The Second Annual NYC Autumn Wine Festival

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Wine tasting notes have always made me kind of giggle. I mean, it’s all fun and games talking about notes of honeysuckle, fresh pear and citrus. But then it so often veers into the implausible with something along the lines of “reminiscent of fresh cactus” (as if you’ve ever stuffed a cactus in your mouth and then likened it to something grape derived).

And then there’s the just bizarre, where I tend to draw the line. When it comes to the complexities of the wine’s aroma and citing “freshly mown grass,” not to mention “hints of gunflint” and “pencil shavings” (I kid you not folks these have actually shown up on real wine descriptions) I give up on the little pamphlet guiding me to the perfect wine. After all, this is supposed to be in theory an enjoyable beverage I might pair with food, not the items you might find in shop class.

Likewise, wine shops can be overwhelming. My thoughts generally run the gamut of “Do I really want to fork over $45 for a bottle of Chianti the salesclerk is practically salivating over?” And then, “Have I even had Chianti? How do I pronounce Chianti? Better let her say it first… Now what’s she saying about tannins? What the heck are tannins anyway? I really wish I could just crack open the bottle try before I buy.”

Luckily in New York City opportunities exist to do just that.  I had the good fortune to recently practice my best tilt, swirl, sniff, sip, and spit. Just kidding, I didn’t spit. That would be unladylike, and well, wasteful.

The second annual NYC Autumn Wine Festival, which took place in the beautiful and stately downtown Broad Street Ballroom, seriously had everything one could want to facilitate some serious vino higher learning.



There were 34 different tables set up with venders featuring wines from all over the world. There was live music. There were sophisticated snacks, — most notably lots of cheese, because no combination has been so perfect since peanut butter met jelly.  The wines did mostly come with descriptive prose, yes, but there were often helpful hints about which foods would go best with which wines. There was even a coffee table, just in case you started feeling drowsy after so many samples.

Perhaps the best part of the experience was being able to approach someone highly knowledgeable with a few vague comments about my preferences, such as liking semi-dry, fruity reds, and being introduced to say, the stunners at table sweet 16, Domenico Valentino.

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This table featured all Italian reds with great depth and flavor ranging from sweet and light to spicy and robust. The representative even shared a little history, noting that one wine was produced by a passionate, one-man operation, while another made in the “heel country” in Italy, referring to the boot-shaped geographic region.

Another table housed a selection of ice wines, which I always equated to just mean sweet or dessert wines, but they are indeed made from frozen grapes. Picked after late harvest, the grapes are left on the vine until the frost comes, then hand-picked and pressed while frozen. It takes about 2,000 grapes to make a single bottle!

Even sparkling ciders made an appearance, with Standard Cider Company’s “True Believer” tasting exactly like taking a bite of a crisp, juicy (alcoholic) apple. Brilliant.

Written by Sarah Henry 

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