It’s called Dillo Day. And it’s the greatest day of the year at Northwestern University.
For that one glorious day, my friends and I would put down the books and highlighters, chuck responsibility and anxiety out the window, and drink ourselves silly with the rest of the student body. Festivities would kick off in the morning with “Kegs and Eggs,” and carry on well into the evening as the campus and neighboring streets were overrun with slap-happy college students moving from party to party. Our pale winter-worn faces would be free of stress as the priority for the day was not finishing a 20-page paper on the repercussions of the Jim Crow laws, but on maintaining a perfect buzz for 12 hours.
It was, and continues to be, Northwestern’s best chance to be mistaken for a state school – or any normal college where the undergrads spend more time partying than studying. I’ve never seen so many smiling, friendly faces in one place.
Or at least not until attending LA Wine Fest this past Saturday at the Raleigh Studios in Hollywood.
From 2 pm – 7 pm, the studio lot was overrun with wineries offering imbibing ticket holders as much wine as they could drink within that five-hour time frame. The tasting pours were endless and, perhaps most importantly, easily accessible to the throngs of people. Despite the size of the crowd, there were no lines, no bars and no restraints on the fermented grape. All one needed was a purple wrist band, a 2010 LA Wine Fest wine glass and a tolerance for drinking under the warm sun.
It was exactly like Dillo Day – only legal.
After checking in to the media tent to get my complimentary wrist band, I found myself in a sea of the most friendly Los Angelinos I’ve encountered in a single space. When I smiled at a stranger, he or she smiled back or told me about a winery I had to try. When I spilled a few drops of red wine on my dress, a man immediately leapt to my rescue and offered me a wet napkin. When I tried to act sophisticated and asked the Solsticio representative what the unique flavor in their Torrontes was, he answered, “It’s called yummy.”
And it was.
Not everything I tasted could be described as such, but I did discover some new wines that I would love to experience again. Those include the Sculpterra Zinfandel, the True Blood and Dracula Pinot Noirs from Vampire Vineyards, the Ampelos Viognier and Rose Syrah, and the offerings from my favorite winery of the day, Sylvester Vineyards in Paso Robles. Their Kiara Sauvignon Blanc reminded me of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and was the best white wine I tasted at the event. I was pleased to learn that it can be found at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and Albertsons markets for around $10 a bottle. I also enjoyed the vineyards' reds – the Kiara Syrah, the Sylvester Zinfandel and the Kiara Cabernet Sauvignon.
Even with the plentitude of “yummy” wines available for the taking, the best part of the event for me was being surrounded by so many smiling faces. In my mind, good wine is only as good as the company it’s shared with, and I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with great people like Esi from Dishing Up Delights, Misty from Noms, Not Bombs, Javier from Teenage Glutster, Stephanie from Stuffy Cheaks, Tony from Sino Soul, Anna from Banana Wonder, and some fabulous ladies from Twitter.
I raise my glass to them and to Wine Fest for taking me back to my college days. And for, praise the Lord, not making me do a keg stand in my wine-stained dress.