***Full disclosure, Cupcake and I scored some free tickets to the kick-off party from some folks affiliated with the Festival. While I’d like to think that hasn’t altered or influenced our opinion of the event, we feel obligated to inform you.***
A few weeks ago we wrote about the FQWF as part of our work for the tourism blog GoNola.com. Prematurely psyched about the non-traditional wine dinner format of the festival, I uttered:
Not only does the FQWF turn the wine pairing process on its head, but it will challenge your assumptions of wine festivals. The typical one or two day festival crowds vineyards into a single space. Bouncing from winery booth to winery booth makes it difficult to taste much more than the first few wines and by the end of the day, it is almost impossible to remember which wines you liked. At FQWF, there is no milling from wine station to wine station.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what the kick-off party was. But logistically, the party couldn’t be anything else. There simply isn’t another way to have a party which showcases 14 wineries without numerous wine stations. The wine stations were spaced out well and none, save the Opus One table, was left with an intolerable line (read more than 3 people or so–I’m not very patient!).
What we found most unfortunate about the event, was something FQWF had no control over: the wine tasting bitch. (Feel free to skip the following rant and pick up with the next paragraph) If you’ve been to a wine festival, you’ve met her. Ignoring everyone who has waited their turn, she blows past every line and throws herself at the unfortunate soul behind the counter to demand a hit of “anything (insert generic wine adjective, such as white).” And I pity the fool that is pinned in front of her at a crowded table (like the Opus One table). With no space to cut to the front, she resorts to the box-out or flying elbow. I think one of my bruises just healed up yesterday. If this is you, I’ve got some advice for you. Save your money, skip the event and stay home with a bottle of something you like. Oh, you should also take things down a notch in general. Glad that’s out, time to put these harpies aside, step back into my glass house and get down to the kick-off event.
The kick-off event is designed to get you excited about the FQWF and it delivered. Neither of us had been to the Meritage, so we were very interested in checking out Chef Michael Farrel’s work. There were at least four major food stations, endless passed Hors d’œuvres, and a few minor stations. Which meant the food was varied and plentiful, which is key for successful buffet service. While most of the food was great, it was the dual carving station of roast and pork tenderloin that stole the show. From what he’s done with a buffet and some trays of food, we’re both excited for the wine dinners and to see what Chef Farrel can do at the Meritage when he’s not serving a herd of people.
Rebirth and Los Po-Boy-Citos kept the party atmosphere going all night, while the 14 wineries did their best to give everyone a preview of what they were about. Although with most of the action taking place in the Maison Dupuy’s beautiful, but limited, courtyard, it did get a bit hard to enjoy it all at the height of the action. While the event was definitely set to showcase the Maison Dupuy, I thought they could have taken better advantage of the full block of Burgundy they had closed off. I thought it unfortunate that their block of Burgundy only featured two wine stations and a tiny temporary stage. Had the street been set-up to draw more people, the courtyard would have been less congested and could have really shown off what it had to offer.
Ultimately, the kick-off event was enjoyable and achieved its purpose. It got us excited about the wine festival and about returning to the Meritage for a more private meal. So are any of you signed up for a wine dinner? Let us know and we’ll be on the look out! If you haven’t signed up yet, but want to, check them out here.