Last Updated on May 19, 2022 by Jeremy
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We always want a good party in Pittsburgh, and when it comes to a food and beverage celebration, Pittsburgh Magazine always does it right.
In the past, we have attended events like their Best of the Burgh Party, as well as their Best Restaurants Party, which, in our opinion, is one of the greatest celebrations you can attend every year if you love our local Pittsburgh restaurants.
In 2022, Pittsburgh Magazine returned with a new spring party, aptly named the Wine & Spirits Festival, to go along with their other libations-themed celebrations (separate wine and whiskey festivals typically taking place in the fall).
We were guests of Pittsburgh Magazine for this party at Rivers Casino in its inaugural year and wanted to share a bit more of what this one was like in this one!
Pittsburgh Magazine's Wine & Spirits Festival Delivers Ample Pours
Pittsburgh Magazine's Wine & Spirits Festival took place in the event hall at Rivers Casino on the North Side and featured approximately 200 samples from 70 or so wineries and spirit producers not only from southwest Pennsylvania but throughout the United States and abroad.
Many of the distributors that were featured brought three to five samples of their products showcasing both entry-level and high-end spirits and wines. As it is pretty impossible to try all 200 samples, especially when splitting between wine and spirits, we had to be a bit strategic at this one. So I focused on all things wine, as I am studying an intensive wine program, and Angie focused on all things spirits.
This ended up being a great decision because, to be quite honest, going back and forth between dark spirits and wine is an easy way to blow out your palate. So whenever we found a sample worth sharing, we simply remembered it and returned at the end of the night to try when we were ready to make a hard switch on our drink of choice.
While we would say that this event was slightly heavier on the spirits than the wine, we found that there was a nice mix of all styles available. Whether you were looking for rum, tequila, whiskey, vodka, cocktails, local wine, California wine, or options from Europe or elsewhere abroad, there truly was something for everyone at this event.
Angie found new favorite of gins and whiskeys from producers like Revivalist (PA-based!) and Calumet although also would've been tempted by the spread at Maggie's Farm Rum if we didn't already own every bottle they make.
I found some favorite wines from French producers Chateau Pegau and Notorious and could've been found getting as many samples as allowed of the ~$60 Chateauneuf-du-Pape bottle Pegau brought. If you can find a gem like this one you can easily start to cover your ticket fee in just a few repeat samples (as I most certainly did on this bottle alone).
The Festival Had a Nice Balance of Producers to Guests
As with any event that has alcohol tastings, crowd concerns are always present you always have to worry about how many people are in line ahead of you, if and/or when any given vendor will run out, and how many samples you are able to get for your money's worth.
As this event was sold out, we thought the crowds were a manageable number for the space and number of vendors. At popular stalls, we had three to five people in front of us at most (so just a few minutes waiting). But for the vast majority of our stops, we could walk right up and get a sample of both wine and spirits.
Part of the crowd management for this one came from the fact that Rivers Casino also included unlimited access to the buffet as part of the ticket price, and most every guest spent some time filling up on food from the Italian, Asian, barbecue, and other stations that were opened for the event. In fact, it was harder to find an open seat here than it was to get a quick sample from the producers themselves!
In either case, as this was a spirit-heavy event having the ability to take a break for a bite to eat (that was included in the ticket price) offered a welcome respite while also helping with crowd control at large as virtually everyone else took an hour or so break during the evening for this one.
Overall, the Wine & Spirits Festival ended up being a rather intimate event for celebrating these two libation styles. At first I was worried that there would not be enough vendors to get the money's worth out of a ticket, but each of us walked away having our fill and not wanting another drop (and we were quite fortunate enough to be able to walk home, too). That being said, being able to go in and split up the vendors by wine (me) and spirits (Angie) also helped improve the experience significantly.
When this event returns in the future, if you attend we highly recommend doing something similar- your taste buds will truly thank you for it in the long run.
Our only regret was that the on-site Fine Wine & Good Spirits store didn't have any of that Chateau Pegau wine to take a bottle home. So while there were other great bottles from the event, we sadly left empty-handed. When that is the worst part to discuss about, you know you were at a good event!
Pittsburgh Magazine's Wine & Spirits Festival took place in May 2022. We hope this one will return in 2023 and beyond. We were media guests of Pittsburgh Magazine. As always, all opinions are our own.