Wine lovers, mark your calendars! The granddaddy of local tastings, the annual CINCINNATI INTERNATIONAL WINE FESTIVAL, is fast approaching, bringing together wines and wine lovers for the 13th consecutive year.
Created in 1991, the festival now ranks as one of the Midwest's largest wine and food events: 600 wines from 125 wineries are slated for tasting this year. The festival also serves as a fund-raiser for a variety of local charities, including Dress for Success, the Ronald McDonald House and Youth Opportunities United.
Beginning on March 4, the festival will serve up a weekend of informative seminars, winery dinners that pair local restaurants such as Daveed's, Aioli and Scalea's with winemakers such as Rabbit Ridge, Rancho Zabaco and Guenoc.
That's all in addition to the hallmark event -- The Grand Tastings, held this year on March 5 and 6 at the Cincinnati Convention Center. Tickets are $60 per night. With a wide variety of wineries including Stag's Leap, Moet & Chandon, Caymus, Ravenswood, Pride Mountain Vineyards, Guenoc, Rabbit Ridge and Bonny Doon, the Tastings offer wine lovers a greatest bang for their wine buck.
Before you dive into the marathon of the Grand Tasting, here are a few tips for enjoying the festival:
Eat well before the Tasting: The tastings typically offer some munchies, but make sure you enjoy a full meal, whether it's McDonald's or the Maisonette. Food in the stomach will go a long way toward maintaining an upright position. Also plan to drink as much water -- if not more -- than the amount of wine you consume.
Create a game plan: I recommend that you spend the first few minutes doing a quick lap around the booths to map out the wineries that you must visit. Start first with whites, lighter styles first, and work your way up to the reds, heavier styles last. Your palette will get tired just by the sheer amount of wine to try, but don't confuse it too by moving back and forth from white to red.
Don't forget distributors and importers: The festival often includes a select group of importers and distributors who usually come with an interesting mix of wines. This year's festival will include the offerings of Cutting Edge Selections, Frederick Wildman & Sons and Paterno Imports.
Experiment: The festival has no restrictions, so use it to check out wines that you've heard about or things that just pique your curiosity. The evening is chock full of smaller wineries and wines from emerging areas or styles. Here's your chance to try sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs from New Zealand, or to find out about all the fuss over ice wines or syrahs.
For more information or to buy tickets, contact the Festival at www.winefestival.com or 513-241-3434.