[twitter]There are a variety of Wine Festivals in Calgary each year, one seems to happen every few months.

Liquor Depot sponsors the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival in October, Co-Op sponsors The Grape Escape a couple of times a year, Calgary WineFest is in February, while Willow Park Wine and Spirits has events at their store year round.

My wife, @winejennifer, is a wine rep. She’s worked assorted Wine Festivals for years. So I picked her brain to get the tips and tricks as you head down to get your grape on.

1. Respect the person pouring. They’re not $10/hr hostesses, but actually knowledgeable sales reps, maybe the President of the company, or perhaps even the Winemaker

2. Respect your palate. Start with the light wines and finish heavy (ie save the Ports til last) If you’re going on 2 separate nights, do white one night, red the other.

3. Leave your big purse at home. It’s tough to balance all that and a glass, a wristlet with your id and keys should be enough. That said …

4. Bring a journal or notebook to take notes on what you’re trying. Trust me, 5 glasses in you’ll forget what you had first.

5. Try something different than what you always buy – here’s your chance to go on an adventure with minimal risk.

6. Don’t wear white. Even if you don’t spill, someone else might. Jen saw someone in a beautiful white suit one year, with a lovely streak of shiraz right down her back.

7. There are no dumb questions, you’re there to learn, and the pourers are there to help.

8. Have something to eat before you go. You’re going to be drinking a lot, and you don’t want to do it on an empty stomach. Which leads us to …

9. Spit spit spit spit! You’re going to be drinking a lot, so even if you’re looking to get your drunk on, spit.

10. Don’t rinse your glass with the water at the table, people think they’re spittoons (see #9). Instead, ask the pourer for a splash of the wine you’re about to sample to rinse out your glass.

11. The good stuff will be gone first. All the expensive bubbles etc are in limited quantities, so look for them Thursday and early in the night on Friday

That may sound grand, but not all is wonderful, there are some pet peeves of the staff working the event you should try to keep in mind to keep your experience the best.

1. This is their Christmas. Most pourers have been pulling 12+hour days pouring wine and entertaining VIPS all week, so be patient with them.

2. Sloppy drunk people may be fun at the bar, but they’re not fun at WineFest. Have a good time, but keep it under control.

3. Raising your glass and clinking it on the bottle isn’t necessary. Say “when”, when you mean “when” and they’ll stop pouring.

4. Perfume and smelly hairspray. One of the most powerful qualities of wine, is its bouquet. Dousing yourself in Curious by Britney Spears and emptying a bottle of Final Net on your head before you leave will not only kill all of your senses, but those of the people around you. You think we’re kidding, we’re not. Not even a quick spritz. Go au naturel to this event. PLEASE!

5. Going right for the decanter. It’s not necessarily the most expensive. Jen and her team have been known to take the cheapest bottle they’re pouring and drop it in a decanter just to fool the smart asses. ASK first, they might even reach under the table and pull out a secret bottle for you to sample 😉

6. The know-it-all is almost as bad as the candy perfume girl. Yes, you’ve been to Napa. Maybe you’ve even golfed with Ernest and Julio, but remember tips 1 and 8 from above. You may be bragging to someone even more special than yourself, and, in the end, everyone is there to learn and have fun

So now that you’re well versed in the behind-the-scenes secrets of WineFest, you’re almost set. One final thing to remember: plan a way to get home. These open bar shenanigans can get out of hand very easily. Unless you’re spitting, you’ll be done in half a dozen booths or less. So get home safe.

Everyone loves wine. Nobody likes a dead drunk.

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