For those of you who have never been to Passport Weekend, here's how it works:
- Rent a house with a bunch of wino friends--somewhere in Sonoma county. Ours was on The Russian River (literally). And if you're Dayle and Larry, you also rent a "tasting" van for you and 10 of your pals--complete with sober driver.
- Plot out your tasting course in advance. These were the wineries that participated this year. (On average, I think we visited 15 vineyards a day. Eek.)
- Wake up on Saturday morning and hit the Dry Creek Valley. The first winery you visit (pre-scheduled when you purchase your ticket) will provide you with your "passport" which looks a lot like a real customs passport, minus the mortifying photo.
- You and your crew roll from winery to winery, each one stamping your passport with their logo upon arrival.
- Sunday: repeat but try to drink more water this time...and bring some Advil. Ugh.
What's fun about this event:
- Each winery makes a valiant effort to throw a theme party, most of which end up being really fun. Party details include on-theme decorations, incredible local food, and often a live band. Even though one vineyard's down home BBQ with a country band and seats made from bails of hay RULED, I was partial to the Mexcellent Vino Fiesta. This vineyard not only provided maracas for drunk people to shake, but they also served Pino Cones consisting of chopped ice + cold Pino Gris. Ole!
- What better event to study well-off, middle-aged white people? What curious creatures they are with their fanny packs and wine holders, slow dancing to Jimmy Buffet songs. Matt really got into the musical aspect of it all, devising a game called "Guess the band's next song and I'll buy you a bottle." Zetta was a big winner at Ridge Vineyard with "Margaritaville" and I think somebody still owes me a bottle for "Friend of the Devil."
- You get to watch all sorts of people devolve throughout the day. My favorite were the fancy older woman practically crawling to the cash register to buy just one more bottle of Sauvignon Blanc...with their husband's signature Visa card.
- Everyone is in high spirits. And why wouldn't they be...with the sun glistening off their wine glass and a zinfandel pork slider made from sustainable, local pig in their hand? Just don't try to talk to anyone after 9pm when they're painfully dehydrated and their wine sweats start to kick in.
And my favorite part about Passport Weekend? Asking the pourers at one winery if they would turn us away if we have a stamp from "that other winery" like how the US supposedly won't let travelers through US customs if they have a Cuba stamp in their passport. Thanks to drinking almost as much as they poured, they thought our question was as funny as we did.