Many of you might know I run the Hudson Valley Wine Competition. It kind of fell in my lap 4 years ago. One might ask “How do you organize and run a wine competition?” I will tell you it isn’t easy, it’s time consuming, but it is rewarding.
When I first began to work the “back room” at the competition I thought, there has got to be a better way. The person running the competition at the time was doing his best, but the scoring was so time consuming. When he moved to Washington State, it fell in my lap. The first thing I did was volunteer to work the “back room” at the New York Wine & Food Classic. I’ve been doing this for 4 years now. I really enjoy working this competition, I pick up lots of good tips for my competition, have met some wonderful people and I get a new Uncork NY shirt every year.
First thing I did was find a home for the competition. I approached the Hudson Valley Wine Fest and they thought it was a great idea. Gone were the brown bags and pouring the judges at the table. In were tuits, two rooms to use for the competition, trays,tray stands and glass rentals. One hurdle down.
Next was locating judges for the competition that would like to give up their Saturday morning to judge Hudson Valley Wines. I started out with a small list, but through twitter, the wine school I attended for my CSW designation and word of mouth, I’ve been collecting a list. Every year around April I will email my judges list to see if they are available the Saturday after Labor day. I look for 15 judges to sit in a panel of 3. Judges from all walks of life. It is good to have an assortment of knowledgable wine people judging.
Then you are hit with last minute emergencies. Two weeks before the competition, on of the judges had a family emergency and had to fly to Europe. I begin asking around and run into my neighbor Jill in the grocery store and she recommended someone who was very knowledgeable in wine as did Val from Arlington Liquor (and also approved of Jill’s recommendation) I had two and came out with one of them saying yes. Fantastic! All is good now or so I thought. The day before the competition I get an email from another judge saying he is ill and can’t make it. I try hard to find someone at the last minute but was unsuccessful. So what does one do. We have a panel of 2. Have to work with what you have.
The Back Room. What is the back room. The back room is where it all happens. When I arrive with the wine on Friday, I have it all sorted in cases that go with each panel. P1, P2, P3, P4, P5. There are usually 5 – 6 cases per panel. I put the whites in the fridge according to panel as well. I try to assign 2 people to each panel. Their job is to take care of the judges. Make sure they have water, bread, bring them their flights, and clear their flights. So where do I come up with these volunteers. I begin with my friends and hope they will still be my friends afterwards. This year a put a note on Twitter and Facebook and that got me a volunteer. Then just through networking. After all, you do get a free lunch and tickets to the wine festival.
Now the preparations before are enough to pull your hair our. The wines are all arranged in categories and hopefully every winery sends the requested number of bottles by the date on the application. That so isn’t my case as the weekend before the competition I was contacting wineries asking them for their wine. I’m type A and want everything organized so come the day I need to move the wine I pick up and go. It takes time to make sure you have the wines in the flights, labeled correctly, boxed correctly, double checked and then transported. One winery owner was complaining because he had to close his tasting room early on the Friday of Labor Day to bring me the wines…HELLO – the application said I need the wines by August 22, it’s August 31.
Then there is the paperwork. The judges sheets, labeling each bottle with the unique number, flight, panel. Dividing the wines so that each panel taste equal wines and a good variety.
One of the things we provide is a nice lunch. Well…it’s a festival so you can pass judgement on nice, it’s not white linen…We transport all the open bottles of wine that were used in the competition to the covered picnic area and Gigi’s in Rhinebeck caters the meal. They’ve been doing a wonderful job.
One might ask….do I have any help with transporting 25 or so cases of wine plus materials to the competition. Heck NO. I’m a one women show. My wonderful husband Paul did move all 25 cases of wine from our dining room to the garage, but I humped those cases from the garage to the truck to the festival. I didn’t mind so much since I worked all week at the gym on my upper body and had my Ipod on listening to 50 Shade of Grey.
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