are you tasting? or simply lunching?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some comments posted on this blog on Monday set me to thinking about how better to manage large public tastings. Speaking specifically about last Sunday’s Taste Washington event, one person wrote:

“Upon leaving, it looked like Mardi Gras, Rock Festivals of old. Not pretty seeing more than four different groups in various corners puking their guts out. Too much of a good thing?”

A second chimed in “I was hoping that the industry would be pushing moderation at Taste WA this year, but here are two examples where it didn't seem to be going that way.

#1 - Got a pour from Rotie Cellars that filled my glass more than half full.

#2 - I was spitting religiously (and it was nice that there were paper spit cups available) and was told by a staff member (don't remember which booth) as I poured out a full spit cup that "you sure are wasting a lot of wine".

I put up a question on my Facebook page asking for more feedback (I did not attend Taste WA this year so I have no first-hand impressions). Out of the dozens and dozens of comments, no real consensus emerged. It seems like a clear case of the committee of blind persons describing the elephant. Depending upon where you were pouring, who you were with, what you happened to do and when you did it, you may have concluded that it was the best Taste WA ever, or you quite possibly left early because it was too much of a drinking party and you wanted no part of it.

My conclusion, not meant as a criticism of this particular event, is that it is time – in fact past time – for organizers of big public wine tastings to do more than just put out spit buckets and carafes of coffee. Real enforcement of basic wine tasting guidelines must – MUST – become de rigeur.

Why? Because otherwise, even if it remains a small minority who abuse the privilege, they will certainly ruin it for everyone else. The morality police are watching! You cannot have people guzzling wine, getting hosed, barfing in the bathrooms, and generally behaving like boorish college kids on spring break if you want to keep sponsoring events on this scale.

Furthermore, it is entirely disrespectful of the wineries who are working hard, pouring out valuable wine, and paying money to give away their own product.

Some good ideas as to how to do more effective crowd consumption control have already been discussed on my Facebook page. Issue drink tickets, limiting pours. Make it mandatory that people watch a one minute video explaining how to spit before you let them in the door. Have bouncers in the room, as you would in any bar or night club, and empower them to show people the door if they are getting loud or sloppy.

Most of all, make it absolutely mandatory that anyone pouring wine observe the half ounce pour rule, and act like a bartender would. If they see someone who has clearly had enough, cut them off. And bring that person to the attention of the enforcers.

Does this take the “fun” out of the event? Sure it does, if your idea of fun is to get bombed in public. For those folks I suggest that you do your partying at the frat house, and wait to attend public wine tastings until you grow up.


Unknown said...

Paul, I didn't see any large pours, but I wasn't speed tasting. I felt like there was plenty of encouragement to spit, there could have been a few more spit buckets and they could have been emptied a bit more regularly. The cups, both paper and plastic were to be found at several booths. At the end of the day it was about the experience that each individual was looking for, and lets face it, for those who paid the big dollars to attend, they clearly wanted to get their money's worth. There was a greater presence by the Alcohol Enforcement than I'd seen in the past, but there were several drunks staggering out at the end. Not sure how to hold Taste or the Commission responsible for this, I've seen it at Passport as well.

wild walla walla wine woman said...

It's really nothing more than a bigger spin-off of what tasting rooms face on weekends and big events. Nothing worse few minutes before closing, a limo pulling up full of obnoxious peeps stumbling to the door, entering the winery proudly screaming, "You're the 13th winery we visited today." As long as we are serving to the public, it is going to happen. The best we can do is temper it a bit by being a savvy server and being brave enough when to tell someone, "No."

Does Taste Wa have any kind of enforcement other than spit buckets with "clever" yet worthless signage?

Greg Harrington said...

Personal responsibility for all involved.

Anonymous said...

I did not see "big pours". I did not see "staggering" by individuals. It may have happened. I am not saying it did not. As Greg said when does your own responsibility kick in. I say from the moment you walk in. If not, then do you make everyone hit a breathalyzer before they leave? When does it become a moral issue to taste wine?

PaulG said...

Personal responsibility is great, but the point here is that there will always be irresponsible individuals. If the industry and the organizers of these massive public tastings do not step up and take charge, and figure out ways to keep the drunks out, then eventually someone else will. There will be crackdowns, legislation, regulations, and none of it will be done with the agenda of the wine industry in mind. So my point is that it's time for the industry to figure out ways to deal with this before it is too late. The cops are already keeping the drunks from driving. That is not the issue here.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of the responsibility lies with the wineries. The "hip" thing to do is serve big pours, then leave early and line up your empties on the table to let everyone know what they missed. So tacky.

People - use the frickin' flow restrictors! Pour maybe one ounce. If people want more they will ask. I personally think it was one of the most civil tastings in recent memories. We do NOT serve people who are intoxicated, so everyone should just get over that. Can we just be grown-ups and keep the frickin' government out of it?


WineBoy said...

I have purposely avoided this event because of the sheer size and lack of focus that it provides. In my opinion, it is a cattle call. Do I like wine? Yes. Do I enjoy the ambiance of an event that brings 200 wineries together under one roof? No. Where is the focus? How can one truly educate one's palate with this shotgun approach to wine tasting? In my mind, McMinnville's IPNC is a better model. While it too could be accused of promoting over-indulgence, at least the organization makes an attempt to focus on a single varietal with a global context. Having attended many times over the last 24 years, I have yet to see Barbie (or Ken) hurling into the potted palms.

Dick Boushey said...

Paul, You should have come to the event,just for fun, you would have enjoyed yourself. Good wine, good food, colorful booths, lots of nice well behaved interesting people and many of your friends. I thought it was the most civil non-sloshed Taste ever. I wish you would have been there. The Wine Commission does monitor over drinking and spends a fair amount of time and money to address any over indulgence by attendees. Personally I abused the food...way too many Oysters and Chocolates.

The Wine Colours said...

Hey there!

We can not say because obviously we were not at the event, but then only by the ingenuity of the picture was worth reading the post.

Congrats! See you soon!
The Wine Colours

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