A week ago The Bride & I went to the 'First Annual' Philadelphia Wine Festival sponsored by your friendly state-run PLCB, Philadelphia magazine, and a couple others. It was not cheap, $75 per person, but it sold out really quickly (about 1000 tickets sold). It was at the newish Hyatt on Penn's Landing.
Now, I don't know much about wine, but we were going with a colleague of mine who is a true wine connoisseur with decent knowledge. We relied on him to point us to the better wineries and/or wines that were being served. This was quite a help, because there were 70-100 wineries, some pouring only one type whereas others had up to 8 different wines available.
On arrival we got a wine glass with logo, a chain to hold our laminated admission tickets around our neck, and an expensively-printed notebook with one page per winery with room for notes. There was an additional page with a listings of wineries and their table number, but no visual layout/map.
We learned that most of the wines being served were quite premium -- reserves and such. Most of the bottles were priced in the $60 - 80 range, while some offered were in the $150 range as well! So the $75 price was a bargain from the point of being able to try lots of premium wines without having to buy the whole bottle. That being said, personally I tend to spend under $20 for wine (retail, not restaurant) and so probably wouldn't purchase any of the wines offered.
Let's talk about food for a moment. The affair was catered extremely capably by DiBruno's House of Cheese. They had multiple tables set up throughout the ballrooms with a wide array of cheeses (probably around 30 to 50 different types) served on crackers and an array of Metropolitan Bakery bread. There were plenty of workers keeping the food available and was extremely well planned. One station served prociutto (sp?) and parmesan reggianno with 15-year aged balsamic vinegar among other treats (something with foie gras mousse they called a "French Kiss").
Also on the food front, Viking stove (another sponsor?) was cooking up german sausage with spicy sauce.
On to the layout -- the event probably had a staff to guest ratio of 1 to 10. Lots of people directing. The event took up 2 ballrooms and central connecting space. One ballroom was hopelessly cramped (low rent district, perhaps?) such that navigating from wine table to wine table took advanced traffic planning. The other (grand) ballroom was the opposite -- aisles were well-spaced and the crowd was thus less noticable.
So over the course of the evening (6:30 - 9PM) we were able to taste about 20 wines amongst conversation, planning for the next targeted winery, and the continual grabbing of cheese from the nearest DiBruno's station. Most were very good or excellent. [note: if anyone would care to have a list of wines tasted and my comments as an amateur, let me know].
A very enjoyable evening, and probably worth a visit next year for anyone who really enjoys good wine.
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