NEW YORK — We enjoy wine and the camaraderie it inspires. Gathering to share a bottle, we forget our differences and revel in our similarities. But we’re also Bostonians, which means we can’t pass up the opportunity to participate in the time-honored rivalry of comparing anything in Boston to anything in New York. So when we found out that Second Glass Wine Riot, a wine-tasting event that began in Boston, was branching out to other cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.), we simply had to see how Wine Riot New York stacked up to our experiences in Beantown.
Wine Riot New York took place Sept. 23 and 24 (two evening sessions and one afternoon session, which we attended) at Skylight One Hanson in Brooklyn, the site of the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank. The venue was easy to find and very accessible to public transportation, even for outsiders like us. As an event space, it seemed right in line with the look and feel of the venues used for Wine Riot Boston: the Cyclorama at Boston Center for the Arts and the Park Plaza Castle.
One difference in New York was that the winery booths were spread out between two levels, which at first seemed inconvenient but later proved to be an advantage. Each floor had its own vibe, and the layout helped to break up wines by regions, which included France, Italy, Germany, California, New York and South Africa. Being packed into just one level in Boston, we felt somewhat overwhelmed and crowded, but in New York we felt there was plenty of space to explore and taste every wine.
The bathrooms were a bit lacking in New York — with just a few stalls in one ladies’ room, the lines (particularly later in the four-hour session) were rather long. We discovered that a men’s room had been converted to a ladies’ room in an attempt to alleviate the problem — which, although unfortunate for male attendees, speaks to the event staff’s attentiveness.
Second Glass goes out of its way to make Wine Riot fun and accessible. In both Boston and New York, the event staff was readily available and very helpful. We enjoyed the funky perks that make Wine Riot ideal for the young, hip oenophile: Free snacks (Pretzel Crisps and Cabot cheese). Food vendors for those who want something a bit meatier to accompany their sipping. “Crash Courses” for learning more about what you’re drinking. Temporary tattoos (we both emblazoned ourselves with the design of a tiger encouraging all to “Drink more wine!”). A DJ spinning an upbeat soundtrack. And to make sure your Wine Riot experience is forever preserved, a photo booth — where you’ll put down your glass only for a moment to throw on a feather boa or captain’s hat and pose with your friends. Not only is your photo posted online for you to share with everyone you know, but you also have the convenient option (new to the event this year) of receiving a glossy printout within seconds.
One of Wine Riot’s major features is friendliness with technology. Second Glass developed its own mobile app, which allows you to rank the wines you taste and remember them later when shopping or dining. We found that in New York, as in Boston, the app was easy to use and a great help in making the event truly interactive, although on the basement level of the New York venue, a lack of cellular signal unfortunately made the app unusable.
We recommend that if you attend a Wine Riot in any city, it’s best to plan ahead. Second Glass makes this easy by posting maps of the venue layouts and lists of the participating wineries on the website. Four hours is enough time to see (and taste) everything, but to use it most effectively, think ahead about what wines and wineries intrigue you most, so you can be sure to visit their booths first — lest you get caught up in the Wine Riot spirit and end up chatting with one purveyor the entire time.
Overall, we really enjoyed our Wine Riot experience as Bostonians in New York. Alhough we always can (and will) lay claim to its origins, we see no problem with sharing “our” great event with other cities. That said, as Wine Riot seems to only be growing, we highly recommend you not rest on your laurels (or grapes, as it were) when it comes your way next year. We’ve seen tickets sell out in Beantown. Grab yours while you can!
For more information:secondglass.com/wineriot.