What do you get when you cram 1000+ bodies into a space designed to hold 400, throw in 6 or 7 hundred bottles of wine and tell everyone they have two hours to taste and vote on as many different wines as they can? You get a fantastically insane debut event hosted by the newly-launched Nashville Bacchanalian Society(NBS).
I come from wine country (well sorta…hey, it’s not Napa, but it’s home!). I enjoy drinking wine. I’ve visited plenty of wineries and participated in numerous wine fests. But despite all of this, I can hardly call myself any kind of an informed connoisseur when it comes to fermented grape juice. I know what I like. And of course I’m always eagerly willing to try new wines (no, that is NOT the sign of an alcoholic, or so I’ve been assured). So when Melissa and JP started talking about the Drink Blind & Win benefit event being hosted by the NBS, my ears perked up. Eh? Wine, you say? Lots of wine? Wha-wha-wha?
So Thursday night, a little before 7 p.m., I drove the 5 miles from my apartment to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Art Museum with $10 in my pocket and a bottle of Pinot Noir resting on the passenger’s seat. I was to meet my team members, Melissa and Brian there (team name: Fletch. Yes, Brian picked it, as if you couldn’t have guessed. Seriously, what IS it with boys and that movie!?) for the blind wine tasting event benefiting Cheekwood. Just doing my philanthropic duty, folks!
My first clue that the event was going to be annoyingly overcrowded was the backed up traffic halted to almost a dead stop at the front gates and the frantic parking attendant running along the lines of cars waving his official glow stick and yelling at people to back up because the parking lots were overflowing. “Back up! Back up! For the love of god, back up! There’s no more parking here!” Okay chief, calm down. I ended up parking in a frost encrusted field about 3 miles somewhere southwest of the museum (luckily I had my compass) and hoofed it in my heels and far too thin jacket cradling my precious bottle of Pinot Noir against my chest so it wouldn’t chill. First priority: Protect the alcohol! (again, NOT a sign of an alcoholic).
Naturally, there was a line at least 30 feet deep extending out the front doors waiting to get into the warm building. Eventually I was able to numbly shuffle my way through the doors where I was greeted by a wall of humanity. Bodies crammed so tightly together there was no where to go and everyone seemed to be futilely trying to go in a different direction. At this point I felt little pricks of panic welling up in my ears and fingertips. Despite what some of you may think, I like organization. I do. I feel calmer when things are organized and go smoothly. The event, so far, was organization’s anti-christ. It was anarchy at its finest and I was terribly uncomfortable with the whole thing. I glumly predicted I would never locate my crucial team members in the ridiculously disorganized mess in which I found myself.
But I did find them and once we muddled our way through the bog of confused bodies, here was the deal: Each team of three brought three identical bottles of Pinot Noir. One team member (Brian) took the bottles to an NBS volunteer where two of the bottles were taken away to be wrapped in brown paper bags, numbered, and opened, to be served at the tasting. The other bottle was put in a reserve pile for the winners of the taste testing. Meanwhile, Melissa and I paid our $10 entrance fees, and procured our ballots and yellow golf pencils. We then worked our way from the lobby into the main hall where the drinking…er…tasting was to commence. The object of the evening was to taste and vote for the best and worst wine. The winning teams would get to split the unopened reserved wine (do the math people – that’s a helluva lot of wine!)
As you can imagine, the festivities got off to a late start due to the…that’s right…the DISorganization and people were getting hot and cranky waiting around for the cups to be passed out. The tasting hall was scattered with various tables upon which bottles of wine encased in brown paper bags were patiently waiting. There were also tables full of palate cleansers (bread, cheese, crackers, grapes…etc). The poor NBS volunteers who got the unfortunate task of passing out cups to the grumpy and alcohol deprived crowd were nearly trampled to death as people swarmed over them to acquire a near-holy wine tasting vessel.
In a preemptive, and utterly genius maneuver, Melissa swiped a bottle of wine off the table while people were busy getting cups, so as soon as I snagged our team vessels, she was able to fill them full (and I mean FULL) of happy dark red liquid. After that, the evening just got better and better. I mean really, how could it not? Yes, it was still abominably crowded, but after a few more tastings, it really didn’t seem to matter as much. Huh. Who knew?
Sadly, our team didn’t win the glorious cache of wine, but the team of women who did produced copious tears of joy at their triumph. Now THAT, I suspect, IS a sign of an alcoholic. Heh.