Review of Pittsburgh Wine Festival

You guys want to know one of the downsides of moving back to Pennsylvania? Limited wine options and wine event opportunities. But thankfully the overlords at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) are kind enough to give Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh huge wine festivals every year—yay! While I genuinely enjoyed my time at the Pittsburgh version, there is some room for improvement, too. For what I loved and what I didn't, check out my review below.
Wanna know what I tasted? Check out my top five!

The Good

Venue: A night on the club level at Heinz Field? Yes, please! The space felt special but big enough to accommodate a large crowd and 100+ tables. There was also plenty of seating throughout if people wanted to take a break or sit down with a bite to eat.

Food: There were several heavy hor d'oeuvres stations with charcuterie, cheese, finger sandwiches, flatbreads, etc. They were very prepared for a ton of hungry winos! There's nothing worse than people getting intoxicated because they've only had some measly crudités. Gimme the crudités, and pass me a little egg salad tea sandwich, too.

The Bad

Pre-event information: Did I know there was going to be food? Nope. Did I know which wineries would be there? Not until a week beforehand. I get that PLCB doesn't have any incentive to improve but the lack of information was shameful.

Customer service: Quick story. Back in December when tickets went on sale, I bought a "Grand Tasting" (general admission) ticket. Due to the aforementioned lack of information, I didn't want to splurge for the "VIP" ticket since I legit had no idea what VIP got you other than two hours of early access. About two weeks out, I talked with some locals who had been before and suggested upgrading to VIP. I emailed the info address, sent Facebook messages, and tried calling them several times for a week—no answer. So the day of the event I went to Heinz Field to ask in person! A very nice woman (Helene, I believe) helped me upgrade without a problem. But I should have gotten an answer before that.

The Indifferent

Selection: With something like 500 wines to try at ~130 tables, there was no shortage of wine! However, I did feel like the selection skewed heavily toward the Big, Bold Red crowd. PLCB's portfolio is generally this way so I kind of expected it. I'm putting this under "indifferent" because if Inglenook's Rubicon is your jam then this is a "good" for you. And if it isn't, hey you're never going to spend money on some of these expensive Napa Cabs so maybe use this opportunity to try some? It's unlikely I'll ever splurge on Rubicon because it isn't my favorite style of wine, but it was pretty f'ing delicious and I'm happy I tasted it.

Price: Grand tasting tickets are $125 and VIP tickets are $250. I don't think this is too expensive for the venue, access to wines, and food. But it's under "indifferent" because you shouldn't pay $250 and not even know what you're getting yourself into. Get the "bad" things in order and you have a reasonable price here. Although I didn't know this before the event (of course), the VIP tickets also get you access to special pours.

Crowd: From 5pm to 7pm during the VIP tasting, it was the perfect amount of people. There was hardly a line more than five people deep from what I saw. After 7pm, there was an increase but it wasn't overwhelming. Why is this in the "indifferent" category then? There were a lot of people there who were just interested in getting drunk. I felt like there was a pretty obvious divide between attendees who wanted to taste wine and those who wanted to pound wine. I personally do not mind a few tipsy yinzers (they're still so nice!) but this might irritate other people. In truth, I was a little drunk myself by the time I left!!

Is the "good" list the shortest? Yes, but I did get to try some great wines. Read this post to learn my favorites!!

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