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It is June 8th and I’ve just got home from Rivino Winery’s First Annual Wine & Bacon Fest. That’s right. Bacon Fest! Notice which part of that title I focused on. Of course, it was the bacon. My son loves bacon. It’s his favorite food. The boy is most definitely a carnivore and as a ravenous teen, he can eat. He’s also a discerning gourmet who has logged more time in the kitchen than most kids his age. At the time of this writing he’s about to leave on a trip and I won’t see him for a few weeks (So sad, how will I ever survive without my assistant and voice of reason?), so when I read on the Facebook event pages that there was going to be a bacon fest at Rivino Winery it seemed the perfect going away present for him.
Honestly, I had no idea where Rivino Winery was. Like, I may have mentioned before, I don’t drink. To me, wine is an ingredient in recipes and the precursor to the beautiful depth and complexity of some fine vinegars. So, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually knew its location and was familiar with the area once I had looked it up in the Google Maps. Apparently, it is one of the dozens of vineyards I have driven past dozens of times in Mendocino County.
The event was held out in the vineyard up on the grassy berms around an irrigation pond. There was a shade tent for the ticket booth and several picknick tables with large umbrellas or other shade over them disbursed around the water. Three bacon tasting stations were set up; one each on the East, South, and West sides of the pond. The sun was bright and unrelenting.
Five dollars bought one plastic stemless wineglass with the Rivino Logo on it and one bacon tasting. When we were purchasing our tickets, I was told that there were only six types of bacon. So, I purchased a glass for each of us and one tasting of each type of bacon for each of us. That was what I asked for. Because even if my child couldn’t drink the wine, I was still paying for the glass as a souvenir. That was forty dollars for what I thought would be twelve tickets and two glasses. No receipt was provided for me to verify what I would be charged. What I got was six tickets split between the two of us and one glass. Bacon tastings were $2.50 a piece a la cart and the glasses were an additional $2.50.
Despite this, I’m not terribly upset. We were given double portions of the Brown Sugar and Maple Canadian Bacon at one of the serving tables. At another we received a sample of Chocolate Mouse with Bacon Crumbles (simply delightful). With the Canadian Bacon there was a sampling of some kind of bean dish with bacon and onions in it. Later, when we were down to two tickets and my son couldn’t decide which of the four remaining samples he hadn’t been able to taste, one of the winery employees overheard us debating what to try and gave him two more tickets. In the end we did get the full sampling of everything we had paid for. When I checked my account, I had been charged $37.50 for the six samples and one wine glass we received.
Because the full pricing was not listed on the event page I was not prepared and didn’t have the cash on hand. I had to use my debit card and they were charging debit cards by collecting card numbers and writing them all down on a sheet with relevant information to be charged later. We almost turned around right there. Getting to the bacon fest was a bit of a trek in the heat and I didn’t really want to go. It was for my kid though, so I muddled through. Parking was not near where the food was located or even very clearly marked. I only knew where to park because of the other vehicles which had gotten there before me lined up on the side of the road in front of the entrance to the winery.
Will I go again next year? At first I thought “Maybe, if my son wants to go”. He had a lot of fun and liked the food. However, the “bacon” was large cuts of pork belly which had been seasoned and grilled. It did not taste like cured and smoked bacon which one buys sliced from the store. There also weren’t as many seating options as I would have liked. If there had been more people, I wouldn’t have been able to sit between tastings. Protection from the seasonal elements is a big determining factor in whether I want to attend an event more than once.
Was this event family appropriate? It was not family-inappropriate. There were no drunken creeps hitting on young women. The attendees were quiet and clustered in their own groups for the most part. Not a whole lot of mingling going on which I thought was odd, but I haven’t attended a whole lot of wine tastings which I wasn’t working. Maybe I want to mingle more than the average person because I’m trying to get other opinions about the event besides my own.
What about you, my readers? Have you attended any bacon fests recently? I’ve got another one coming up soon and I can’t wait to go and see whether this one satisfies my expectations or if it will be wildly different than what I thought it would be.
Update: I attended the Lake County Beer, Wine, and Swine Bacon Fest for 2019 in Lake County California. It was awful. There is not enough shade provided for the time of year and the heat in that area. It also is not pet friendly despite taking place on public streets so not a good event if one is traveling with pets.
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