Dayton-area wine lovers know that the region has no shortage of tasting events throughout the year (or during any given week!), but one of the newest is poised to distinguish itself as the best setting for singles to meet new people who share a common interest.
Planned2Give will host its quarterly Grapes of Gratitude event Thursday, May 25, at the Normandy Banquet Center (507 Miamisburg-Centerville Rd., Washington Twp.), from 6 – 8 pm. The team-based, comepetitive wine tasting focuses on a different varietal each time; the winter installment featured merlot, while this week’s spring outing is timed to coincide with National Chardonnay Day.
“This has turned out to be a great event for singles,” Lisa Grigsby of Planned2Give said, “because of the relaxed environment and everyone already having one common thing to discuss and really get into the details. And it’s a perfect opportunity: at our last event, the participants were probably 80% singles, and 75% women, and the ages ranged from 21 to about 45-ish. Talk about great odds for a gentleman looking to meet a lady–this would be it.”
The casual, after-work event works by the “rule of three,” which requires teams of one to three participants to each bring three bottles of the same varietal. (For instance, three bottles of 2005 Lindemans Bin 65 chardonnay). For each team, two of the three bottles are bagged to hide the label, tagged, and then poured for tasting and ranking by each contestant during the course of the evening. Each team’s third bottle is set aside, unopened. At the end, the unopened third bottles are divided and taken home by the teams that brought the five highest ranking wines–except for the lowest ranked wine, which is returned to the team that brought it.
Worried about bringing the same wine as another team? Not a problem. Year, batch, temperature, length of time since the bottle was opened, and other factors can all affect the flavor and bring different rankings.
The “three for three” format used here is gaining popularity around the country among wine enthusiasts and novices alike, including Cincinnati’s Bacchanalia Society events. One of the goals of the event is to change perceptions and challenge biases people might have toward certain varietals.
“Last time,” said organizer Lisa Grigsby, “we had a lot of people who weren’t merlot fans, but by the end of the night, everyone had found one they liked, and then it was, ‘Wow, I never would’ve bought or ordered this, but now I know there’s one I really enjoy,’ and that’s because they got to try it without commitment. Everyone was surprised about the differences among the tastes and complexities of the wines.”
Teams can contain no more than three participants, so a group of four will be considered two teams, and must bring six bottles of the featured varietal to gain entry. However, said Grigsby, people needn’t worry if they plan to come alone.
“We had plenty of people who came by themselves as one single-person team. Only the person at the sign-in table knows who’s together and who’s not, so once you’re inside, no one has to know if you’re with a group or not. Everyone was very friendly. It’s very low-key and not snobby in any way. When we revealed the restults, a lot of people were surprised; one of the most expensive wines did not place in the top three, and one of the winners was a very inexpensive wine. The blind tasting takes that name brand association away, so it’s all about taste.”
Each Grapes event benefits a different local charity, and May’s proceeds will go to Wagtown, a new organization working toward the goal of making every city dog-friendly in the interest of creating stronger, more vibrant communities that attract people, spur economic growth, and foster loyalty.
“We try to support grassroots organizations,” said Jeff Jackson, Planned to Give co-owner, “smaller nonprofits where the attention can put new eyes on them and the money raised can really be impactful. Our last charity partner was Bogg Industries, which focuses on feeding the homeless all around the region through their Mobile Meals program. We raised enough money to feed 1,200 people, and that feels good. While we’re open to any charity, we’re really looking for the ones we can help expose. Wagtown’s ‘animal-friendly community’ concept really appealed to us, and they’re a new organization, so we wanted to showcase them in a meaningful way.”
Snacks will be on hand at the event, including pizza from Mack’s Tavern and chardonnay-infused sweets. The first half-hour of the evening encourages socializing and sampling the foods offered while event staff log and bag the various wines and register arriving guests. The early part of the evening will also include information about Wagtown, as well as presentation to Bogg Industries of the funds raised at the winter installment.
“It’s very casual,” Grigsby said. “People can come from work, come in jeans… There’s nothing formal about this event. It’s not an all-night commitment on a weeknight; it ends at 8 pm, though last time, a lot of groups ended up going somewhere for dinner afterward. It’s something different, something fun, a way to try a lot of wines on someone else’s dime, and then maybe get to take a bunch home.”
Tickets for participation in Grapes of Gratitude are $10 in advance and $15 at the door; advance tickets (with online handling fee) are available for purchase at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/may-grapes-of-gratitude-tickets-34094527650 or you can pick them up at the nearby Arrow Wine store on 725, while you’re grabbing your 3 bottles of Chardonnay.