I mentioned in my first post that I would be presenting notes from the Midwest Wine Expo next week. I thought as a preview to that I would discuss what I'm expecting, and how I'm preparing for a tasting that includes 700 wines.
First of all I think it is important to note that I haven't been to this tasting before, so I don't really know what to expect from this particular event. Normally I approach a large tasting as an opportunity to taste and evaluate wines that I can't afford to buy. My goal at a tasting is to educate my palate. I have a pretty good idea of what I like in the $10-$15 range, so I don't plan to spend much time tasting those wines. Unfortunately my wallet does not afford me much experience with the $50+ wines, so that's where I'll be concentrating most of my efforts.
The first thing I'm looking for at this particular tasting is the seminars. There are 2 seminars in particular, the one on French wines and the one on Napa Valley sub-appelations, that interest me. The French wine seminar is going to be given by a master of wine, so I expect it to be an interesting exploration of the country with some great wines to sample. The Napa seminar is a focus on sub appellations, and as a rule the more specific the appelation, the more the wine will cost. I think the Napa seminar should be a great opportunity to try some reserve wines from some of the more famous Napa producers that routinely sell for $125 a bottle.
Next comes the dilemma of figuring out what to do with the rest of my time. The seminars should eat up 1 1/2 - 2 hrs, so that leaves another 3 hours for tasting wines. 3 hours of wine tasting seems like plenty of time to get through the over 700 wines being poured. 180 minutes for 700 wines is about 4 wines a minute. Hmm, maybe I need to scale that back a bit. My experience has shown me that I can taste a wine about every 4-5 minutes, so I should plan to taste about 30 - 40 wines throughout the day. I looked through the list Binny's has published on their website and picked out the producers that interest me. I'll have to whittle this list down to about 25 producers. I figure each producer will be pouring more than one wine, so I should expect that I might want to try more than one at a table. Also I want to leave some time (and sobriety) for any wines that peak my interest in the heat of the moment.
Now is a good time to mention the sobriety aspect of a wine tasting. I'm all about responsible drinking, especially when the drinking requires driving to and from the venue. So remember that at a tasting like this, it is perfectly acceptable, and pretty much mandatory at 40+ wines, to spit. 40 1 oz samples would be the equivalent of 1.5 bottles of wine. That doesn't even include the samples I'm going to get at the seminars. If I were to swallow all the wine I tasted throughout the day, I would end up consuming over 2 bottles of wine, and would be WAY over the legal limit when I drove home in the afternoon. It just isn't worth it. Besides, this way I can get home and relax with a bottle of my favorite wine from the day.
Now that I have a plan, and have resolved to spit, all that is left to do is head out the door. I'm counting the days until Binny's Midwest Wine Expo. Hopefully I'll see you there.