Carytown Food & Wine Festival: A Taste of Carytown

Carytown Food & Wine Festival

Warning: As I stated previously, I am not nearly as kind in my reviews as the Guru is… I lost the ability to sugar coat years ago. That being said:

A few weekends ago I had a girlfriend visiting from out of town and since it was a beautiful day outside we thought maybe a little boutique shopping and wine tasting in a great part of the city sounded like a great way to spend an afternoon.  While the weather didn’t disappoint, the shopping wasn’t every successful and the wine was extremely disappointing.  I have attended the Carytown Food and Wine Festival on two other occasions and I seem to enjoy it less and less each time I go.  There are always a few “usual suspect” vineyards who choose to attend every year with a rotating set thrown in which seem to be comprised of the smaller,  lesser known vineyards in the state.  That wouldn’t be a problem except those vineyards are in my opinion lesser known because they’re wines are of a lesser quality.

Most notable among the “usual suspects” as I called them is Horton Vineyards. Each year Horton participates in numerous festivals around the state and at every festival you can spot them without a need for signs. They are the booth with a 5 deep clamoring crowd of 20 something sorority girls attracted by their huge selection of fruit wines. You name a fruit and it’s almost guaranteed Horton makes some sort of wine out of it. This year at the wine festival I saw a sign that Horton was poring both a Syrah and a Malbec which I was very interested in as I am a fan of both varietals and they aren’t the most commonly grown grapes in Virginia.  After waiting in line for 15 minutes or so and making little progress my friend ran into someone she knew exiting the hoard and we were informed that the wait to do a tasting was over 30 minutes and that they were pouring over 30 wines. At a festival this small and with such limited space there is no reason whatsoever to be pouring 30 wines.  It seems much wiser to pour a limited but representative selection of wines that allows you to serve more paying customers, especially serious wine drinkers willing to spend money.  The flip side of that coin was also present at the wine festival, in the form of a vineyard which was only pouring 2 wines: a red and a white. When I say a limited selection I don’t mean THAT limited. I never did get to elbow my way into a tasting spot at Horton’s booth to see what the fuss was about or if it was deserved.

Aside from Horton many other aspects of the Carytown Food and Wine Festival seemed deliberately geared towards the younger crowd, and I’m saying that as a 27 year old.  There were at least 2 different vineyards selling…Wine Jell-O shots. Let me repeat that so I know you didn’t miss it: WINE… JELL-O SHOTS! If your wine is anywhere near respectable what would possess you to turn it into a Jell-O shot? That’s what the world has cheap vodka for.  I know that there is a large college aged crowd in Richmond thanks to numerous Colleges and Universities in the area, but there needs to be a balance between offering wines that college kids just learning about and getting into wine will enjoy, and offering wines that more experienced and discriminating wine drinkers such as myself would enjoy.

Needless to say I left the Carytown Food and Wine festival discouraged and not feeling like like $20 admission was well spent. Every year the Guru and I attend the MASSIVE Virginia Wine expo in February and 3/4 of the way through my pallet and finer motor skills are shot,  everything tastes the same and at least one wine glass has fallen victim to my failing grip.  So I keep hoping smaller festivals like this will come through and deliver on good wine from great vineyards on a more reasonable scale, but it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know if that’s because the big dogs don’t see the value in something so small, or if the little guys swoop in to participate because it’s the only festival they can afford, or maybe both? All I do know is that unless next year’s roster is drastically different this will likely be the last time I attend this particular event.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention the food half of the Carytown Food and Wine Festival it’s because I didn’t have any. We went to brunch beforehand at Millie’s Diner and had the best brunch EVER, they were definitely the highlight of the day.



  1. Jello shots? Really??

    For a view from the winery’s side of the table, see this post.

    This post was commentary on a different festival, but they all are fundamentally the same.

    Here’s a suggestion for the next Wine Expo, which is a strategy observed by wine shop owners, which is pretty simple: try the wine of the wineries you aren’t familiar with. And who don’t serve Jello shots or Sangria.

  2. Humorous, indeed. Just returned from a trip through Virginia with stops at a few wineries. Horton’s was so crowded that we did not even wait to taste!

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