restaurants' wine lists.

On another level it is a zoo, but a helluva lot of fun. The fact that it attracts 20,000+ in two days speaks for itself as well as it having grown dramatically in size each year. This show started with a mob scene in the Reagan building and has worked its way through two convention centers now to be one of the largest shows in America. Some on here do not like crowds. Others, view this as the ultimate singles event (which for many it really is!). Still others view it as an opportunity to compare tastes of serious wines within seconds of each other. For still others it will be the lowest price of the year to buy a EuroCave from the Wine Enthusiast booth. There is also wine related artwork, gadgets, corkscrews, glasses, decanters, etc.

I look forward to this show every year and view it as not to be missed. I also strongly urge anyone reading this NOT to drive. You WILL drink a lot of wine. (Note my comment about singles event.)

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Thanks for the old link. I actually searched for "dc wine food festival" and it didn't come up! The egullet search engine is a mystery to me.

So the bottom line is, expect some crowds and a bit of frustration, but it could be very useful and a lot of fun?

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And come see us! We'll have three tables. (Can someone bring us extra mace? Or at least a beer about 2:30 each afternoon? Please?)

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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Are there any must-visit tables? I'm going with a friend and we want to make the most of it... which means we can't actually drink all of the wines available, but thats okay. Anyone have inside knowledge of interesting vendors that will be at the show? Hoping to make the most of it.

Also, was it held last year in the new Convention Center, or the old one?

K

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Are there any must-visit tables? I'm going with a friend and we want to make the most of it... which means we can't actually drink all of the wines available, but thats okay. Anyone have inside knowledge of interesting vendors that will be at the show? Hoping to make the most of it.

Also, was it held last year in the new Convention Center, or the old one?

K

I tend to go for the CA ones. And the Finger lakes just for nostalgia's sake. They're all listed here.

It was at the new Convention Center last year - quite nice and much nicer than the old

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Unlike my post above where I felt this was more than worthwhile based on two past visits, today was an entirely different matter. Open from 1 to 5, shorter hours than in the past, I found that with a 1:02 arrival at the back of the line for Will Call, after completing that, the line for coat check and the 250 yard line three wide to enter the Hall, I finally made it in at 1:57.

Fifty five minutes was absurd.

With lines four deep and armpit to armpit at virtually every table there was not the type of opportunity for the serious "survey" of wines which I've been able to sample in the past. Two years ago I honestly believe that I tasted closed to 200 red wines in a four hour period. I was able to accomplish this because I swallowed as little wine as I could, spitting most out in relatively accessible buckets on most tables. Today was a different matter. For most wines I had to shove my arm between tightly wedged bodies offering a small glass, hoping that a few drops might fall into it. The idea that after swirling, sniffing and tasting that I would be able to spit this out was unthinkable. If I could barely snake my arm between strangers there was no way that my head was going to find an available bucket!

The result is that I swallowed. A lot. In fact by four, two hours into this I had a pretty good buzz, feeling thankful I had to walk the 15 blocks back to where I was able to find a parking space. (Of course walking to the convention center, fighting 20,000+ people at the MCI center for the ACC tournement I had other thoughts!)

Still, there were several wines worth reporting from the 100 or so that I managed to taste:

1. The wine of the show, for me, was Hardy's $90.00 1997 Shiraz which I was able to steal three different tastes of over the time I was there. (I should note they ran out around 3:00 and was told that tomorrow they only have a couple of bottles for sampling.) An outstanding Australian wine, one of several that I tasted.

2. The bargain of the show, for me, was the $9.00 Chilean, Vinedos de Canata Paso Hondo Reserva 2001. This baby was smooth and delicious and tasted exactly like a good $25 red wine. I was floored when the distributor told me it was "around $9.00. I was also floored when he told me that it was not available in the D. C. area yet but he expected I "could find it in the late spring."

3. Another excellent Chilean (about $20) was Errazuriz 2003 Max Reserva which I was told was available from stores like Calvert Woodley on special order.

4. Also in the $20 range was Stanley Brothers 2001 Warmblood Shiraz, an excellent effort from Barossa Valley. A name, "Warmblood," that I also found appropriate and endearing.

5. BV poured several different reds, the best of which was the 2001 Rutherford. This is a wine that the Wine Spectator has not granted its more liberal marks on, usually falling somewhere in the mid '80's. Yet this was, full and rounded, an excellent California cab that could have sold for more. Costco has this on its shelves for about $16.

Unlike past years where there was a sprinkling of better bottles around the various tables this year's show, for me, seemed to imply that most wineries and distributors left them at home. The $90 Australian from Hardy's noted above was a rare exception.

For what it's worth: Royal Oak peanuts ("Cajun" peanuts) were fantastic; there was also a company from Richmond (in the VA wine section) that had some of the best salsa I've ever had; the Wine Enthusiast once again had what they claimed was their lowest price of the year on a EuroCave ($2195 for the big one with a glass door and three sliding shelves). P & C art had some really interesting paintings (loved the "Sweet Indulgence" from Markus Pierson) and posters stretched on canvas along with seveal other booths featuring various fascinating wine artifacts and "thingys" to embellish one's love of wine as a theme.

And, at 4 when I stumbled out, I noted that many people seemed to have survived the tightly packed lines at the many tables, still sourcing enough wine for their own jovial warmth.

Overall, much more crowded and more amateurishly run for an event of this size, especially considering the horrendous waits to get into the Hall. This year, for the first time, it was so tightly packed that much of it was really not very enjoyable. Even after tasting close to one hundred different wines.

I probably will not go back next year unless it is open longer hours to stretch the crowds out and they open the floor up to use more of the Hall, one quarter of which was roped off and vacant. There didn't have to be quite as much congestion as there was. I think the subway during rush hour in Osaka may have been more spacious by comparison.

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Kanishka:

The "old" convention center is no more. It was imploded at 7 am on a Saturday morning a few weeks back. There was much publicity about this, but the explosion still woke me up and I thought the city was being bombed by terrorists. (And I don't live in that part of the city!) However, I was too sleepy to stay awake and thought, "OK, I'm dead."

My husband thought this was a hoot.

I was suprised, however, to see that it wasn't entirely destroyed when I was on a bus that way a couple of weeks ago. Some of the facade on H Street is still standing. Why????

Completely off-topic: I remember that, during the FIRST Barry Administration, when the whole subject of a convention center came up that the controversy was how much to spend on it. $150 million would have given us a MUCH bigger place, but the sentiment at that time was that it was too much money to spend. So, the smaller, and , as it turned out, completely inadequate $99 million would do.

FYI for all the newbies who have moved into town since then.

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I have to agree with JoeH about the crowd. I went with two friends - we got to the will call about 12:45 and then were in by 1:05. I must have just missed the huge rush. For about an hour it wasn't terribly crowded, and we really had a nice time (for an hour).

I'm a pretty uneducated wine drinker so I was looking to try some new wines and to learn about different regions where wines are made - Chile and Argentina are pretty unknown to me. Several of the country booths had literature and maps that explained the winemaking regions and what varietals are grown where. It was interesting to compare the Old to the New World. I was a little disappointed to hear from several Old World groups that they are beginning to market their wines as varietals to the US market so they will sell better. A little bit of ancient culture slips away.

There were a few booths where the winemakers were pouring their own wines - Hunt and Peace come to mind right now - I enjoyed talking with them about why they make wine and what they are trying to do with their product. I also got some great information from the Greek wine table. I had been in the Super H where they have a shelf of Greek wines (go figure), and I didn't buy any because I know nothing about Greek wine. The guy at the table was really helpful and even gave me an email address so I could write with questions. I also got to try a sparkling shiraz from Australia. That was a new one for me.

Then things got crowded and it turned into something of a madhouse (read JoeH above). I've attended events like this one before (they have been mostly benefits for PBS stations and the like), and they had limited ticket sales so things didn't get out of hand. They also had local restaurants serving samples of food throughout the show rather than just after a demo. I was also surprised by the number of times I asked where I could find the wine in DC and the vendor said I couldn't. They were looking for retailers. A lot of the vendors ran out of wines/food/drinks/information as well.

It was worth the ticket, but I don't think I'll be heading back next year unless they change the format of the event. Timed tickets maybe? Different countries in different rooms to break up the crowd? More food? Wines that I can actually buy in DC?

-Linda

Edited to add that several people I spoke with were very pleased about the seminars that took place in the morning. The wine tasting class got rave reviews.

Edited by lperry (log)
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