On Saturday, I went to the Vintage Illinois Wine Festival with my husband and his dad, sister and her husband. We went a couple years ago, and were total amateurs – we just showed up ready to drink wine. This time we were a little more prepared, but I think we can do better next year.
So, here are my tips if you attend this or another large, outdoor wine festival.
- Buy your tickets in advance online. It was $20 for admission, and you get a souvenier wine glass (which you use for your tastings), a booklet and pen to take notes, and 7 tasting tickets (which I believe is an extra ticket compared to buying at the festival). You can buy additional tickets at the festival. (The tastings were around an ounce and a half of wine, so 7 tastings probably equaled about a half a bottle of wine.)
- The festival was 11am – 7pm on Saturday (with slightly shorter hours on Sunday). We were there from 12 – 5pm.
- Wear sunscreen. And sunglasses. And layers. And pants with pockets. You can leave behind stuff on your chairs/blankets, but obviously don’t leave anything valuable unattended. And you want your hands free for drinking and taking notes.
- Eat before you go. You should probably do that for any event that centers around alcohol. (Otherwise you’ll get in “trouble.”)
- Bring food. Some groups went all out with their food – veggies & dip, cheese & sausage, cakes, baguettes, fruit and other snacks. Some of it was impressive and I wanted to make friends. We brought some zuccini bread, cookies and raisins (whatever we could scrounge from my in-laws kitchen before we got on the road). Good, but not a “best practice.” Coolers are allowed, grilling is only allowed in the parking area.
- You can buy food, but this year, their food vendors were “Chicago Food Trucks!” Which translated to one and a half trucks (one truck didn’t have all the ingredients for half of their menu items until late in the day). So the one truck that was fully functional – Cheesies – had a realllllly long line. Which we waited in. For an hour. Delicious grilled cheeses though.
- At a minimum, bring camp chairs and/or a blanket.
- If you want to be like the cool kids, also bring a small camp table and a pop-up canopy. Maybe some playing cards.
- If you have a wine-themed shirt, jewelry or flip flops – wear them. You’ll fit right in. (For the record, I do not own any of those items.)
- Bring some kind of rolling cart or bag. We brought a “grandma” cart, which was handy for lugging the camp chairs in, and then lugging out all the bottles of wine we bought.
- Share your samples (with your friends). Maximize your tasting.
- If you have a well-behaved social dog, bring it. Lots of people did.
- Stop by Two Girls and a Cupcake on the way home. YUM.
The first time I met my now father-in-law, I was confused. Who was this average sized, blonde, blue-eyed cross between Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood? And where did my 6’4 guy come from? (They’re on a slight incline.)
Waitin’ for cheese and carbs.
That point in the day when everyone is slightly drunk and totally happy.
Bras are handy.
And I even made a Vine!