By Bryan Calandrelli, Niagara Correspondent
Perhaps the only thing crazier than attending the Finger Lakes Wine Festival as an attendee is actually pouring wine at it. Now, I’d conceded that the crowds, party atmosphere and prevalence of sweet wine kept me from attending in the past, and I would never want to be the ringleader for a team of winery employees planning the logistics of participating in the festival. But, when I was given the opportunity this year to pour for a local winery, I just couldn’t pass it up -- especially because all I had to do was show up and do what I was told.
A survivor’s guide to working the festival:
- Give in to the urge to stop in for a tasting at a winery or two on your way down. It’s just not healthy for any of us to drive by dozens of wineries and not stop in and get at least one tasting.
- If you are told you are working a toga party the first night of the festival, accept it as fact. Togas do make occasional appearances at parties where people carry oversize plastic mugs, goblets and glasses full of sweet wine.
- Upon realizing that the main restroom facilities of a festival will be porta-potties, prepare your metabolism to take advantage of the pristine condition they are in first thing in the morning. Remind yourself later that day that even a strategically thrown Red Cat bottle in a porta-potty doesn’t call for taking an ironic photo while inside.
- Get comfortable with poaching. If you see people waiting in line to get a taste of something, don’t be afraid to let them know they can get some immediately if they step up to your table. Sorry Glenora!
- Accept the fact that some people just want to taste the “sweetest thing you got”. Do not try and change the world, pour them what they are looking for and make a quick sale if you can.
- If your coworker encourages you to step away to get a few tastes, take him or her up on it. With the crazy non-stop auction on acid atmosphere there, you may not get a second chance to take a break. Don’t be a hero.
- Embrace the viral social phenomenon that occurs every time the sound of glass breaking pierces the steady drone of wine banter and take part in yellowing “ohhhh” along with your neighbor. By the end you’ll be guessing how far away the clumsy attendee is by the Doppler effect caused by the uproar.
- Don’t assume another pourer knows what you mean when you say they should check a bottle for taint. It doesn’t matter if they are big enough to rent eight tables and rightfully state that they were the first to successfully grow vinifera in the region, the person pouring may not be trained to sniff out bad corks.
- If you see an open bottle behind a table, it must have been uncorked for people like yourself. If they say it’s just for trade and media, you respond, “That’s what I hoped you say!” and stick your glass out.
- Do not expect an after party sponsored by Riedel at a swanky lakeside mansion with shot girls and chocolate fountains after the festival. From what I can tell there’s not much nightlife in the Finger Lakes and chances are most of the workers are exhausted from dealing with the masses.