When my family was in New York spending Christmas with my older brother a few years ago, my brother pulled a bottle of Zinfandel called Seven Deadly Zins to start off one of our many wine-infused evenings. We all giggled at the funny label, certain that this was a joke – maybe a gift from a well-meaning assistant?
We cracked open the bottle, each poured a tiny shot’s worth into our glasses, and braced ourselves for a poorly balanced, acidic wine. Instead, our tongues were enraptured with jammy fruits, spice and a well-rounded finish that seemed completely at odds with the bottle’s coy label.
It was the first instance that I realized that wine doesn’t have to be rife with pretension and over indulgent sniffing and swirling (my father is an expert at the practice).
Wine can be, and should be, fun.
This concept is near and dear to the hearts of Morgan First and Tyler Balliet, the Co-founders of Second Glass, a small Boston-based company that is organizing a series of wine tasting events called Wine Riot at major cities across the United States.
The whole premise behind the venture is to make wine events fun, informational and accessible for non-oenophiles, while still offering quality wines from appealing vendors. The point is to take away the intimidation factor without sacrificing good taste.
To that end, the team at Second Glass is serenading its youthful Wine Riot demographic with temporary tattoos, photo booths with props/costumes, and a mobile application that allows attendees to rank all the wines available with two thumbs up, one thumb up or a “Meh.”
This past Saturday, my friend Ashley and I were able to use press passes to experience all the Wine Riot hijinks first-hand at the Los Angeles event, which was held indoors on the third floor of the Santa Monica Place mall.
Prior to our arrival at the venue at 1:30 pm, we both secretly thought that we would never last until the end of the afternoon session at 5 pm. Yet as we began making our way from table to table, engaging with the vendors and our fellow attendees, our stamina for sipping increased.
We indulged in a highly unoriginal conversation with the Gaga wine representative about the origin of the Santa Rosa winery’s name, while tasting the surprisingly pleasant Rosé. We discovered (and photographed) a vendor who looked uncannily like our mutual friend’s husband. And we went back for free samples of the Buffalo Wing-flavored Pretzel Crisps four times.
Amidst all the fun and mass consumption of Pretzel Crisps, we also discovered several relatively affordable wines that we gave “two thumbs up” to on the Second Glass mobile application I’d uploaded onto my phone prior to arrival.
For whites, we enjoyed the dry 2009 Eroica Reisling from Chateau Ste. Michelle winery in Washington, the Vincent Raimbault 2008 Vouvray Doux from Loire Valley Wines, the Herdade do Esporão 2009 Esporão Reserva White from Portugal, and Fess Parker’s Fortress Sauvignon Blanc.
For reds, we still found favor with that darn Seven Deadly Zins from Michael David Winery, as well as his 6th Sense Syrah and fuller bodied Lust Zinfandel. Other hits on our list included the Herdade do Esporão 2009 Monte Velho Red from Portugal, as well as the 2008 Alexander Valley Vineyards Temptation Zinfandel, and the Proof Wine Collective’s Denial Anti-Wine Red.
As we snatched up one last round of Buffalo Wing Pretzel Chips for the road, it was clear to both of us that the team at Second Glass had accomplished their mission for the Los Angeles Wine Riot event.
We had a ton of fun. And have the fake tattoos to prove it.