Summer is just about here, which means wineries all over the United States are about to put on some of their biggest events of the year − a wine concert. When I say “wine concert” I’m referring to an event on the grounds of one winery (not to be confused with a “wine festival” which typically has several wineries. That’s the subject of a different post). Some wineries get popular local bands and others draw huge crowds by bringing in nationally known favorites. Either way, it’s a great time. From someone who spent several years working at wineries, here are three tips to help you have the best time this summer:
3 Tips For Attending A Wine Concert
Don’t get the “Drink Special” at a Wine Concert
I’ll say it again…Don’t get the drink special. A lot of wineries will have some sort of special Sangria on sale by the glass for some ultra-low price. It will be full of fruit and perfect for the summer. It might seem like the perfect drink, but chances are, it’s not. I don’t remember a time where the Tasting Room Manager ever said, “Hey this is a fantastic wine, let’s have it for the special this weekend.” Instead, it’s almost always, “Uh oh, this wine is starting to go bad. Customers have complained about bad bottles and it’s fizzing a little bit. Let’s turn it into Sangria and get rid of it this weekend.”
Now, not all wineries are like this, I’m sure. But here’s a true story of a winery that will go unnamed. I was cleaning out our sample fridge for the wines that had “expired” (meaning they’d been open for more than a week so we wouldn’t serve them) and I decided that just for fun I would mix them all together. There were 9 different wines. White, red, dry, sweet, fruit… a complete mix. I took a sip and was surprised that it tasted pretty good. I had some other people taste my concoction and they agreed.
You can probably tell where this is going. The winery owners found out, and in their never-ending quest to make as much money as possible, told us to dump ALL the expired wines into a tub and add some fruit. Despite my objections, they sold it for $4 a glass and they made several hundred dollars. I still cringe when I think about people drinking that stuff. They came up with some clever name for it but we all secretly called it “Dump Bucket Sangria.” The funny part was that everyone loved it. They asked what grapes were in it (“it’s a blend”) and if they could buy it by the bottle (“sorry, it’s a limited edition”). One last time… Don’t get the drink special.
Participate in Everything at a Wine Concert
A winery I was at had all sorts of fun games and contests that went on while the band was on break during a concert. We got pretty creative with them, and did things like an air guitar contest, “don’t spill the wine” relay, and oldies trivia. We even tailored them for whatever was going on that day. For example, when a huge group of employees of Russ Brown was in town for Bike Week, we had all sorts of motorcycle-themed games.
These can be a great time for everyone, but there’s nothing worse than saying “Come on down for the water balloon toss!” and have no one budge. We quickly learned that if we offered a free bottle of wine to the winner, all of a sudden everyone wanted to play. So, my advice to you is to go out of your comfort zone and participate in everything you can. Enter the contests, sign up for the tours, join in the grape stomp, and take advantage of everything the winery is offering. You’ll have a blast and create some great memories.
Listen to the Band at a Wine Concert
As much as I love playing music, I would never want to play at a wine concert. People simply don’t listen to the band. It baffles me, because I would think that would be the point of going to one of these events. It’s great to have fun and talk with your friends, but please take a little bit of time to relax and watch the band. Then take it one step further and talk to them about their music. They’ll be thrilled that someone took the time to really connect with them.
A winery I was at had a band called The Willys play a couple times every year. They were always very good, but one time they were noticeably better. After their set I went up to them and said “Sounds awesome guys, I really enjoy the new songs.” They were blown away that someone had actually remembered what they played in order to know that they were doing new material.
As we start into summer, I encourage you go check our your local wineries and see what kind of concerts they’re having. Then remember these tips when you go and have a great time!
Time for a glass…