Wine Events, Ranked

Since I’m now in my fourth year in the wine industry in the DC area, I’ve been to a lot of wine events.  Some for just industry people, some that are open to the public, too.  I’ve worked at them and been a guest, both for work and for fun.

Basically, I’ve eaten a lot of hors d’oeuvres and jockeyed for a spot near a lot of spit buckets.

Downey tasting di lenardo

Some of these events are better than others, and I’ve spent the last few years mentally ranking these according to how fun and useful they are to me as someone who helps to buy for a retail store, and how good the snacks are.  The snacks part gets more weight, to be totally honest.

One of the best events, both usefulness and snackwise is the one put on by Michael Downey imports.  It’s held at a beautiful historic house in Arlington, and they usually have a classical guitarist playing, which really makes you feel like a fancy adult.

Downey tasting gazebo

The house setting is nice, as the different rooms keep people moving around instead of all clumping in one place.  And the company really makes an effort to bring in producers and winery employees from the various wineries and import companies they distribute to our area.  All in all, it’s a great event and always worth the time.

However, snacks are really where the Downey tasting really edges out the competition.  It has been catered by what I think might be Cork Wine bar, or the company that owns it, for the past few years, and the snacks are exactly what you would want for a wine tasting: charcuterie, small chunks of hard, salty cheese, breadsticks (some are wrapped in Prosciutto!), and little flatbreads with savory toppings.  Everything is really easy and not-messy to grab and eat, and everything is tasty and wine friendly.  I also appreciate how protein-rich everything is, both because it’s helpful to eat after tasting a bunch of tannic reds, and because it makes it easier to have a really satiating few bites quickly.  A+, Michael Downey Imports.

downey prosciutto wrapped breadsticks Downey tasting avo toast

Whether you’re attending a tasting that’s meant for the general public (con: fewer wines; pro: usually better snacks) or you’re in the industry and going to a vendor tasting, my advice is always to arrive a few minutes before the event starts.  This isn’t like going to a party, where it’s uncool and borderline rude to show up right at the beginning.  What I like to do is show up a few minutes before it starts and either by myself or with the person I’m attending with, strategize about which wines are the most important to taste, and number my route through the tasting in order of importance.

Every three to four tables, stop, get a snack, drink some water, and take a few minutes to jot down notes and reflect on what you’ve tasted.  You will get so much more out of the tasting and be far less cranky doing things this way. By the time the event gets crowded, you’ll be done with what you really came to taste, so when you have to wait longer for someone to pour for you, it won’t make you as annoyed and impatient, and if things really get intolerable, you can bolt and still feel like you accomplished what you want to.

Stay tuned for more of my blurry photos of industry events and wine-soaked ramblings!

Published by Diane McMartin

Diane McMartin is a Certified Sommelier and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America’s Accelerated Wine and Beverage Certificate Program. She also works in wine retail, teaching wine education classes and helping customers wade through the endless sea of bad Chardonnay in the world. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area.

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