Thursday, August 13, 2015

Drinking with Superhereos: Nocking Point Mixer in Austin

I recently spent 4 days in Indianapolis, with most of those days spent at GenCon. Unfortunately, we left at the start of day 4 to get home. But, what we came home for was well worth it. After flying for 5 hours, we ate and drove to Austin to attend the Nocking Point Wines Texas Mixer.

Nocking Point is owned by two friends, Stephen Amell and Andrew Harding. They travel the country hosting tasting parties and raising money for their charity, NP Gives. They also film a YouTube show, Dudes Being Dudes in Wine Country. And for those not in the know, Mr. Amell plays Oliver Queen -- the Green Arrow -- on CW's Arrow (hence he superheroes reference in the title).

Now, I already covered the event for Texas Wine Lover, so you can go here for that article and its photos. What I want to share here is all the extra silly things from the party.

First, there were the refreshments. We sampled 6 wines, and, if one tried, he/she could have enjoyed multiple tastings of each. Honestly, they should probably institute a ticket system for the wine. In addition, each guest received two tickets for a beer, cocktail, or other alcohol beverage from the host -- Old School Bar and Grill. It was hot, and we do not drink beer, so Sean and I sipped on 2 Austin Eastciders.

This was about as much space as one could find.
And that is the thing, it was hot! It did not help that Sean and I just came back from Indianapolis. During most of our trip there was little to no humidity, and the temperatures were at least 10 degrees cooler than Texas. The heat hit everyone hard. When standing in line, we all hid in the shade, but it was not enough. Inside, the second story -- where most of the fun took place -- was open to outside (the fans and AC cut down the heat but did not remove it). And one of the best places to avoid the crowds, which I had enough of while wandering the exhibitor hall at GenCon, was the porch outside. Suffice it to say, everyone, at the very least, glistened.

Now, I am going to be honest here. I was not that impressed by the event. Yes, I had fun, and yes, it was nice, but some of the problems made it less so.

First, it was nigh impossible to talk to Stephen Amell unless you elbowed your way to him. I had wanted to ask him a few questions -- hoping for maybe 5 minutes of his time -- but I barely got time to ask him one. And while I did so, the crowd tried to push me aside and interrupted him. For that, I do not blame Stephen at all, but I do blame the crowd for being so inconsiderate to one another and out host.

This was typical, and the tall person with the red hair is me.
Second, there was limited time to talk to either host. It seems that there are a number of people who attend a lot of the mixers. Those familiar faces attracted what was left of both hosts time. I understand wanting to catch up with people who are friends, but it quickly took time away from anyone else.

Third, we couldn't get pictures. I had to agree not to take any pictures of Stephen and Andrew and focus on the wine. The plan was to focus on the wine, but I had hoped to get one of them together. There was never a time when pictures were allowed -- they could easily have gone on stage and let the crowd take pictures. In addition, those that did get pictures --usually with the hosts -- had BIG reasons why they wanted the pictures. Honestly, most I witnessed were likely exaggerations at best. And did I mention all the people who broke the rules and took the pictures anyway? SO of course, I have no pictures of Stephen and Andrew.

Closes thing to a picture of Stephen and Andrew. This accidentally got snapped was we waited for the band.

Fourth was space. The location was cramped for the beginning. I did my best to escape the crowds for much of the time, but any attempt would quickly be in vain. Of course, it did not help that when Sean and I retreated to the calm that the storm -- aka Stephen -- would come right by. I lost track of the number of time I politely stepped aside to let him and his people through. Many times, I was less than a foot away and face-to-face with him.

I know some of this is entirely out of their hands, but actions can be taken to avoid or decrease these problems.

One crazy thing that happened, and really made the night, was the band, Brother Sal's, last set. First, the music was stirring and performed with such passion. And, by odd, chance, we go into the front row. We had asked to take photos of the band, and they agreed. We prepared ourselves by setting up near the stage. As we waited, the several people in front of us left, moving us to the front. As for the photos, they did not come out well. Sean opted to not use the flash -- out of respect -- and so they fame out blurry.
The best picture of the band.

Not only was the front row cool, but we were on the side nearest Stephen and Andrew. Yet again, without trying, we found ourselves close by. It was really hard not to take pictures.

Now, part of the reason for visiting Texas was to film the second episode of their show. I was totally excited, and I tried to reach to reach out to them to provide any info or assistance. And to be honest, they could have used it.

The episode takes place at Austin Winery. So why did they choose that one? Because it was in Austin. That's it. They like Austin, so they choose the winery in the city. 

So why not drive an hour or so and head to the Hill Country? They did not know about it. I was a bit shocked. They own a winery, they are interested in wine, and are especially interested in unique places and wine. As many know, the Hill Country, let alone the other regions, has found its way into a LARGE number of publications -- both industry ones and popular ones. They should have known, which was disappointing.

Now, I have not visited Austin Winery, so I cannot say if it is a good choice. I do know, and even Stephen admitted this, that they have almost no Texas appellation wine. I do not understand how they can film an episode on Texas wine if they do not drink any. It seems really counter-intuitive. Also, by choosing Austin Winery, they did not get the full Texas wine experience. Going out to the wineries is a big deal. Out in the Hill Country, the High Plains, East Texas, and all the places in between, the winery experience is unique and special. The community one finds along the various wine trails cannot be experienced at a single winery. The grandeur of Texas wine country – the vineyards, rolling hills, grand vistas, bright blue skies – cannot be found at an urban winery. 

I, and at least one other person, told both Andrew and Stephen about the Hill Country. They both made remarks that suggest they may come back, which is good. However, they also seemed unconcerned, so their return may be a pipe dream.

I know, this was rather critical, but there is no reason not to be. And besides, the good stuff is at Texas Wine Lover. The wines were nice, and I really loved two of them. Stephen and Andrew were nice and approachable, just hard to talk to for more than a few seconds. The band was rocking. We also talked with lots of cool people. All and all, it was a good time, and I would do it again.