This past weekend, I headed across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to sip, savor, and sample at the 1st Annual Food and Wine Festival at National Harbor. National Harbor is a new and exciting upscale waterfront attraction boasting top rated hotels, fine dining establishments, luxury shopping, and many other entertainment options. This was the Harbor’s grand opening festival and, for its debut, was tastefully done and tastefully fun.
This two day event was well attended by many diverse food and wine lovers from the Tri State area of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. Unlike other food and wine festivals I have attended, there was a major emphasis on the quality and selection of foods offered. For the price of admission one could savor and sip to the background sound of relaxing jazz until their heart was content. Many jovial attendees I spoke with said the $65 ticket price was well worth the culinary and sensory experience.
Some of the Tasty Treats Offered
The festival showcased a number of Old and New World wines, beer and spirit tastings, delicious food samples, artisanal and organic products, culinary demonstrations, and wine seminars hosted by industry professionals. I attended a number of the wine seminars, which I will elaborate on more. These sessions were all highly engaging and well presented. Among the world of wines offered, there were some Virginia pours to be sampled. The Washington Wine Academy was on hand pouring select Virginia wines from Barboursville Estate, Blenheim Vineyards, Delfosse Vineyards, Naked Mountain Vineyards, Rappahannock Cellars, Pearmund Cellars, and Williamsburg Winery. Maryland’s own Boordy Vineyards was also in attendance to pour and talk about their popular local wines.
Many styles of wine to taste and talk about
Highlighting the weekend of swirling, sipping and sampling delicious foods were the aforementioned wine seminars, which for a wine lover like myself was a nice change of pace from the fun-filled outdoor activities offered throughout the day. These wine seminars, with the exception of the Pinot tasting, were included in the price of admission and the only requirement was showing up, and of course having a curiosity about wine. Below are some simple, yet helpful points to be taken from the seminars.
Set up a Blind tasting with Friends
One of the first seminars I attended was The Art of Blind Tasting with Laurie Forster, who is also known as “The Wine Coach”. Coach Laurie guided us through a series of Old World and New World wines and talked about the importance and fun of tasting blind. What is important to take away from a blind tasting is not only does it refine your tasting skills, but it does so because you are blocking out any biases you may have of the wine because of region or producer. Thus, your focus is 100% on the wine – site, swirl, sniff, and sip; the full evaluation routine. Sometimes you will find that there is not much difference between a $12 bottle and a bottle you may purchase for $30. You may even find the $12 bottle to be a better wine for you. Sounds familiar?
The Pop-Cork Experience - Very Fun!
Another useful course, and one that you can try at home, was The Pop-cork Experience with renowned wine educator, Sharon Charny. The pop-cork experience explored food and wine pairings using neutrally flavored popcorn and three others flavored with lemon, salt, and Old-Bay spice. We sampled the different flavored popcorn with a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a Merlot. Sure enough, salty popcorn will decrease the taste of acidity in a wine, yet increase the sweetness (if there is any). Your acidic foods (we squeezed lemon juice on the popcorn) lowers the perception of acidity in wine; so any acidic food you have will best be paired with an acidic wine like a cool climate white wine (ex. Chablis) or something sparkling. Try this at home, results can be quite revealing and help you establish some basic ground rules for food and wine pairings.
Michael Green - Wine, What's Hot?
Last session worth mention was with the personable and electrifying celebrity wine educator Michael Green of Gourmet Magazine. Michael guided us through a tasting of hot new wines from sleeper regions that are gems in the glass, yet great values. Because they are hot today does not mean they are hot tomorrow, but Spain and Chile, regions of which we tasted, are great regions to find satisfying everyday wines, as well as dinner wines in the $10 to $17 price range – and even less on the everyday wines. There are some very good $10 wines out there from both Chile and Spain, and although we did not taste any from this region, I would also put South Africa in the mix. Great quality to price ratio wines found in these three regions, friends.
National Harbor View
In closing, I urge all who have not visited National Harbor to drive over or take a water taxi from Old Town Alexandria. There are a number of events scheduled throughout the summer season including an outdoor concert series back-dropped by the Potomac River. Also, be sure to look out for this festival next year. The festival’s debut was well organized, in a prime location, and as my title suggest, tastefully fun!!!
See You on the Wine Trail, Friends!
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