(Note to readers: This article is three parts — general story on Wine Expo features, a tips box if you go, and ticket information.)
We’ve reached the mid-way point of another snowy New England winter and just this week Punxsutawney Phil made it even worse: the furry rodent predicted another six weeks of winter.
Unless you are a skier, what are you to do to beat the blues — better known in these parts as Post-Super Bowl Cabin Fever (PSBCF)?
If a trip to Aruba, Florida or another gorgeous beach-blanket bingo location isn’t in the cards, my answer is to spend a day at the 2015 Boston Wine Expo at the classy and comfortable Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center.
This is the winter place to be for oeniphiles and all wine-loving wannabees over Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 14-15.
A general admission ticket, which includes a complimentary wine glass, can be purchased online (http://www.wine-expos.com/) and costs $99 for Saturday and $89 for Sunday. (See related story for ticket options.)
The expo runs from 1-5 p.m. each day, and offers visitors the best wine-tasting bazaar experience on the East Coast. More than 300 top producers from the United States and around the world will be showcasing their most popular wines and new releases in the Grand Tasting Room, presenting a fabulous opportunity for consumers to sample distinctive products in all price ranges.
I’m seriously looking forward to sampling the 2012 reds from California and Washington State, a vintage that is earning raves from professional reviewers. Likewise California’s 2013 Chardonnays are said to be outstanding.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fun if you didn’t explore the international market. Argentina, Chile, Spain, South Africa and New Zealand offer wines of stunning quality and huge value. They’ll also be under-appreciated from a crowd standpoint, a condition that should be exploited to those who don’t want to stand in line for long periods of time. On the other hand, producers from Italy and France will undoubtedly attract the biggest crowds. You’ll have to be patient but the reward is worth it: a taste of fabulous Brunellos and Bordeauxs among others.
But there’s more to the expo than wine.
The World Trade Center’s spacious main room takes on a block party atmosphere in a celebration of sumptuous treats from the region’s top chefs and restaurants. Food kiosks, with free samples, abound along the outer circle of wine stations. In addition, in a separate section, there are two main stages where celebrity and local chefs will be giving cooking demonstrations and interacting with spectators. This year 19 culinary events, which get under way each day at 1:15 p.m., are scheduled over the two-day event.
(The state of Maine Tourism Bureau is sponsoring 10 cooking events featuring executive chefs from restaurants in Freeport, Kennebunkport, Ogungquit and Portland. Erica Archer, an award-winning Master Sommelier and wine educator, will emcee the Maine events and lead discussions with the chefs on pairing wines with food.)
So you might not only find a wine you like, but there’s a chance you’ll discover a new restaurant or pasticceria (pastry shop) to visit too.
This will be my third consecutive trip to the wine expo and it never seems to get stale. It’s just the opposite: refreshing, enlightening and festive. A majority of the presenters working the kiosks know their wines and willingly discuss their unique characteristics and wine-making process.
Of course, there is another side of the expo for serious wine collectors, consumers, industry trade workers and the curious. For a separate cost, $25 to $95, one can attend private educational and tasting seminars conducted by leading winemakers and certified instructors. Twenty seminars are planned each day, and the keynote event is Saturday’s hour-long session with Opus One winemaker Michael Silacci. It features a vertical tasting of the iconic estate’s 1988, 1996, 2001 and 2010 vintages. A full listing of seminars can be found at http://www.wine-expos.com/ and advance registration is required.
EIGHT TIPS TO ENJOY THE EXPO
1. Take public transportation if you can to avoid hefty parking fees at the Seaport Hotel.
2. Dress casual and no backpacks. You’ll be in a huge room with thousands of people, so it will get warm moving about from station to station. You don’t need extra baggage, nor will other patrons appreciate a head butt from a backpack. (Hint: Women should avoid handbags. Invariably, they slow you down when carrying a wine glass, and sometimes get forgotten and left behind if placed on a tasting table. Use a simple belt pack if you must. Or check your handbag with your coat at the main door.
3. Drink plenty of water. Alcohol intake dehydrates the body, so it is important to dilute the effects with water. Pitchers are available at each kiosk. After tasting the wine, fill your glass with water and drink it as you move to the next station.
4. Eat food. Once again, food will help to minimize the alcohol’s effects, plus the treats are delicious.
5. Don’t overdrink. The presenters pour judiciously, so accept a small taste with gratitude and sip it slowly. The key is to pace yourself responsibly for four hours.
6. Be selective. Plan on tasting a maximum 25-35 wines (a sip pour is one ounce). There are 22 ounces in a 750 ml. bottle of wine, which means you’ll be drinking at least a bottle in four hours. Map out a plan to taste a medley of wines — three from each region.
7. Be patient. If you see a big crowd at a kiosk, avoid it and move to one less busy. By 4 p.m., the crowds begin to thin out. Stay fresh for that last hour and you’ll be rewarded.
8. If you like a wine, take a cellphone photo of it. It’s better than trying to write it down in a crowd.
Here are the differences between the one-day and weekend packages available for the 2015 Boston Wine Expo:
• Grand Tasting, Saturday, Feb. 14, 1-5 p.m., $99 — Access to the main room, souvenir wine glass, tasting samples from 300 wine producers, complimentary food samples and live cooking demonstrations on two stages.
• Grand Tasting, Sunday, Feb. 15, 1-5 p.m., $89 — Same as above
• Weekend Pass, Feb. 14-15, 1-5 p.m., $153.34 — Two-day access pass, with above amenities.
• VIP Experience, Saturday, Feb. 14, 1-5 p.m., $150 — Private entrance Grand Tasting room, a sparkling wine toast, and free coat check. Access to the VIP lounge, culinary samples, a wine glass and numerous wine samples.
• VIP Experience, Sunday, Feb. 15, 1-5 p.m., $140 — Same as above
• Vitner’s Reserve Lounge, Saturday, Feb. 14, 1-5 p.m., $225 — A private room to sample fine wine of $75 or more per bottle and taste treats from restaurants in the city. Ticket includes admission to Grand Tasting room.
• Vitner’s Reserve Lounge, Sunday, Feb. 15, 1-5 p.m., $225 — Same as above
To purchase tickets online go to: http:// www.wine-expos.com/.