Yesterday, we went to the Cherry Creek Arts Festival while Ben hung out with Grandma. I was invited by Robert Mondavi Wines to come taste a selection of wines from the Robert Mondavi Winery, Robert Mondavi Private Selection and Woodbridge lines of wines at the Discover Wine Tour. The goal of the tour is to bring the wine country experience to food and wine festivals around the country. The tented bar and seminar area complete with wooden benches certainly evoked beautiful Napa vineyards. For the average wine drinker who braved the Denver heat, the event was a fun, interactive and educational wine experience. An essence station (see photo) provided a variety of containers that allowed guests to explore some of the aromas and flavors found in the wines offered at the bar. A cooking stage was part of the seminar area so guests could participate in wine and cooking demonstrations with local experts. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the the interactive iPad station where one could register for a free trip to Napa Valley or look up tasting notes of the all the wines offered on the tour.
We did, however, happen to arrive just before the start of the wine 101 seminar hosted by a locally based distribution representative. We tasted four Private Selection wines (Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meritage) as our host guided us through a bit of Mondavi history and pointed out what to notice in each of the wines. Participants seemed to range in experience from the extreme novice to the more average wine drinker. While I didn't learn anything new from the seminar and was disappointed that none of the District, Reserve or Spotlight wines were offered to guests as a special flight, I do think that the tour provides a lot of positive interactions with those consumers who find wine confusing or intimidating. The seminar host explicitly explained to the guests that the focus of the tour was to demonstrate that wine can be enjoyed and understood by anyone who wants to drink it. If you live in or near any of the cities next on the tour (Atlantic City, NJ; Lenox, MA; Royal Oak, MI; Chicago, IL; or Philadelphia, PA), I recommend you stop by and bring your friends and family. The tastings are complementary for the over 21 crowd. Plus, you get keep your govino glasses (perfect for picnicking!).
Now, I know that the entire Colorado wine industry does not even approach the production and resources of just the Mondavi branch of Constellation Wines, but events like this are what regional wine associations should be doing. Just as the Discover Wine Tour aims to dispel the myth that wine is expensive and inaccessible, local wine groups could take note of what Constellation is doing and work to eliminate the negative associations with wines that aren't from California, Oregon or Washington. Providing education and exposure to less recognizable wines would be much easier and enjoyable at this type of venue. I commend Robert Mondavi Wines for being proactive and leading the way for the rest of the wine industry.