Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brilliant design

There is a lot to say about the Austin Wine and Music Festival, and I will get to it, but the thing I want to over-discuss is the brilliant design of the multi-tab wristband.  It is almost enough to make you want to return to event planning.

That is hyperbole.  Just so you know.

But "Goodbye Drink Tickets," the lady in the 1960s commercial might say, her flip-do bobbling with excitement.  "I discovered multi-tab wrist bands!"  Here is how this worked.  Entry to the festival entitles you to a certain number of "pours."  We forgot how many.  WOOHoo - it's a wine festival.  You tear a little tab off your wristband to pay.  They litter the environment and confetti the landfill, and ...oh, be quiet you.  Let the plastics industry have their moment.

Also with your wristband comes a wine bottle six-pack shopping bag and a souvenier glass.  And a 100 degree day of drinkin' and shoppin'.  And there is a band if you can find it.

The celebration of Texas' vineyards, especially those in the temperate Hill Country, has been going on for 5 years.  Some things are working; some are not.  This year, it fell strangely close to the actual Hill Country Wine Festival, but then in New England, we never met an ice cream weekend we didn't like.

The festival came to the Austin Sprawl Area's "Domain," a new faux downtown of high-end shops anchored by Neiman's, a Westin convention hotel, and a crazy big field next to the highway, where events can take place.

1.  An outdoor festival is greatly benefitted by trees.  Austin is full of them.  Why pick a place like this?

"5.2 grassy acres at The Domain near Burnet Road and Esperanza Crossing."  "Grassy" here has a meaning like "chocolatey."  (not really grass)  So yes, hot.  Bloody hot.  But with a stiff wind to keep the bugs down, good canopy cover.  And 10 tabs of wine.

2.    Signage will kill you?  My hosts confirm that they have been to more than 1 event at this location, which is really set up like an old downtown -- which Austin also has -- but contains no signs indicating that a giant festival is taking place in it.  So one drives around hopelessly until one asks the valet at the Westin, who seems very used to this aspect of his job.

3.   Cheese plate + wine = v.v.good.  Cheese plate + 100 degrees = this is not brie.  But the fine people at the Spec's stand gave us an extra for free, so they didn't have to sell it.  And a pound of cheese on any day is still deee-lishius, however sweaty.

4. Things we liked:
Tempranillo:  a Spanish grape, very warm and velvety, but too warm for the day.  Needed a bison steak to go with it.
Rose:  Seriously.  They've changed it.  Still pink and giggly, but not the sticky kool-aid you remember from the senior trip.
Viognier:  100% Texas fruit, flowery and crisp.  A good end-of-the-hot day refresher or standing by for the chicken to grill.
White Port: who knew?  I did not care for this as much as my hostess, but mostly because my palate was not prepared for the liquory bite, which lord knows I enjoy in my amber beverages.  I would have to come back and visit it with a chocolate cheesecake.

We finally found the band tent, and a few co-workers, all of whom are officially on call as government workers on a federal holiday weekend, but they are not First Responders or cemetary officials.  So it's OK.  Even LBJ enjoyed a cool one.

Wine makes me flush, so I sweat right through my jeans, and my water bottle began to make soup.  We wondered about families who brought their children to a scene where there was literally nothing for them to do, and remembered we had one at home.

Later that evening, we invited another couple over with a 4 year-old and a 5 week old.  They marvelled at the tale of our wine festival as if it would never again happen for them.  But of course it will.  Maybe we should stay with the kids next year and let them go alone.


  1. The wristband design is, I agree, a thing of brilliance. It's like they actually had a meeting about it or something. Glad you had fun at a wine festival in Austin. What a parent would give at the chance to sweat through their jeans at a wine festival...

  2. Austin. One of my favorite cities! Am sure you will have plenty of chili, but be sure to ask about the bats under the bridge and a sunset from the bar where they cheer nightly - what, you thought I was sober enough to remember its name? And, seriously, the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History. The very best museum I have ever toured. Have a great trip!


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