Des Moines Winefest 2011 – My thoughts.

Winefest billed itself as Iowa’s premier wine tasting event, with wine tasting seminars, special entertainment, and nationally-renowned vintners. Every year it seems that I am out of town on that weekend, so it was not until this last weekend that I actually got to try Winefest for myself. For anyone with even a passing interest in wine and food (in that order), Winefest had something for everyone at every possible price point. You could have joined the crowds on Friday evening for not much more than the cost of a single bottle of good wine and you could have drunk as much as the lines allowed.

For not quite double the price of the Friday event you could have joined the smaller crowd on Saturday, with no real lines to speak of, about a dozen food stations and enough wine (mostly in the $12-$25 price points) to satisfy the budding oenophile. This event was called the Grand Tasting and was the final event. It cost $65 in advance and billed itself as featuring “wines from around the world along with gourmet foods.” I will agree that there were wines from around the world but I would not describe the food as “gourmet.” It was good food, no doubt, but I would not say it was gourmet.

If you felt like a VIP (I didn’t), you could have paid $20 more and hobnobbed with the other people who saw themselves as VIPs. They got to do this behind the security of a wall. I did not feel compelled to join the other VIPs, so I can’t tell you if they got better wine or food, but they must have. I saw that the Governor spent quite a while outside the confines of the VIP room, so maybe he wasn’t feeling all VIP-ish either. If you were feeling really rich and wanted to “see how millionaires dine” (that is what the promotional literature said — I kid you not) the Prima Dinners sold out at $250 per person. Since they sold out I can’t say that its a bad deal. There must be some very expensive wine added to the menu to justify that price.

Entertainment was also provided, though the Nollen Plaza stage is set so far back from the rest of the venue that it was kind of ridiculous looking. Poor Fred Gazzo and The Metropolitans seemed stranded down there.

Here are some photos:

Stone Cliff Cabernet Sauvignon - This is a really nice blend of Sonoma and Iowa grapes but it is really hard to find. It has less oak and more fruit than most cabs. None of the unpleasant (to me) foxy musk that some Iowa wines have.

Maytage Cheese introduced its cheese popcorn.

The Kerrygold Dubliner "Irish Stout" crumbly cheese was a big hit.

Spurgeon Vinyards had some Honey Mead. Surprisingly tasty. You can see Fred Gazzo way back there.

My favorite was Hollen's signature Cabernet Sauvignon - I'm told that Wine & Spirits Gallery on Hickman and a WDM Hy-Vee has it.

Opolo had a large selection. The Mountain Zinfandel is very nice.

Some pointy shoes were in evidence.

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