For some people, this weekend will involve consuming a massive amount of green beer, Guinness and possibly getting a little lucky at Shamrock the Block just ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, but if you’re a wine lover, you have plans elsewhere.
The 10th Annual Virginia Wine Expo, which draws nearly 9,000 to 10,000 people every year, kicks off tonight and runs through this weekend. The expo benefits the Richmond Performing Arts Alliance and this year will celebrate with over 650 wine samples from Virginia, Spain, Portugal and Sonoma County, California along with local craft beer.
Variant Events Executive Director Alex Papajohn, who also works to put on the annual Virginia Craft Beer Expo, said Virginia wines will be the center of the expo on the tasting floor, but about 45 percent of the wine is from Spain, Portugal and California.
“Virginia is still the primary focus, but every year we rotate a different international guest region and now a national guest region,” he said. “Its a pretty rare opportunity to taste this many bottles at this price point.”
The expo chose to showcase wines from these regions because of their quality and reasonably priced wines according to PapaJohn.
Spain is usually the world’s largest producer in volume,” he said. “It offers some really diverse reds and whites…Sonoma we chose because it’s a high quality wine region in the United States and it’s price points relevant to Napa are more reasonable.”
Attendees will experience over 20 events including seminars, food events such as Burger Blast and Smoked!, and the most popular, the walk-around grand tasting, where you can sample enough wine to hold you through until the next expo.
Virginia wineries include Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Vineyard, Barboursville Vineyards, Lake Anna Winery, Saude Creek Vineyards, Williamsburg Winery and more. At the walk-around grand tasting over the weekend, the expo will have 90 wine booths, the biggest event for the expo according to PapaJohn.
“This year we have a record number of wine booths that are run by our volunteers,” he said.
In addition to wine samples, attendees can also check out and purchase specialty products such as olive oils, sauces, cheeses, chocolates, vinegars and more.
Some of the side food attractions have become increasingly popular, and you can include them in a combo ticket package the expo has on their site.
The first event the expo ever launched, “Burger Blast” will feature over 20 burgers from Richmond chefs this year, along with the Virginia, Spanish, Portuguese and Sonoma, CA wines, and live music. A contest will be held for the best burger.
“We’ve really worked hard to have creative artisan burgers this year,” he said. “We got a great band and the contest will be terrific.”
The “Burger Blast” event in addition to wine, will also spotlight craft beer and cider so don’t worry craft beer lovers, they didn’t leave you out.
“A lot of barrel aged, a lot of stout, terrific IPAs, ciders, it’s going to be really good, we got about 39 or 40 of those,” said PapaJohn.
“SMOKED!”, which launched last year, is another food event serving up, you guessed it, smoked cuisine, from Brazil, China, Poland, Eastern Europe, and more. Guests can enjoy meat, seafood, dessert and live music.
PapaJohn said they’ve expanded the menu this year, and increased the number of premium wines for this event, and keeping in tradition from last year, whiskeys from Kentucky, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee.
“We have about 40 whiskeys, many of them craft,” he said. “All the Virginia artisan whiskeys are going to be there.”
New for this year are “A Noodle & Dumpling Affair” and “California Tapas & A Cool View”. On Thursday evening, March 10, (tonight) at the Hofheimer Building located in Scott’s Addition, A Noodle & Dumpling Affair will feature noodles and dumplings dishes from China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, India, Poland, and Italy, along with craft beer from Scott’s Addition breweries and sake.
“We’re going to have 18 different dishes at this event from all sorts of interesting restaurants around the area, we think its got great potential, we sold out the number of tickets at the Hofheimer,” he said.
Peter Chang’s, My Noodle and Bar, La Grotta, J KOGI, ALOHA Cafe, Anoka, and India K’ Raja are all participating in this event.
On Friday afternoon, March 11, head up to the rooftop at Quirk Hotel for the California Tapas & A Cool View” event featuring Chef David Dunlops’ artisan California-Spanish-style tapas, cocktails, Virginia, Spanish and Sonoma County wines, and music.
“We try to customize a few events that tap into the guest region,” Papajohn said. “California Tapas kind of focused on the Spanish concept of tapas (small plates). We’re getting so many more people from out-of-town and we wanted something for them when they roll into town on Friday.”
The Virginia Wine Expo also offers a brunch at Belle & James on Saturday.
The 10th Anniversary of the Virginia Wine Expo kicks off tonight with “A Noodle and Dumpling Affair” at the Hofheimer Building at 6 pm. The grand tastings are Saturday, March 11th from noon – 6:00 PM and Sunday, March 12th; 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.
Cost is $45 in advance and more for add-on events outside of the grand tastings. Get more information and purchase your tickets here.