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The Five Most Delicious Things at SPAC

September 12, 2013

[Note from the Profussor: So maybe I did have a little bit of jet lag. Luckily, I’ve been sitting on this guest post from Jessica R. who covered last weekend’s Saratoga Food and Wine Festival at SPAC. You may remember her from the Tour de Buffalo Wings: Troy Edition. Well now she’s back, and I’m glad to once again provide coverage of SPAC’s big annual food event. Maybe next year we can all go together. But for now, there is a baguette in Paris that’s calling my name.]

By Jessica R.

Daniel asked me to attend the SPAC Wine and Food Festival this past weekend to represent the Fussy Little Blog. It is an event I always wanted to check out, but never could bring myself to spend the $85 to go. So, I’m here to report to you what a first timer thought of this festival. Hopefully it will guide some of you to attend next year, or to realize it’s not really up your alley.

First off, the mood of the festival is very fun and not stuffy – something I was worried about. People are dressed in a range of things from nice jeans to dresses and suits. There are fancy cars that are fun to look at, but no velvet ropes or guards to make you nervous – you can get right up to the cars. It was a lovely day, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. I’m sure there was high-society hob-nobbing going on, but it wasn’t obvious and I and didn’t feel out of place.

I’ll come right out and tell you that, in retrospect, I probably should have gone to the various seminars and food demos throughout the day so that I could report on them for you. The Pig Butchering Demo is one I really meant to attend.

You know what I did do?

Drank wine. A lot of wine. So, that’s the number one take back: If you go to this festival you will be able to drink more wine than is humanly possible.

Personally, I love wine, and I love tasting wine. I know what wine flavors and varietals I like. However, if you come to my house you will most likely be drinking an excellent Finger Lake wine, obtained during a yearly Finger Lake wine tour. This is because I rarely buy wine I haven’t tried, and also because I love to introduce people to NYS wines. So, one of my goals of the festival was to taste wines from other regions, and to come away with a few bottles I could reliably buy locally. I was definitely successful in this (more on that later…).

My other goal was to try some expensive/fancy/well known wines that would be out of my normal wine budget ($15-$25). To this end, I asked friends to look over the wine list online and suggest specific wines for me to try. I got a good solid list of wines to seek out.

Unfortunately, at the festival it was very hard to find specific wines on the tables. The website listed them by distributor, but that isn’t how the tables were labeled or arranged. Then, you would think that the regional wines would be under their country flags, but this wasn’t the case either – often wines from different countries were at the same table. I could have looked through the 9 pages of the program for the tent layout and bottle listing, but that really wasn’t practical.

What would have helped was an alphabetical winery listing with table numbers, either in the program or as an insert you could pick up.

Speaking of the program, listing the location of the demos and seminars also would have helped. Thankfully, the festival grounds are compact enough that I was able to find Mo Rocca’s demo without walking around too much. That demo was really fun – Mo was just as great in person as on the radio/tv!

Although I didn’t get to try all my friend’s recommendations, I did get to try some amazing wines. Several of the booths were manned by the wine distributors, and I was able to learn a lot from them.

If you go, I suggest having no more than 3-5 “goal” wines ahead of time, and instead letting the friendly smiles behind the tables guide your taste buds. Those serving the wine will be glad to tell you the prices (I found most to be under $20), and the distributors will even tell you what shops sell them in the area.

There was also an iPhone app that you could download and then order bottles of wine just by taking pictures of them!

To wrap things up, here are the 5 Top Things I Tasted at the festival:

5) Moselgold’s Riesling – This was the best white of the day. The distributor did an excellent job explaining why this Germanic region makes great wine (The blue slate has shifted vertically, allowing for deep roots in the poor soil).

4) Cavedoni Botte Piccola Balsamic Vinegar – Definitely the most amazing balsamic I’ve ever tried, and at $60 a bottle, something I would not have tried elsewhere on my own. The seller explained that it was only aged 8 years, but is comparable to 20-year balsamics.

3) Chez Pierre’s “Chicken Pierre” – Surprisingly, the food offerings were pretty sparse. Most places only had 2 small bites out. Hattie’s only had a white bean salad available! I really wanted to try The Crimson Sparrow’s food, but never made it to their table. Chez Pierre’s simple take on chicken masala was one of the best things I tasted.

2) Red Wine (there were just too many good ones) – I said I wanted to come out with a list of wines to look for in stores, and I definitely did. I’m looking forward to buying Beckmen Vineyard’s “Cuvee Le Bec” Syrah blend, Handcraft’s Petite Syrah and Ferrari Carano’s Siena. I also got to try an amazing $50 bottle of Villa Arvedi’s Amarone. That was a real treat.

1) Tuthilltown Spirit’s Half Moon gin – This apple and wheat based gin was tucked away in the Connoisseur’s Tent. It’s made in Gardiner, NY, near New Paltz, but is available locally. Tuthilltown is better known for their Hudson Whiskey line, but this gin was spectacular. It went down smooth without even being chilled. Edible Hudson Valley has a very interesting article on how it was developed – the aromatic ingredients include elderberry, coriander, cardamom, juniper, bitter orange and lemon peels, bergamot and almonds.

All in all, it was a great day. This event is definitely more wine focused than the Albany Wine and Dine. The atmosphere is fun, and it’s always great to enjoy one of the last days of summer outside. If you’d like to see some photos from the event, you can check out my Flickr set here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2013 12:31 pm

    Thanks Jessica for another great report. I was at the pig butchering demo (actually that and the cooking demo that followed, so I could get to try the samples) and will report on them shortly on my own blog.

    The way that the wines are presented is a problem for me too… this was my second year and I still haven’t figured it out. It’s definitely a challenge that the same distributor will have two unrelated vintners side by side. The best wine I tasted was a Calling Cabernet Sauvignon ($35.52 according to the Drync app and well worth it) but right next to that were some soulful but quite undistinguished organic wines.

    Anyhow it’s a fun event and I bet if you arrive right when it starts and eat lunch… then drink through the afternoon… then revive yourself with an early supper around 3 before the vendors start breaking down their tables… it could be well worth that $85.

  2. September 13, 2013 11:07 am

    Pig Butchering Demo? Perhaps you should attend the actual slaughtering next time to see how that goes. In fact, do it yourself. Then tell us all how that went. I’ve witnessed a pig being slaughtered and it was the most horrific event I’ve ever witnessed. The pig was screaming and squealing in terror.

    And so you know it was a “happy pig” from a clean, beautiful farm. But that didn’t make it any less horrible.

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