By Gregory B. Hladky
1:51 PM EST, January 28, 2013
White-haired dudes walking around with canes. Skinny 20-something women in slinky outfits and four-inch heels. Wheeler-dealers in serious suits. Laughing soccer-moms-and-dads. A pot-bellied biker in ankle-length leather coat and motorcycle boots. Stone-cold experts taking notes.
What this incredibly varied crowd had in common was a desire to suck down as much juice of the grape as possible from places like California, Provence, New Zealand, Chile, Spain, Alsace, Italy and even Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun’s Winefest ’13 this weekend.
“I’ve never seen this many drunk people at a wine event before,” laughed Liz Green, of Willamette Valley Vineyards in Oregon. Green, whose step-father owns the winery, has been to plenty of wine-tasting events before but never one quite like that at the Mohegan Sun.
“You can get really drunk… because it’s a casino,” is Green’s theory. “They know they’re not driving because they’re staying here… So everybody can get sloshed.”
Clearly, when you’re paying for the right to sample all these wines (tickets started at $100 per person) you want to get your money’s worth. And lots of sippers were intent on doing exactly that.
There was plenty to choose from. High-end outfits like J. Lohr and Bogle and Charles Krug had booths or “pavilions.” So did major distributors from across the nation, and even getting a small table to show off your wares wasn’t cheap: the littlest spot started at $500 and went up from there.
Some who brought their bottles to the show were trying to break into or expand their share of the huge American market.
Chateau D’Esclans, a maker of lovely dry roses from Provence in southern France has been selling wine in the U.S. for six year, but is still having to overcome the shadow cast by America’s hideously sweet “blush” wines.
“It’s a challenge,” admits Tricia Allen, who was working the table for the winery on Sunday. She says the reaction to the light, dry, flavorful “Whispering Angel” rose from those at the show had been mixed.
Some newcomers to the variety were enchanted. Others would taste it, she says, and then ask: “Do you know where we can find some sweet wines?”
Then there was the table offering the wines from Turkey. Yep, a whole range of reds and whites made from native grape varieties from a land where 99 percent of the people are Muslim and are (theoretically) forbidden to drink alcohol.
Jean-Noel Maubert was doing his best to convince passersby to try some, proclaiming to one and all that “Turkey was the birthplace of wine!” He has archeological evidence to back up the claim that wine-making started out in what is now Turkey and moved west into Greece.
As for who in Turkey actually drinks their home-grown vintages, Maubert suggests that the answer may depend “on how Muslim you are.”
There didn’t appear to be too many folks at the winefest on Sunday that were having any religious problems at all consuming all that lovely grapey stuff.
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