When a coworker mentioned this event to me I was instantly giddy as the name boasted Pasadena (where I live), wine (which I live on), and festivals (which I live for).
The set up of the event was simple enough. For the price of admission and an all-you-can-drink bracelet, you spend the day sampling, then re-sampling, then re-sampling, all of the various kinds of wine offered at each winery's booth. In between sips, participants can purchase snacks from food trucks, play badminton and horseshoes, or sit back and listen to live entertainment.
In addition to trying new things, I'm also trying to take advantage of L.A. area public transportation. Yes, it does exist. So I did a little research and found a metro bus that would pick us up down the street from our house and drop us off at the Los Angeles County Arboretum (in Arcadia, bordering on Pasadena), where the festival would take place. How perfect is that?
Shortly after 2pm we got our act together and headed for the bus stop. The bus ride over was relaxing and gave me a chance to see other parts of Pasadena I'd yet to explore. It was sort of like being on a tour. When we arrived at the arboretum I found that, as an added bonus, taking the bus meant avoiding the crowded parking lot and $13 parking fee. Huzzah!
Forgoing the food trucks, olive oil samples, and assorted other vendors, our first order of business was to get our drink on --- in the most sophisticated manner possible, of course. This is the Pasadena Wine Festival, after all.
We approached the wine garden (which may or may not have actually been called that) where booths were set up in a square, with the middle area left open for tables (and later in the day, long lines... but we'll get to that.)
The booth at the front handed each of us a wine glass --ours to keep, if we ever wanted to pour ourselves tiny glasses of wine at home-- and we were on our way.
We started off with some crisp white wines, and then tried to find a shady area to sit down and escape the ever-increasing heat. By the time we found a patch near the stage, I was out of wine, and then just had to march back over to the wine garden. I quickly concluded that trying to relax was a pointless task until later, when the sun went down and we could buy ourselves a bottle of our fave of the day.
While sipping on an Australian pinot blend, I noticed several people crouching through a small opening in the wooded area beyond the booths. Was this allowable? Were they in danger? What was in those woods?! I had to find out. Immediately.
Or, well, after we filled our glasses yet again.
So then we marched off toward the trees and, following another group of wanderers, we ducked through a branch archway and uncovered a lush Ferngully rainforest, complete with ponds, tropical looking plants, and adorable wild life. Who knew this was here?
As the day went on, we met up with friends, chilled out on the lawn for a while and continued our tastings. Sadly, with the much-anticipated nightfall came the should've-been-expected crowds. Instead of meandering from booth to booth, now everyone had to wait in lines for their pours. We'd get ourselves a sample, then immediately enter a new line so that by the time we'd finished sipping, we were at the table for the next pour. There was no time for careful consideration of the flavors, or musing "Yes I do detect the chocolate undertones... I think." It no longer felt like wine tasting, but more like a pub crawl.
By 6 or 7, I was completely starving and, having put off food all day ("I'll wait until I'm ravenous, then it'll be even more delicious!" Idiot.), I was desperate to buy a Korean taco or grilled cheese from one of the various food trucks. But guess who else wanted to grab a bite? The entire population of southern California. Lines stretched on and on. Someone toward the back of one of them claimed she'd already been waiting 35 minutes. She'd be lucky to get served before dawn.
So, that was out. And then set in the familiar "Why do I even bother leaving the house?" feeling. At this point all I wanted was to have something to eat while sitting outside and enjoying the cool night air. Seems like I could do this somewhere like, oh, my backyard.
Within an hour of reaching this conclusion, we'd left, stopped at the store for provisions (frozen pizzas), and were resting comfortably at the patio table.
There's no place like home. There's no place like home.
But that forest was pretty sweet.