Wine Talk

Snooth User: napagirl68

Napagirl's Rant...prices for tasting events... worth it or not???

Posted by napagirl68, Sep 18, 2011.

After today and last weekend, I wanted to discuss the pricing of various wine events- which ones are worth it, and which- not so much.  Here are some of the priciest I have attended:  Taste of Sonoma:  $100-150 depending on your discount;  Treasure Island Wine Festival $55; Rhone Rangers SF, ~$100.  Many folks I know think this is a high price point for wine tasting and balk at paying that amount.  But I want to introduce a slightly different point of view....

Last weekend I spent with friends at the Capitola Art and wine festival.  The venue was awesome as always, and I  looked forward to tasting my fav. Santa Cruz Mtns. wineries.  Well... several that I had expected were not there.  And, of the ones who were there, I was not impressed with their offerings.  That aside, let's get back to cost:  $40 for glass and assortment of tickets that basically gets you ~3-4 small glasses of wine; another $20 for equiv. of ~ 3 more tastings.  Holding out hope for these smaller wineries that I had never  heard of, I tasted broadly.  Unfortunately, what I heard more often than not was, "this isn't our BEST wine, you need to come to the tasting room to try".  While I understand that wineries pouring small lots cannot give away the farm, I still feel that my donation of $60 warrants something of quality.  Total cost, without food, for ~6 small glasses of wine:  $60.00

Today-  Lafayette Art and Wine Festival...better pours for sure:  $25 for glass and four tickets, but each ticket actually garners a full glass.  Local businesses sponsor the wine booths, but the wines poured are basically discounted BevMo wines.  Not local at all, but rather cheap Aussie/ Chilean offerings (for the most part)  that were donated as fundraisers.  The exception was one...  G.Reedy Wines out of Alexander Valley.  A family rep was actually there (lo and behold!) and they had a really nice Sauv Blanc.  She was able to talk to her wines, vineyards, etc.  It was the best (and only) wine interaction I had at this event today. 

While I undersand that these things are fundraisers, and not serious wine events, I wanted to put the cost into perspective:  $100-150 for Taste of Sonoma (170 wineries, each pouring 3-5 DECENT wine offerings, and some fingerfoods);  $100 Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting... (100+ wineries featuring their best rhone varietals, no real food, some bread items).  Compare that to my cost last weekend and today: 

Capitola Art/wine:  $60 total wine cost/ no food.  Local wines, but pouring their lower quality wines.  Most I poured out.

Lafayette Art/wine:  $45 total wine cost/no food.  Discouted, donated wines, non- local for the most part.   Found the one or two that was drinkable, and stayed with it.

Don't get me wrong.. these events are fun to come to if you like this sort of thing.  And the weather has been AMAZING here in CA.  But if wine is your goal, I personally find more value in the higher- priced wine shows that some balk at....   After adding up what you spend AND value, the wine-based  shows are DEFINITELY the better deal, dollar to dollar, in my opinion.


Reply by GregT, Sep 18, 2011.

It's definitely worth checking out what wineries are going to be pouring before attending an event.  And then, if it's primarily an art show with some wine, that's different than a wine show with some pics. 

I agree tho, $100 for a few outstanding wines isn't really out of line.  Figure if it's a bottle that retails for $70, you'll pay much more than that in a restaurant and either way, you'll only have one bottle, whereas for the extra few bucks, you can taste a variety.  A lot of people just go to those shows to taste wines that they've heard of, w no particular plan, and that's quite OK but you can get a lot more out of them if you have some kind of agenda.  It's appropriate to bring up as this is the tasting season we're entering.

For my money, I'd try to find out what wines are going to be poured in advance, or, short of that, take a few minutes before doing anything once you get there and peruse the list.  Say you're interested in learning something about Burgundy, or how the vintage in Tuscany was - usually those events will showcase the current offerings.  So go and taste all the Burgundies or all the Brunellos, etc.  And if there are some older versions (some people go all out) then taste those too.  Then move to something else. If you go to one table, taste their lineup, then another table, taste their lineup and so on, you'll end up going back and forth between whites and reds and sparklings and expensive and cheap and so on and it's really fatiguing. 

People ask how they can learn about wine.  Well, you can go to some class and they'll pour six or seven crappy wines, or you can treat the tastings as classes and learn a hell of a lot.  If they're regional, like Taste of Sonoma, then you can learn about Sonoma.  But out here the large stores sponsor those and they'll have several hundred wines being poured for three or four hours - you can get a lot out of those tastings.  Often some winemakers will attend and you can talk to them.  When I'm pouring at those events, I always take the time to talk to people and guide them to other tables and other wines if they're interested.

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 18, 2011.

GregT- I totally agree with cking ahead of time what wines will be served.  I had been to this festival in the past, and they had always featured interesting California wines.  The website did not give the wines they were to pour this year, which should have been my first sign.  I went ahead and bought my glass/tickets, and decided to wander around.... it soon became evident that these were cheapos, for the most part, prolly picked up on discount from BevMo. 

I'm sure it's driven by the economy, but I am noticing a trend toward the lower quality wines being poured at these types of events today, vs. 5-10yrs ago.

I guess my main point was about perspective.. what one is willing to fork out, dollar-wise, for something.  Many of my friends BALK at the $100 cost for a dedicated wine show, like Rhone Rangers, but attend these "art/wine festivals" where they are disappointed in the wine, yet end up forking out $50 to $70 for wine that they say they would never buy.  Just a curious psychological thing, I guess.

Reply by rolifingers, Sep 18, 2011.

I had a lady friend that would take me to a Food a Wine Festival when ever there was one in the city, and last year she said she wanted to go to one and I just didn't want to go, I mean $150.00 a pop to walk from table to table tasting dribble portions of ok wine was just not appealing to me any more, plus I just didn't want her wasting her money that way.napagirl, I hear you.

Reply by zinfandel1, Sep 19, 2011.

Back here on the East Coast every January at the Mohegan Sun Casino in CT we have the SUN WINEFEST. It costs about $100 and features about 100 wines, a few high end but most are middle of the road. The problem is not with the wines, but rather with crowd control. The event is over sold and there isn't any room to move. It is next to impossible to get to some of the tasting tables.  This is not my idea of a wine tasting.

On the other hand, in Rhode Island, Town Wine and Spirits, a liquor store runs about 6 tastings a year at thirty dollars each.All feature better than average wines and you know well in advance what wines will be poured. Each venue is held at really nice settings. This, in my humble opinion, is what a tasting is all about.

Reply by lingprof, Sep 19, 2011.

agree with you, napag, and with zinfandel1.  I would be okay with spending 100 for something I knew would be spectacular.  but I would also be okay with spending 20 five times for local events at shops near me that I know are pouring high end stuff.  At one place near me, the charge is 15 and they regularly pour 5 nice wines.  The most recent one I went to featured the Papillon ($55) and an AP Vin Pinot ($43).  And they offered a discount on purchasing the wines from the tasting (so I snapped up that Pinot).  Now that was a value!

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