A long table filled up every which way with perfectly polished wine glasses sat in the center of Mohegan Sun’s Convention Center before lunchtime on Saturday morning. The line of people buzzed as they waited anxiously outside for the clock to strike noon and for the doors to finally crack open so they could experience one of the area’s premier wine, beer, and liquor tasting events. When that happened, Wine Fest 2012 was underway.
People immediately flocked to that wine glass stocked table, grabbed a glass, and were on their way. The first floor was all about wine and liquor, the second, dedicated to beer, lots of beer.
Naming every wine would take quite a bit of time as there were hundreds of wineries present, both small vineyards and large companies were showing off their reds, roses, whites, pinots, chardonnays, moscatos, proseccos, a little Chandon, and even a chocolate version that tasted like a grown up glass of Nesquik. On each table was one bucket with water for rinsing and another for pouring so you can keep right on sampling the extravagant selection of wines without mixing different tastes. It’s safe to say if you are a wine connoisseur, this event is for you.
If liquors are your forte, the “first floor” was your go to spot with companies like Jim Beam, Hennessey, Don Julio, and many others that were on hand to promote the stronger stuff. One highlight from the spirit tables were Peel’s version of a limoncello (lemoncello), a liqueur made from fresh lemon peel, served up in an ice cold shot. Another goodie was something a bit new (at least to me), Hennessey and apple juice, poured down a Hennessey bottle ice sculpture for that added chill factor. The apple juice takes away, in a good way, from the strong flavor of the “Henny.” Order one in a bar; it may even turn into your new drink of choice.
Two personal Wine Fest favorites were of the muddled cocktail variety. The first, a classic mojito (rum, simple syrup, club soda, mixed with muddled mint and fresh lime juice) made with 10 Cane Rum, rum made from first press Trinidadian sugar cane juice. The second delicious muddled drink was a take on a mojito by Grand Marnier. This mock mojito was made with, RECIPE ALERT, 1 ½ ounces of Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge, four chunks of fresh lemon, 6-8 mint leaves, muddle the mint and lemon, add the Grand Marnier and ice, shake, strain, and serve on the rocks. You’re Welcome.
In between tasting, Wine Fest offered small plates of food like sliders and other bite size sandwiches, raw bar items, tacos, kebobs, and much more for a nominal fee. Restaurants from Mohegan Sun like Ballo and Sol Toro and others from the area provided the snacks.
For another break from all the sampling, celebrity chefs Bobby Flay, a very funny and crowd pleasing Robert Irvine, Mary-Ann Esposito, and Todd English took the main stage to show off their cooking skills, take audience questions, and provide great tips. After demos they took time to sign cookbooks for fans.
If you’re a beer fanatic, the second floor is where you spent most of your time. Yeah, all the common names were there, Budweiser, Heineken, Sam Adams, and more, but come on, craft beer is where it’s at! Try some new stuff, you know who you are. Smaller breweries like Shock Top, Red Hook, Kona, Harpoon, and Captain Lawrence, are the real deal when it comes to good brews. A few favorites were Red Hook’s pilsner and Kona’s toasted coconut. The coconut seemed a little strange but the flavor really came through without overpowering the beer. Try it and you will crave it later.
Wine Fest was not only a tasting and eating experience but for true enthusiasts of events like this, it was an education on all the beverages served. The exhibitors knew what they were talking about and were able to answer every question thrown their way. In the future, arm yourself with questions for the full experience and it is a given that you will walk away with a few extra tidbits of information.
Usually writing something like “Please, Wine Fest, have me back next year” is something I would not do, but this time I’m serious so take away the quotes that surround that phrase. Wine Fest 2013? I can’t wait.