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Predicting a Wine Riot

Step right up guys and gals and experience wine like you’ve never experienced it before!

Three hundred different wines from around the world, short seminars, photo booths, tattoos, you name it, it’s all here at Wine Riot. Grab your glass and make your way to the party!

First, let’s take a short walk to meet the founders, Tyler Balliet and Morgan First. In 2008, Balliet and First maxed out their credit cards, called in every favor they had, and made Wine Riot a reality. It was an instant hit.

They’ve grown since those days but their dedicated team continues to work their asses off to find the best wineries and incredibly knowledgeable experts to put on an absolutely amazing show just for you.

Hear that announcer at the mic? That’s Balliet. He fell into the wine industry by accident. His first real taste came from working at a wine store in Boston. He took the job because he didn’t know anybody, was bored and received a discount. But as he started learning more he noticed more and more young people coming into the store who didn’t know a lot about wine and asked a lot of questions.

He quickly found out the wineries and producers had all the answers people were looking for. So, what was the next step? For Balliet, it meant starting a small print wine magazine. This is where First came in, helping to promote Balliet’s endeavor with launch parties.

After attending tasting events where the general opinion was “how did they take these huge rooms full of alcohol and make them boring?,” Balliet and First took their knowledge and success from their smaller events and took a risk with something bigger. Wine Riot.

Today, his brainchild is a major force in the wine world, giving people the chance to actually learn about wine and have fun at the same time. You will see him giving an intro “How to Riot” crash course and running around orchestrating the chaos.

First is the master of ceremonies at Wine Riot. She orchestrates front of house, welcoming attendees and vendors alike. During the Riot you will see her tirelessly hopping all over the venue — everywhere from booths to the tattoo station — to make sure Wine Riot is at optimal awesomeness.

And speaking of booths, let’s make our way to the first booth now.

Like all great journeys, you have to start at the beginning. Here at the Wine 101 booth you get to learn eight different tasting terms by tasting them.

Try dry versus sweet featuring the same grape from the same region. Bold versus mature with a four year difference between each wine. Oaked versus unoaked and Old World versus New World featuring an Argentine Cabernet and French Cabernet. Now you know your preference before you’re really unleashed onto the wines.

The educational booths make a great second stop. Each booth features an eight by eight foot banner with facts of the region including food pairings. The expert at the booth can answer all your burning questions.

To continue on the educational path, why not pop in to a crash course seminar? Each seminar lasts only 20 minutes and dives into topics such as Rieslings from the same region with different tasting notes (dry, off-dry, sweet) and the why and how this happens.

Curious as to how you will keep track of this new knowledge that has been bestowed upon you? Download the Wine Riot phone app. Mark down “like it,” “love it” or “pass” for each wine you’ve tried. See what others think by taking a peek at the big screen with live Top lists. You could be the start of a new trend with your friends.

Now go grab a temporary tattoo, dress up for the photo booth with a feather boa and fake mustache and request a song from the DJ facilitating the riot. May I recommend “I Predict a Riot” from the Kaiser Chiefs?

Finally, top the off your experience by stopping at the Bubbly Bar. Taste a variety of sparklers from across the globe and then toast to a day of rioting.

More from the Founding Rioters:

Spit or swallow?

Tyler Balliet – I spit when I taste for work, obviously I drink when I drink. I realize when I went to VINITALY that no one spits when they taste over there. Things get crazy.
Morgan First – Spit if it’s a tasting of more than three to five wines. But of course, saving or remembering the best for last so you can go back and swallow more!

When was your wine “ah ha” moment?

T.B. – When I tasted a Rioja and got some vanilla flavors and realized that was because of the American oak they use in the region. It was really cool to start putting the pieces of wine together.
M.F. – My best friend’s father invited me to Argentina and we traveled to Mendoza. It was there visiting the wineries and trying the wine that I finally understood where wine came from and the why people were so excited to be a part of it.

If a celebrity, dead or alive, endorsed Wine Riot, who would it be and why?
T.B. – Keith fucking Richards. Or David Bowie. Because both are total badasses.

What is Wine Riot’s theme song?
T.B. – Macklemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”

If you could create your own wine club, what would the name be and would you have a secret password?
T.B. – I mean, I’m a branding guy that likes to party so I’d probably start a wine dive bar called Second Glass. No password because that’s not how we roll. We ain’t snobs around these parts and we don’t judge!

Short sniff or long breaths?
T.B. – You gotta breathe that stuff!

Closure preference?
T.B. – I fly a lot and rarely have a wine opener so I prefer screw caps or bubbly tops.

What would you say to a “wine snob” at a tasting?
T.B. – “I’m sorry, because I’m clearly going to have way more fun at this thing than you will.”
M.F. – I would probably just ignore them.

What does one wear when Wine Rioting?
T.B. – Dress to impress. You will inevitably flirt with many people you find quite attractive!
M.F. – We actually get this question all the time and I like to describe it as what you would wear to a nice night out at a trendy bar. But I am always in a dress and heels and believe it’s always more fun to be over dressed.

Best wine advice you ever received?
T.B. – For learning about wine; read as much as you can and drink as many different wines as possible. At first, nothing will make sense, but slowly the pieces will come together. I learned this seven years ago and still use it today.

Favorite pairing?
T.B. – I love wine and music. Food is good, but a killer bottle of wine and a great album, usually played as loud as the neighbors will allow, is more my speed.
M.F. – A bottle of wine and an outdoor picnic.

The world’s about to end. What do you grab to drink?
T.B. – Probably whiskey, because screw it, right? If I’m limited to wine I’ll just drink all of the bubbles. Like, ALL of them!

What is one misconception about wine you would like to remedy in your lifetime?
T.B. – That you need to know a lot about wine in order to have an opinion. I can’t play guitar or read music but I can tell you my opinion of a band. Why isn’t it this way with wine? “How do you know a good wine?” is the #1 question I’m asked. My answer is simple “You try it and want to drink more of it.”
M.F. – I hate that people don’t trust their own tastebuds and they say things to “wine experts” like “I liked it, but I don’t know, is it a good wine?” Screw wine experts – everyone has a different palate and knows what they like. If you taste it and you like it, awesome! If you don’t also awesome because you can start to shape what you like  and that might change over time! Everyone knows what they like and they don’t need experts to tell them what is good.

Find a riot near you:

New York CitySept. 20-21
Washington DCSept. 27-28
BostonOct. 25-26
Los AngelesNov. 9

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    Theresa Dillon

    Theresa Dillon
    Theresa Dillon earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU. In her spare time she enjoys reading, attending concerts, weekly trivia nights, watching movies (especially her favorite The Wizard of Oz), and of course wine.