Every March, the Duke Energy Convention Center plays host to the Cincinnati International Wine Festival Grand Tastings, where you can sample hundreds of wines. Not sure where to begin? We’ve got five pro tips for you:
- Go on Friday night: Yes, it’s opening night. But I promise that it’s worth it: there will be great wine, plenty of amazing people-watching, and food. And while there’s a definite party vibe, most of the “we-have-a-room-at-the-Hyatt-so-let’s-take-advantage” crowd shows up on Saturday.
- Make a plan: I hate to break it to you, but you cannot try them all. Focus. Only reds. Only whites. Only medal winners. Only locals. Only obscure varietals you’ve never heard of before. Only wineries beginning with the letter “B.” Whatever. (See the 2016 tasting guide here.) Find a way to narrow it down, or you will be overwhelmed with choice and sorry that you tried too much. And if you happen across a wine you don’t like, pour it out. There are buckets at each booth, and no one will bat an eye.
- Eat something: Kroger is the presenting sponsor, which means there will be snacks. Cheese and crackers, pasta salad, a selection of olives. Midwest Culinary Institute students are whipping up desserts at this very moment. Go ahead, have some. You’ll need the sustenance.
- Bid on silent auction items: Remember, this is a charitable event—proceeds benefit groups including Crayons to Computers, Women Helping Women, and the Freestore Foodbank. So throw down a bid or two in the silent auction. You could go home with half a dozen California chardonnays, a selection of South American reds, a large-format bottle of a special vintage, or who knows what. Just remember, the auctions close half an hour before the tasting does.
- Chat up the people pouring: It can be a little intimidating to face all those tasting booths. What do you do? What do you say? Once you’ve got a game plan (see 2, above), step right up and say hello. Ask about the wines. Ask about the location of the vineyard, the varietals grown, even their favorite wines. Keep an eye out for the signs that let you know when a winemaker is present in the booth. You’ll learn plenty as you sip—just be courteous and respectful of the pourer’s time. Other folks will want to sample, too.
Test drive our tips Friday, March 4, from 6:30 to 9 pm, (or if you’d rather go Saturday, from 2:30 to 4:30 or 6:30 to 9) at the Duke Energy Convention Center, downtown. Order your tickets online here—they’ll be available at the door for $5 more.