My Valentine’s Day Wine Alternative


Happy Valentine's Day to all who celebrate. My wife and I agreed long ago that this holiday would never be a huge deal in our world. After all, we already have two wedding anniversaries. (Ask me about that some time!) Instead, we’ve got travel on our minds. And late winter/early spring is a great time of year for domestic wine events. These are nice little trips you can take to get a real crash course on most any region. 

I love the excitement of large consumer events. Wine lovers of all stripes enjoy these big, bombastic wine and food experiences. The chaotic crowds can be off-putting for some, but there are some ways to game the system. Most of them are obvious.

For starters, pick the off-hours and arrive early. Sundays are usually a good bet, especially first thing. Some events allow you to purchase early-entry tickets, too.

When you’re on the tasting floor don’t waste time waiting for pours. It’s easy to conclude that a big crowd around a table means great wine. That is not always true. Name recognition and higher price points create crowds too. And remember - a higher price point may just mean more overhead. It does not necessarily indicate great wine. Stop by the quiet tables. Start conversations. Find a hidden gem. 

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing up most of the time.

Be sure to wear clothes you don’t care about too much. You’ll be eating while standing up, too.

And please, don't drink too much. Pace yourself over multiple hours, and sample wisely. Designated drivers are implied.

Here are a few events I'm excited to see on the roster this year.

Seattle Food and Wine Experience

Many off-the-beaten path wineries from the Pacific Northwest pour at this event, but the foodie focus is key. You can plug into the latest regional restaurant trends without having to troll Instagram. Craft beer and cocktails are included, too.

The long weekend (February 22nd through February 24th) includes a dedicated seafood event. Everything is local. You’ll have a chance to sample it all paired with some fantastic wines – from sparkling to red and everything in between.

Learn more about the Seattle Food and Wine Experience.

Virginia Wine Expo

This week-long event runs from February 26th through March third. Attend on Sunday for lighter crowds, or purchase early entry tickets. This is a terrific event by one of the the United States’ most overlooked wine regions. Everything from cigar pairing seminars to cooking classes are at your disposal. It's also a chance for you to see what's happening in the nation's booming cider movement. The crossover between wine and cider is so clear - from lees aging to varietal preferences. Learn more about it in Virginia.

Learn more about the Virginia Wine Expo.

White Wine Weekend

If you don't enjoy crowded consumer tastings, this kind of region-based event is just for you. Anderson Valley dedicates an entire weekend (February 23rd and February 24th) to Alsace-style varietals like Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. This is a region renowned for world-class Pinot, so the white bottles you'll taste this weekend are true labors of love. One corridor in the region receives a good chill that makes Alsatian varietals successful. Visit a bunch of tasting rooms for food pairings and live music. No tickets or reservations required. 

Learn more about White Wine Weekend.

Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend

It's time for some heady fruit bombs and bracing tannins. Head over to Paso Robles for a weekend of Zinfandel (March 15th to March 17th). This is the region's heritage grape variety. The combination of seminars and tastings will render you an Zin expert by the end of the weekend. Over one hundred wineries will participate. The event ends with a huge after-party at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom.

Learn more about Vintage Paso: Zinfandel Weekend.

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