Exploring the ROC FLX Craft Beverage Trail at First Fest

If you’ve been following along with my blog, you know that I was invited by the Rochester/Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Trail to cover two of their wineries: JD Wine Cellars and Inspire Moore Winery. Visiting both wineries was fantastic, and it got me really excited to attend their First Fest.

First Fest in particular was created as a way for people to sample a wide range of craft beverages all in one location. It was a fun way for people to branch out a little from what they know. If you’re a beer person, you could try wine. If you’re a wine person, you could try some cider. For between $30-40 depending on if you did VIP, you got a tasting glass, unlimited pours, live music, food samples, selfie booth access, and a good time.

Why I loved First Fest

Wine tasting for me is a social experience. I love chatting with winemakers and tasting room staff, learning about what they are creating, diving deep into the wine as a group, discussing the notes with my friends. Wine festivals are not usually the place for that type of interaction. I’ve been to a lot of different wine and beer festivals over the year, and for the most part, I’m tired of them. I’m tired of their lines, I’m tired of the pour people not knowing anything about the wine or not having time to talk, I’m tired of the drunken crowds.

That is why First Fest was so refreshing, and so much fun- it wasn’t your typical wine fest; why?

  1. Limited the number of people: This meant that I was never waiting in line very long and once I did get my sample I’d have the time to chat with the winery or brewery representative to learn more.
  2. Interesting range of wineries: I don’t normally see these places at wine festivals, so it was slightly different.
  3. Free food samples: this is the best way to ensure that people don’t get too ‘happy’ at a festival, provide food for them to balance the alcohol. Also, after you’ve paid all that money for a festival, it’s nice to have things like food included!
  4. Great venue: The event took place at the Ravenwood Golf Course in their event space. Not only was it a little upscale, giving me a fun reason to dress up, it made the whole experience feel special. Also- that means it has real bathrooms unlike outdoor wine fests.

Tasting at First Fest

Ok… this is going to sound strange for me, but I didn’t actually take notes at First Fest. I put the notebook away and focused more on enjoying the experience with my friends. Honestly, I’m glad I did because I had a blast.

There were a few wines though that stood out for me, and that I’m really excited to try again:

  • Heron Hill Winery’s 2016 The Chosen Spot, a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, all from their Ingle Vineyard in Canandaigua. We were blown away by the nuanced dark plum, black currant and cherry, rich pepper, and spicy tobacco notes.
  • JD Wine Cellars’ Triology, also a a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, but with brighter notes of red cherry and berries, pops of pepper, and a lil hint of smoke.
  • I also really enjoyed Lost Borough Brewing’s Black Lager and Naked Dove’s Whatsis IPA.

Final Thoughts

This is one of the better wine festivals I’ve attended- it was intimate, I got to enjoy the wine and conversation, there was fantastic music, and overall everyone just seemed really happy to be there. Also, they had a super fun selfie booth! If you missed this year’s, I hope to see you next year at their next First Fest (Second Fest?). It was a great way to explore wineries you don’t normally see at festivals and in particular get to know those around the Rochester area.

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