This post may not be that timely, but I have been trying to decide how I was going to write about the Houston Wine Fest which was held this past weekend, or if I should even write a post at all. In the end, since someone asked and I attended two other wine festivals in the past week and wrote about them, I decided to write a post.
We attended the first Houston Wine Fest last year and even though it was extremely hot and there were a very limited number of Texas wineries present compared to the Montgomery Wine Festival held the same day, we decided to attend this year’s event. In fact we were so excited to attend that months ago we inquired about volunteering to pour for a Texas winery.
We learned later that this year was going to be different and the pouring positions were going to be paid positions. We wanted to volunteer but if they wanted to give us money to have fun and help out, that was fine with us. We even acquired a TABC Certification to make it easier to get a position. We applied for the job position to pour wine and selected the first shift on Saturday.
I could go into details as to the next events but I will summarize instead. We had to go to downtown Houston (30-40 minute drive) to attend a job interview and were told they had more people applying for jobs than positions available. They knew about our desire to work with the Texas wineries from our job application and after talking with them. They said most people were working 10am-10pm BOTH days and would like us to do the same. We said we just wanted to work the shift we chose. They explained there were going to be 18 wine tents with “wines of the world” and then the Texas winery booths. It turned out they were only staffing for their wine tents and not placing people at the Texas winery booths. We had a nice conversation with the interviewers and in the end they put us on a list if a Texas winery asked for help.
We received a congratulatory email about a week later saying we received the job positions. The email explained we needed to attend a two hour training session downtown, fill out multiple forms, and bring additional documents to the training. After clarifying with the hiring person, the job position was in their wine tents and not a Texas winery, so we declined and decided to offer our jobs to somebody else. We then purchased tickets to the festival. Later I decided to request a media pass but never heard anything.
Saturday arrived and we were there shortly after they opened at noon. We were given our glasses and were shocked to see they were plastic tumblers. Last year was a logo wine glass but we were told Houston had passed a law in the past year preventing glass in public places. At least it could have been a plastic wine glass, but then I realized this year the Houston Wine Fest decided to put in a beer garden probably necessitating only one type of glass. We walked away from checking in and then I realized I didn’t get my 10 tasting tickets. Fortunately we hadn’t walked too far so they believed me when I told them, got my tickets, and we were off to do our tastings.
We ran into our two favorite local wineries first. They were in a great location near the entrance, but they often heard from the people attending that they needed to check out the festival first and then they’d come back. After all, those 10 tickets could be used in so many places. If you wanted another 10 tickets, they cost another $15.
This year the festival booth locations were redesigned which I liked. Last year there were arts and craft booths along with “wines of the world” in one location and then you got to the Texas wineries. This year everything was mixed together. This design required looking at the given guide and map particularly if you were looking for a certain winery. The “wines of the world” were in individual tents which was nice too. If you wanted a wine from Italy, you could go to the Italy booth.
We made our way around the path we chose which was to visit the different Texas wineries. This year there were over 20 Texas wineries present. It was nice to see owners or winemakers who we saw in Montgomery the previous week, and also other Texas wineries we hadn’t seen in a while. It was especially nice when the people from the various wineries recognized us either by face or name. Maybe we visit too many wineries?
Since Gloria is from Peru, we saw the Peru booth and had to see what Peruvian wines they had. Peru is not really noted for having great wine and is really famous for the Pisco liquor which is distilled from grapes. The workers offered us two wines, so Gloria took one and I took the other. She recognized the name of the wine I had and did not think it was a Peruvian wine. Sure enough, looking at the back of the bottle, we educated the worker the wine was really from Portugal. After making a second trip around the festival, all wine was gone from the Peru booth for some reason.
It was not as crowded as last year. We could not tell if it was because of the newly redesigned layout or there were just fewer people. It would be interesting to hear the total number of people this year versus last year. The weather was also a little cooler than last year when it was terrible having to stand in long lines waiting for a taste. Again, it was a great idea to change the layout.
I can’t tell you anything about the VIP area since we did not purchase those higher priced tickets at five times the price we paid, and I never heard about a media pass which would have included the VIP area. We also did not bother visiting the beer garden since there were too many wine booths to visit.
The wine poured was of course with measured pourers and you received one ounce of wine to taste. That was really small compared to the 1 1/2 ounces usually received.
Will we attend next year? Probably. But when compared against the Montgomery Wine and Music Festival run by all volunteers except for one person, and even the smaller Tasting the Town which also had a lot of volunteers, the Houston Wine Fest in its second year needs to learn a little more from other festivals to improve for next year.