On Saturday, I joined a fun group of friends to attend the third annual Sip and Stroll, a wine and art event hosted at the EpiCentre in Uptown. A big part of my excitement had to do with the fact that this wine festival did not feature North Carolina wines. Some of you might scoff, but I've never taken a liking to this region's wines.
I was a little surprised to see a ticket system in place. I've attended Great Grapes in SouthPark and Charlotte's Oktoberfest for the past four years, which are always "all-you-can-drink" events. This format is probably safer than offering unlimited quantities of alcohol, but initially, it seemed like less of a bargain.
The major difference between using tickets versus all you can drink is that tickets got me a bigger pour than most wine tastings. And if you really liked a wine, you could give the pourer more tickets and get more wine. More wine is always a good thing.
Another plus for this format: People hurried through lines quickly. At an all-you-can-drink type of atmosphere, tasters often saddle up the bar for a few minutes and taste all of the options at each station. With heavier pours and the restriction of tickets, tasters got the wine of their choice, then moved along.
Besides being a wine festival, Sip and Stroll is also an art festival. I am always impressed with artists who will work in front of a crowd, so I stopped to watch this painter for a few minutes. There were a few painters, some graphic artists, but mainly the art booths were taken by jewelry craftsman.
Most of the action was on the ground level of the EpiCentre, but there were a few wine and jewelry stands on the third level as well. Besides wine, Blue Moon was there passing out samples of three of their beers at no charge, along with Angry Orchard who passed out complimentary hard cider samples.
Overall, the experience was a little lackluster. Don't get me wrong, I had a good time, but that had more to do with the friends I brought along than the festival itself. I'm kind of curious to know who would go to this event two days in a row. One day was definitely enough for me.
If I had to make suggestions for improvement for the 4th annual Sip & Stroll:
- More wine distributors
- Ask distributors to have some sort of format, like all South American wines.
- Since it's not in a wine tasting format where there is some wine education, have a guide that explains a bit about each wine provided for those who like to learn at these events.
- Have wine that can be purchased — if I find a bottle I really like, I want to be able to take some home with me.
- Have more traditional art. I love jewelry as much as the next girl (I even bought two pairs of earrings and a necklace), but when I hear "art," I think of the traditional mediums and would like to see more of that represented at an art festival.
I took a random survey of participants (that's a lie — I just asked my friends) and they agreed with my suggestions, except they would also like to see more local wine.
I guess you can't win them all.