Zachary Gorgen couldn’t pronounce it, but he knew that the best wine he tried Saturday was from the northern region of Italy, possibly Piedmont.
“It’s a white wine,” he said, before staring once more at the slip of paper where the vendor had written down the name of the wine.
The 23-year-old from Charlton had just showed up by his dad’s side, next to a Schenectady history wall inside Proctors. The Capital Region Wine Festival had kicked off about an hour earlier and the crowd was just starting to loosen up.
Now in its sixth year, the event attracts an interesting range of people. There are those who know little about wine, those who know a fair amount about wine and those who consider themselves connoisseurs. All are looking to try something new.
Gorgen’s father, Richard, considers himself a casual imbiber, but speaks of swirling and aerating and a visit to the Finger Lakes wine country.
“It’s a hobby more than anything, I guess,” he said. “I’m a chef by profession and I like a lot of seafood, so I think that’s why I’ve come to like wine so much.”
The festival attracts anywhere from 400 to 500 visitors for a three-hour-long “grand tasting affair” that raises funds for Proctors. The wines come from all over the world and are handpicked by Southern Wine & Spirits of America, a nationally recognized wine and spirits distributor with locations all over the country, including in Albany. At Saturday’s event, wines were often paired with food from local establishments, including Cornell’s Restaurant, Angelo’s Tavolo and more.
Leesa Perazzo, a city councilwoman and group sales manager at Proctors, organized the event this year, which kicked off with a Saturday morning New Orleans brunch buffet and live music from the Jill Hughes Blues Trio.
“I had people calling from out of state asking about staying at the Hampton Inn overnight,” she said. “It attracts people from all over, really. Some of them are people who like to support Proctors and some are people who have been here before and really enjoyed it.”
People sipped wines and snacked on plates of food being offered at dozens of booths lining the GE Theatre at Proctors and the nearby box office lobby. The tasting event in the afternoon was $50 per person, and attracted a wide variety of people, old and young, some in business attire and others in casual clothes, some sipping and swallowing wines, others sipping and spitting. The latter group tends to be the more professional wine tasters.
“All the tables here are manned by people who know about wines and are in the industry,” said Perazzo. “So the information they offer is geared toward the person’s interest level. We get people who want to have a very high-level conversation about wine, our wine connoisseurs, and we get people who just want to drink wine, you know?”
All proceeds from the event, which was capped off Saturday with a live auction, go to support Proctors.