Wine Festival/Event Reviews

Indiana Wine Fair -  It was our first visit to Story, Indiana and I didn't realize it was such a remote location. We traveled approximately 10 miles down a curvy, two-lane country road before reaching our destination. Halfway there I lost my cell phone signal and I felt so detached from the rest of the world. I wondered how many people would actually make the trek to this place for a wine festival...but 3,000 people did make the journey on this spring weekend to sample the wines of Indiana.

We arrived right at the start of the festival and were directed to park in a field. There were only about 40-50 cars in the field, so we didn't have to park too far away. It was an old farm field with very thick grass...some of which had dried to a crispy straw-like texture. Since I was wearing sandals, I managed to cut the bottom of my foot in a particularly dry spot in the field. I immediately started bleeding in my white shoes and began to wonder how the rest of the day would go. We started making our way to the festival entrance and it was a pretty long walk...but I don't think there was another parking option for so many cars at the Story Inn. We arrived at the table where we were to receive our wristband and tasting glass. We each paid our $10.00 entrance fee (quite a bargain for so many wines to sample) and a gentleman announced to everyone not to go back to the tents until 1:00 p.m. because the wineries wouldn't be ready. We informed him that it was 1:06 p.m.  - so he told everyone he was sorry and they could go on back...the festival had started.    

I didn't actually count the wineries in attendance...but there were approximately 20. This is a large number of wineries for a small festival. All the winery booths were under 3 large tents. Since everyone seemed to be stopping at the first tent they came to - we opted to go to the farthest tent and work our way back. Our plan was to sample from each of the wineries we hadn't personally had a chance to visit yet...and then hit some old favorites when we were done. I started out sampling a few dry reds, but for some reason the dry wines didn't seem to fit with the festival atmosphere. It didn't take me long to switch to some of the semi-dry wines. After sampling from all the new (to us) wineries, we decided to get a glass of wine before sampling any more. We chose to return to the Buck Creek Winery booth and each bought a glass of their Sunset Blush. The man pouring our wine was very friendly. When we told him we had sampled at many wineries and chose to return to the Buck Creek booth to purchase a glass...he filled our glasses a little fuller.

The Story Inn didn't actually provide any seating. Most people carried in their own lawn chairs. I didn't realize we would need our own chairs and they were still in the trunk of the car. Since we were not about to make a trip back out to the car...we decided to look around and see if we could find a place to sit a spell. We found many people sitting on tree stumps and on the ground. We managed to find a place to call "home" while we were at the festival...a staircase near the port-o-potties was our seating for the duration. We rested here while and did some people watching. When we had finished our glass of wine we headed over to a small area where the vendors were located. There was a woman selling jewelry, a coffee booth, a couple making baskets and a booth where they were peddling timeshares. The timeshare people attempted to get us to sign up for a drawing...but we declined.

After our stroll through the vendor area, we headed back to the tents for some more wine tasting. We stopped by a few winery booths from wineries that we had previously visited on our travels. We made stops at Turtle Run, Butler, Brown County Winery and Simmons Winery to name a few. Some had some new wines since we had visited...so that was a nice treat. After we had been at the festival a couple of hours it was getting pretty crowded and the wait time for a taste was getting longer than I liked. We decided to return to the Buck Creek and Simmons Winery booths to make some purchases to take home and then made a last stop for a glass of wine at the Brown County Winery table. I remember enjoying their Vista Red very much when I visited their winery and wanted to purchase a glass. By this point we decided to purchase one glass to share. We also wanted to get some food in our stomachs. There was one booth where nibblers could be purchased and we got some bread and cheese and headed to "our staircase". Our steps were still unoccupied - I guess no one wanted to sit by the port-o-potties. I still enjoyed Brown County's Vista Red - it's a very flavorful sweet wine - but my personal tastes have changed since my visit there and I found it a little sweeter than I now like.

We had been at the festival about three hours and the crowd was getting pretty thick. At this point we decided to take our purchases to the car and head to our bed and breakfast to rest for awhile before dinner. We had a very good time at the Indiana Wine Fair. The festival had several great qualities...but I could see where some small improvements could be made to make it a little more enjoyable.

On the plus side: 1. A great many Indiana wineries turned out for this up-and-coming festival...the Indiana wine industry was well-represented. 2. The admission price of $10.00, which includes unlimited tasting and a souvenir wine glass, is a steal. 3. The wineries in attendance brought most of their wines with them for sampling. So many times the wineries only transport a handful of their offerings and I was very pleased with the selection offered. Possible improvements: 1. The tasting process was slow because so many people wanted to "park" themselves in front of the winery booths and sample many wines before leaving. I think if each winery had a large poster of some sort (I've seen them at other festivals) with a short description of each wine available for sampling - those waiting in line would already have an idea of what they wanted to try when it was their turn. It might help move the lines along a little more quickly. 2. Water - coolers of water for drinking and rinsing glasses placed sporadically around the event would have been very helpful. 3. Seating - plastic tables and chairs and possibly picnic tables on the grounds would have been so helpful to so many people that didn't cart their own seating in. 4. Food - there was only one booth set-up selling food and the selection was limited. Renting space to food vendors would have offered a wider selection and possibly brought in more money for the festival organizers.

Vintage Ohio -  My expectations were high, and as the festival neared, I was afraid I was going to be disappointed. But this wine festival, held annually in Kirtland, Ohio, far exceeded my expectations. When we arrived we took some time to stroll the grounds. The event was laid out perfectly. Lake Farmpark offers plenty of room, which allows the whole festival to be spread out. The winery tents were situated in various locations throughout the grounds...which allows you to casually stroll from one winery to the next while stopping to listen to music or browsing one of the vendor booths in between tastes. Plenty of seating was provided for those wanting to relax. I also liked the fact that we could wander away from the festivities when looking for a quiet place to talk and sip some wine. Lake Farmpark is the perfect venue for this festival.

When we decided it was time to start sampling wine, we stopped and bought one of those handy wine glass holders that hang from your neck. I thought that whoever invented this gadget must have been pretty lazy...but within an hour I was grateful for it. There are so many things to do at this festival that holding a wine glass gets in the way. So...we took off on a wine tasting mission with our wine glasses hanging from our necks. I decided to sample some dry wines first. I found a couple of nice Chambourcins and a Merlot I enjoyed.

Next, I went on a hunt for blush. September is "Best of the Blush" on the Winery Adventures monthly wine recommendations page.  I've only chosen 3 for sure, but I still have two spots that are not locked in, so I figured I would sample a few at Vintage Ohio. I sampled several that were very good, but my favorite was from Chalet Debonne.

Then it was time for some sweeter wine. Gary had been sampling sweet wine the whole time. (I keep trying to urge him towards the dry wine, but he won't budge. Maybe if I keep ordering Pinot Noir with dinner he'll start to enjoy it some day). I didn't do a lot of sampling of the sweeter wines, but we took this opportunity to buy a glass of White Lies from the Winery at Wolf Creek and sit down and listen to the band play for awhile. White Lies has always been our favorite, and we both ran out of our home supply of it months ago.

After our glass of White Lies, we went searching for the Ice Wine tent. I told Gary I would treat him to the ice wine sampling, so I handed the lady $15.00. That entitled each of us to an ice wine glass and 7 samples.  It was well worth the price. The wines were incredible. We had purchased ice wine from Valley Vineyards before...but the other six were new to me. I didn't realize how different ice wine could be until I tasted that many at the same venue. Also...Ohio ice wines are a great value. Other states tend to charge more than twice what a bottle of ice wine sells for in Ohio.

Shortly after leaving the Ice Wine tent, I received a phone call informing me that my mother was having emergency surgery. We had to leave immediately and drive back to Chillicothe. I thought we still had plenty of time to enjoy the festival, but family comes first. There were many wines I wanted to try that I did not get a chance to. I especially wanted to stop by the Troutman Vineyards tent. They've added several more wines since our visit there and I was very anxious to try them. I also regret that we had to leave without stopping at the wine store. We had planned on buying a case of White Lies that day...and I had made a list of several other wines I wanted to take home.  I'm totally out of Ohio wine at my home and I had planned on stocking up.

We did spend several hours at Vintage Ohio...and I was quite impressed. I had a great time...Gary had a great time...it looked like everyone was having a great time. The organizers of this festival do a fantastic job. I urge anyone with an interest in wine to attend this festival at least once. It offers great entertainment, a variety of food and plenty of vendors...but wine still reigns at Vintage Ohio.

North Market Wine Festival  - Approximately 11 wineries attended this festival in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The wineries were set up just outside the North Market...which houses many interesting specialty stores and vendors. The space allotted for the wineries was much too small. When we first arrived, we decided to walk from the entrance to the far end so we could see which wineries were in attendance. We had to fight our way through a thick sea of people. When we reached the other end, I was so frustrated that I probably would have given up and gone home if we hadn't already purchased tasting tickets.

We stayed for awhile and tasted some new wines and some old favorites. Beside the huge crowd...I didn't like the fact that all tastes were presented in plastic cups (everyone must know how I feel about plastic cups by now). It would have been a nice touch if the organizers had given visitors the option to purchase a wine glass.

It was very hard to tell where the end of the lines were. The space was so small, that after you were poured a sample, you couldn't really get out of the way to drink it. That made it very hard to distinguish who was in line and who wasn't. The lines were so long that as soon as you got a sample, it was a good idea to get in the next line. That made it even harder because even people waiting in line were drinking wine.

This is a festival that I probably will not return to...unless they make some major changes. Opening up part of the parking lot as the tasting area would really help make some more room. There are plenty of parking choices nearby...so I don't think it would hurt anything. Wine glasses would make a big difference too. There a so few wineries near Columbus, that this festival draws a huge crowd. It could be a great festival, but some big improvements would need to be made first.