New York, NY –
On Saturday, September 22nd, I attended Wine Riot NYC at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Street. Wine Riot is an event that brings wine to the people, and the people to wine. The massive venue was packed full of Rioters, young and old, for the all you can taste event with wines spanning the globe. Wine Riot’s mission is to make wine more accessible—to expose people to wines, help them remember what they like, and take some of the intimidation out of having an entire world of wine to try and not knowing where to begin. The idea is simple; if you like it, drink it. To that end Wine Riot has a free app that they encourage all participants to download, that lets them quickly record whether they liked, loved, disliked or despised a wine. That way, beginner to intermediate wine tasters leave the event with dozens of wines that they know they will enjoy. From there they can learn what styles and what flavor notes most please their palate, and get their wine education off and running. In addition, this app tallies up which wines were given the most thumbs up and posts that information on screens around the event. That way, people can make sure to try the most popular wines at the event.
To further one’s wine education, there were some short seminars on the half hour, which involve some wine tasting and an informative speaker. I sat in on the “Back That Class Up,” seminar hosted by Cameron Hughes Wine. Our speaker re-stressed one of the focal points of Wine Riot— if you like it, drink it. He implored the participants to not become overly concerned with the possible pomp and pretension that can be associated with wine culture, saying that, in the end, we’re drinking “rotted grape juice.” After the short speech, participants were given pens, wine cards and four wines to try. The trick was to attempt to determine how much the wine would cost based on a blind taste test. As a reporter there to cover the event, I felt my journalistic integrity would be thoroughly corrupted by a failure. My palpitating heart reached a crescendo as he announced the prices, and, thankfully, I was correct on all four. It was all in good fun, and the speaker told the people who got the prices wrong (suckers!) that they were the true winners, because they could get $150 dollars’ worth of pleasure out of a $4 dollar bottle of wine. Cameron Hughes was also an interesting company, as they buy off excess wine from other vineyards and companies, sign a non-disclosure agreement, and then rebottle the wine under the Cameron Hughes name for cheaper. As such, it is a nice way to get discounted bottles.
In addition to providing participants with knowledge of wines and a list of palatable vintages, Wine Riot provides great exposure for vineyards and wine cellars. The event has dozens of different stations manned by companies with an array of selection, and there are, in total, some 250-plus wines to choose from. Because rioters have already paid up front, and the actual buying and selling of the bottles is not a factor, the participants and the wine vendors form more of a symbiotic relationship than they would otherwise. The wine sellers are very informed about their own products, as it is in their best interest to be, and the customers all want to know more about what they are drinking. The result was a friendly and knowledgeable staff and happy rioters.
And finally on to my own tasting experience. Every participant is given a reusable, plastic stemless glass and encouraged to taste as many wines as possible. There are buckets for pouring out excess wine or for tasting and spitting. At this event, though, I seemed to notice more people emptying their contents in their mouths rather than the bucket. I think this speaks to the nature of the event—it was meant to be fun and social and bring people together, as well as for tasting purposes. Tyler Balliet, Founder and President of Wine Riot, has a tip on the website to drink local, and that is where I began. My first wine was the semi-dry Riesling from Damiani Wine Cellars located in the Finger Lakes, New York. I was informed it had two percent residual sugar and I tasted notes of apple, pear and a hint of key lime. The wine had a mild, light sweet odor, and a dry sweet and tart finish. My second wine was Chateauneuf du Pape Rouge from the David Milligan Selections, a light, clear red. It was a dazzling ruby color and the taste was dominated by notes of red currant and other dark fruits. For my third tasting I tried a Riesling-Chardonnay blend from Wolffer, a Long Island based vineyard. It was rather astringent with some notes of harsh alcohol followed by a simple sweetness. My favorite wine of the night was Negre, from Casa Mariol. The nose was remarkable- all cracked stones and earthy fruits, and the body was tremendous. Velvety, palpably rich and smooth and the taste of some dry herbs in the back end. A fantastic wine.
Wine Riot was a great experience—fun, exciting and informative. I left the venue with my head swimming, some new wines on my must buy list and a renewed excitement about wine as a drink and a culture.