Seven minutes later, we landed in Newport and were greeted by our chauffeur. As our Rolls Royce approached the venue, I was immediately appalled by the parking situation. Not only were people parking their vehicles in grass and mud, but we didn't even have a reserved parking space! Nobody did! I don't know who was in charge of planning parking, but this is completely unacceptable.
After pulling up to the venue and exiting our vehicle, we were shocked by yet another facet of this event. The entire venue was a giant tent. A tent I say! You know, the temporary structure that ruffians erect in forests and imbibe canned beer in. We're respectable journalists, however, and decided to enter anyway. It helped that our passes allowed us to enter from the rear entrance instead of having to wait in line with the peasants up front.
Before I continue about this event, let us take a moment to list the components of a phenomenal wine event:
-The venue is either a vineyard, chateau, 5 star resort, or other similar structure worth more than your average small town
-The people attending are well educated about wine, dressed in formal attire, and moderate their alcohol consumption not to embarrass themselves
-The food consists of cheeses, vegetables, and animals most people haven't even heard of
With that out of the way, allow me to get back to this event.
Upon entering the tent, the first thing one notices is that the ambiance is a mixture of county fair, trade show, Mardi Gras, and frat party. Throngs of commoners wearing colorful beads and denim are squeezed in like sardines as they indiscriminately imbibe whatever falls into their glass. To make things worse, some get so inebriated that they drop their commemorative wine glass onto the paved floor. This sends the entire crowd into an uproar as they take a moment to remove whatever fried food on a stick they're consuming from their mouths and mock the now glass-less individual by "whoo"ing. Wine is serious business, which is apparently lost on these people.
All of that aside, there really were a lot of incredibly-respected wineries at the event. We had quick, yet pleasurable experience talking with the gents from Zerba out of Walla Walla. The only problem is that there were so many people incredibly intoxicated that not only was it almost impossible to chat with winemakers and do actual wine tasting, but few people actually cared! I even got bumped into so hard by some drunken ogre that my monocle popped out.
In short, the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival is not for the typical wine-goer. If your tastes are unsophisticated enough to enjoy a casual atmosphere with plenty of eclectic fair food, access to dozens of spectacular wineries around the Pacific Northwest, the possibility of meeting new friends or a one night stand, and amateur wine fans being loud and having fun despite the usually snooty reputation that wine has, then by all means plan on attending next year. Just remember to bring your favorite comically-oversized foam hat, a vulgar t-shirt, and your drinking boots.
As for us, don't expect to see our Rolls in the parking lot next year. Well, except Clive. He'll probably be there.