Introduction and Wine Coverage by Moses
Food Coverage by Marissa Bialecki
The 13th Annual International Wine and Food Festival Grand Tasting delighted Washington wine explorers on February 11-12, 2012. Keeping with tradition, the spacious and inviting Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center provided a welcoming venue to host the festivities.
Prior to 2011, this event was held over the Presidents’ Day holiday weekend, with some reports that caused a bump in Sunday attendees. For the second year, the IWFF was moved earlier in February, which caused some anxiety for event organizers. My conversations with attendees suggested this date was a benefit as they had missed previous events to be out of town. Saturday was noticeably more crowded, but event organizers were pleased with the advance ticket sales.
As ticket-holders arrived, they were able to wait out the cold temperatures and snow flurries inside the building, and were easily checked in due to a new ticketing system by EventBrite, which seemed to improve considerably on previous years’ bottlenecks. Once inside, things flowed more easily as well, do to the removing of an awkward car display which had drawn complaints last year, instead clearing the walk way for more foot-traffic and a “Spain Pavillion” showcasing Spanish wine.
While “food” is in the title, this primarily is a wine event. Food was included in the ticket price by default this year (avoiding the confusion of last year’s $35 separate ticket for food samples) although food options were still limited and in small bite sizes.
In addition to the Spain Pavilion, sponsored by the Embassy of Spain, other notable entourages from a variety of international wine regions included: South Africa, Rhone Valley (France), New Zealand and a few Argentine and Chilean labels were present.
Attendee Tara Wilson remarked, “I was surprised there was no Italian, German, and not much from South America either.” She and friend Jude Covas remarked they had hoped to taste some “higher quality” wines, though they did applaud including the food and wine together in one price, however.
The US of A was not especially well represented, with booths representing domestic regions of Finger Lakes, NY, a few selections from Napa and Sonoma Valley, CA, and a smattering of Pacific Northwest wines from Willamette Valley, OR and Washington State. A few Virginia wines rounded out the offerings, but the highlights were certainly from overseas.
My favorite finds of the festival include:
Aletta – a budget surprise, this garnacha/grenache from Spain’s Aragon region stood out among the throngs of value wines, with rich red fruit and enough balance to seem out of the “cheap” range. Surprise! You can have it delivered to your door at $7.99 from local online wine retailer “Swirl & Sip” — so stock up!
Ten Sisters Sauvignon Blanc – do you like the crisp apple and citrus notes of New Zealand’s Marlborough region Sauvignon Blanc? I sure do! Alexandria residents Eleanor and Dennis Stables have introduced this gem to the DC market. If I had Ten Sisters, there sure wouldn’t be any of this wine left!
Kaiken Malbec from TGIC Importers is probably not your weekend Malbec, but it will be! You can feel confident showing up with this weekend-price wine to any dinner party. Complementing grilled meats or vegetables, an assortment of cheeses, or just on its own (don’t worry, we won’t tell), the empty bottle will be evidence for your hosts to re-send you an invite!
Hidalgo Importers Arviza (Rioja) & Alidis (Ribera del Duero) – Crianza and Reserva of both. These Spanish beauties made me double-check to ensure these tastes were included in admission! I had a moment of, “Whoa! That’s too good to be here.” The Crianzas (aged 12 months in oak) had ripe black fruit, well-balanced with a delightful freshness; the Reservas (aged 24+ months in oak) were velvety smooth, tempting me to tether myself in place for hours, just an arm’s length from manchego with guava canapes. I am definitely keeping an eye out for these stars of the show when they arrive to the DC region (distributor agreements in progress)!
It’s with good reason that the “wine” precedes the “food” in the title of the event. The showing of food vendors was frankly not as exciting as I had hoped; but there were a few locals represented that I would recommend checking out. And while I’ve done my fair share of cocktail sipping at Jack Rose, their small bite of a crab toast and an eggplant-stuffed pepper made me think I ought to make a dinner reservation there soon.
Here’s the breakdown for the other vendors:
Logan Sausage Company – The family-owned business in Alexandria, VA, has been serving the DC area for more than 20 years. You might have seen them in local Harris Teeters or Giant Supermarkets, but I’m suggesting you try their tasty chorizo, available in a selection of flavors that vary in spiciness. Go with the Salvadorian for a more milder heat level or the Mexican to crank up the spice.
Copper Pot Food Company – Copper Pot Food Company should be familiar to all of your farmers market frequenters. Their selection of sauces, jams and dipping oils are good to keep on hand in the pantry and to save yourself from doing some heavy cooking in the kitchen. Chef and owner Stefano Frigerio offers a variety of savory sauces like smoky bacon and parmesan and blended late-harvest tomato, as well as sweet jams, such as apple jam, peach & prosecco “bellini” jam and more.
Flax Seasoning – For those who were looking to take a turn for healthy after boozing it all day at the festival, there was Flax Seasoning. A pretty easy way to incorporate something healthy into meat or veggie dishes, the seasoning company based in Northern Virginia offers several flavors, including a no salt, no sugar blend, an all-purpose blend, a seasoned salt blend and a maple cinnamon blend. You can order online or find the seasoning in some grocery stores around the DMV area.