The best way to learn about wine is to pop corks. Or to let others pop them for you, and to sample their wares.
Public tastings afford us the opportunity to find a new pinot gris for the patio or a pinot noir for that dinner party. With scores of wines at our beck and call — often waiting for some inattentive folk(s) to stop hogging all the space at a tasting table — it’s a dandy chance to delve into new and familiar bottles.
Five such occasions fall within the next month in the Twin Cities. One of them is particularly distinctive.
Wine Riot 2.0 on May 4 is “not about show up and drink,” said host Erik Segelbaum. Instead, it’s about “meaningful engagement,” as he describes it. The point of this event is for everybody who attends to find new ways to enjoy wines and maybe find new regions. It is not transactional; it’s interactive.”
Instead of the standard setup where wines are poured by wholesale reps, Wine Riot’s tables will be focused on regions and varietals. A team of local experts will be available for questions from attendees. They are assembled by the Bachelor Farmer’s Erin Rolek and will be roaming the room while carrying bottles and wearing “Trust me, I’m a sommelier” shirts.
“The goal is to help people relax and enjoy a passion,” said Segelbaum, a D.C.-based sommelier. “I tell people ‘Relax, it’s just grape juice.’ … Wine is something that people both love and are scared about buying. Who says ‘I love clothes, but I’m afraid about buying clothes?’ This is designed as an environment where people can be introduced to new wines and ways to enjoy it more in a non-stuffy, non-scary environment, a meaningful, engaging and interactive way to learn about wine.”
Among the interactive activities: a scavenger hunt and couples competitions around wine knowledge or pronunciations. And of course there will be a photo booth, where timing could be everything during a full afternoon of enjoying wine.
Segelbaum will be working the room with the other experts, but he also will be on stage for sessions called “Between Two Barrels” that will include tasting tips and topics such as “how to understand and unlock a restaurant wine list. … but mostly I’ll just want to make it clear over and over again, ‘Hey, find the somms and ask them questions.’ ”
Wine Riot 2.0: May 4, 2:30-5 p.m., $65, Loews Minneapolis Hotel (601 1st Av. N., Mpls., 612-677-1100), tinyurl.com/yxbv6jgu.
Other noteworthy upcoming events, in chronological order:
Who wants to see how much more impressive Minnesota wines have gotten in recent years? Head to Clink! on April 27. The event at St. Paul’s Union Depot includes 21 of the state’s best wineries and more than a dozen food vendors. Attendees get a commemorative glass and can purchase up to a half-dozen wines to take home.
Wines of Italy
No country has a broader range of cool grapes from distinctive sites than Italy. On May 5 80 wines from 20 producers (some of whom will be present) will be poured at the Vini d’Italia event at Pazzaluna restaurant in downtown St. Paul. Food pairings are part of the festivities, which will include several vintners.
Pazzaluna: May 5, 12:30-3 p.m., $45 (360 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-223-7000, pazzaluna.com), pazzaluna.com/special-events
Wine for a cause
It’s for a good cause — the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital — which makes the tasting fee for Winefest No. 24 less daunting. A symposium with honorary vintners precedes the tastings. Twin Cities transplants Duane and Susan Hoff and winemakers from Bonterra, Fortress, Alexana and Stags’ Leap will be there.
Winefest No. 24: May 10, 5:30-7 p.m. symposium ($150) and 6:30-9:30 p.m. tasting ($125), Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel, the Depot (225 3rd Av. S., Mpls., 612-375-1700), winefest.umn.edu.
All about rosés
Finally, one of the most fun events of any year is moving indoors. Solo Vino’s 11th annual Rosé Tasting will kick off May 19 at the Lynhall in Minneapolis. Light fare from the restaurant will accompany the more than 60 pink wines being poured.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.