Sunday, September 16, 2012

WINE WHINERS: Taste of Carolina Wine Festival

Before we get started whining about wine affairs, I’d like to introduce you to Michelle, my partner in crime when it comes to attending and creatively criticizing tastings, festivals, and other wine-related events. Michelle and I live in the same town and were brought together in friendship through a shared appreciation for winding down with a glass of wine on the deck of one of our now-favorite venues, Lumina Wine and Beer. We found that we have a lot in common, from a love for cooking to our favorite decade—the 80s, of course—to divorces to remarriage to our amazing husbands who are not the genetic-fathers of our children, but the guys who unselfishly dedicated their lives to raising them. We also have a ton of great friends in common.  

Michelle and I have now twice happened upon free tickets to wine festival events. The first event took us to north-central North Carolina. After 20 minutes, we realized there were better ways to spend our weekend and decided to leave—an easy thing to rationalize when the tickets are free. We ended up in Virginia at another, much better, winery festival.

More recently, our good friends Sherry and Dave Johnson, owners of Asheboro Magazine, offered us VIP tickets to the 10th Annual Taste Carolina Wine Festival held at the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market. They were too busy working on the magazine to attend, so Michelle and I were off to the wine festival.

10th Annual Taste Carolina Wine Festival
Taste Carolina Wine
Festival was a good
event, but we think it
could be much, much
better.

The Taste Carolina Wine Festival was presented by the Greensboro Jaycees, the Wyndham Championship, Coca~Cola, Yes Weekly, and Sarah Catherine Designs. Both Michelle and I have the deepest respect for all of the event sponsors, as well as the participating wineries and other vendors. A lot of work went into this well-received annual event. It was also clear that the festival does a lot for the burgeoning winery industry in North Carolina. That said, we were not compelled to stay too long. We made it past 20 minutes, but we did not linger. Michelle and I do have some points of honest feedback we feel will make the event much better in the future for all involved. Should such improvements be made, future Taste Carolina events are sure to keep our attention for more than an hour or so.

As VIP ticket holders, we should have been able to enter the gates quickly, rather than endure 20 minutes standing in line and another 10 trying to get our VIP perks. Groupon purchasers had easier access than VIP ticket-holders. We recommend arming the volunteers selling and taking tickets with a list of instructions. That way, Michelle wouldn’t have had to retrieve our wine-glass-holder lanyards from the information booth while desperately asking questions in an attempt to figure out the event.

It might be helpful to understand that at this point, we were sweaty from the hike from the gravel overflow parking lot—VIP parking would be a great addition to this event—as well as the 30-minute ordeal to get through the gate, and a generous helping of sunny, warm weather beating down on our already peri-menopausal systems. To say we were getting frustrated would be an understatement. How could it be so difficult for a couple of women to access some wine at a wine-tasting festival?

We did our best to navigate one of the Disney World-style lines protruding from the winery tents. While we were getting our bearings and bouncing from line to line looking for the non-existent VIP access to the tastings, we came up with a great idea for next year’s event: each participating winery should employ a four-line system: sweet tastings, dry tastings, VIP tastings of both sweet & dry, and a purchase-by-the-bottle line. Also, this system should be made clear in the handout provided to participants upon entry.



I'm on the left & Michelle is on
the right. We are weary as we wait
for our first and only tasting
of our day. Note the great hair
by Studio 120's Alan Culler







We were extremely impressed and thankful for the Weathervane Winery representative who made his way down the waiting line pouring samples of Merlot. His  friendly face and wine-stained shirt was an absolutely beautiful sight for our critical, frustrated eyes. We would have been much happier had Weathervane not run out of some of their dry selections with four hours of the event left to go. Regardless, Michelle highly recommends Sunset Red, the Merlot. My recommendation is Temperature Rising, a Chianti. We both recommend event planners calculate more accurate crowd expectations based on pre-event ticket sales, Groupon success, and past events to ensure all wineries are fully prepared and all participants have the full selection of wines to taste after their 40-minutes-plus on the line.

We realize this blog post is getting a bit lengthy, so we decided to bullet point the rest of our recommendations:

  • Let folks know when one of their favorite wineries listed on the festival map is not actually participating. We were incorrectly told the Rag Apple Lassie Vineyards tent was behind the DIRECTV tent. We did two laps around the festival and sustained three hot flashes before realizing there was not a Rag Apple Lassie tent.
  • Allow for seating of all VIP ticket holders in the VIP tent. We couldn’t get into the VIP tent even though we had VIP wristbands. It is possible there were non-VIPs in the tent. If that was the case, we recommend a roped access with bouncers for the VIP area.
  • The $5 voucher for food that came with the VIP ticket was nice, but didn’t get us much. We each “purchased” a scoop of mac and cheese with our vouchers. The scoops were small and mine was cold. The food vendor was also running low on food with four hours to go. We recommend a $10 voucher.
Special thanks to our new friend, fellow
writer Nichole Nichols, who graciously
took this photo and patiently listened as we
recounted our latest wine event adventure.
Our final recommendation is for 40+ women attending crowded, hot, sticky wine festivals. It is perfectly acceptable—especially if you didn’t have to pay for your tickets—to leave early and head to a nice wine bar, such as Rioja! Wine Bar & Wine Warehouse. A nice  air-conditioned venue with a wide selection of wine by the glass and savory snack options—we shared the cheese, fruit, and olive plate—is the place to go to relax, cool off, and debrief about tastings and festivals.



Micki Bare, mother of three, wife, writer, and content strategist is the author of Thurston T. Turtle books. 
Michelle Harmon, mother of one, wife, and massage therapist is the co-owner of The Healthy Back and Body Clinic

Follow Micki & Michelle on Twitter @Wine_Whiners
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4 comments:

  1. Great review and I do hope you share your thoughts with the Greensboro Jaycees - it can only improve their event!

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  2. Thanks Sherry. And thanks again for the tickets. I'm trying to find a contact email for the Greensboro Jaycees. I've been able to find their Twitter feed, but if you have an email address, that'd be great!

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  3. Makes my mouth water reading this! Great Review Girls!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jacquie! Any wine events planned for the studio this fall/winter?

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