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May is one of those months that best represents the duality of closing one chapter and welcoming the summer season ahead. With events like the Kentucky Derby, the Met Gala and elaborate Memorial Day-themed parties, excitement and warm temperatures are on the way for Quad-Citians. 

Here in the Quad-Cities, one particular event generates excitement each year for winos, enthusiasts and those just beginning to dabble in the world of wine. On May 18, the annual St. Ambrose Wine Tasting Tent event will run from 3-6 p.m. And it's not just for St. Ambrose alumni — Chris Mandle, one of the chairs of the festival, describes it as the perfect “kick-off to the summer season.” I, for one, couldn’t agree more.

The St. Ambrose Wine Tasting event is accessible to all ages — above 21, of course — and to all levels of wine enthusiast. Never tried a Barolo from Piedmont? Ever wondered what a Chardonnay from Argentina might taste like? This is your event. Whenever I talk to people who are new to the world of wine, my recommendation is to try tasting as many types of wines, regions and expressions as you can, and try them as often as you can. This is the only way to determine what you like and to perhaps uncover many unexpected discoveries along the way.

Proceeds from the event go toward student scholarships. At last year’s wine festival events, more $130,000 was raised for students. Over the festival's 18-year history, more than $1.3 million have been raised. 

As you arrive at the event, you will be greeted by a large outdoor reception area under the Ambrosian Oaks. Many tables fill the area as guests shuttle through and taste numerous selections of wines hand-selected by the Vintner Chair, Dimitri Papageorgiou, of Dimitri Wine & Spirits. Dimitri’s staff will be on-site to help guide guests through the numerous glasses available, giving a wonderful depiction of the stories behind each and every glass of wine. Be sure to grab an event program when you arrive — with almost 200 wines to choose from, you will want to make good use of your time there! 

Wine-tasting tip: I’ve discussed in previous columns the importance of tasting utilizing the 5 S’s; See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savor. To get the most out of events like these, be sure to follow the 5 S’s of wine tasting and even take notes on the wines you liked, what you pick up as you’re tasting, and which ones you’d like to go back to for another taste. This is how you develop a “snapshot” for your palate and begin to create a tasting memory like the pros.

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Wines will represent many regions, from California’s popular Napa Valley to Europe’s finest regions of Italy and France, along with many others that you’d be proud to have represented in your cellar. I encourage you to push past the realms of comfort and try the wines you’ve never heard of. Rather than investing in a full bottle only to find you don’t like it, tasting events are a perfect environment to branch out and try new wines without fear.

A little overwhelmed at the prospect of all these wines? Not to worry — these events include the full gamut of options and types of wines to suit every taste and palate. Food vendors will also be present, offering small plate options from many of your favorite Quad-City area restaurants, as will likely be needed after an afternoon of wine tasting.

As the event approaches, mark your calendars for The St. Ambrose Wine Festival Tasting event on Saturday, May 18, from 3-6 p.m. You can purchase tickets online at https://www.sau.edu/alumni/special-events/wine-festival for $50 per person before May 17 and $55 after May 17. Summer tasting events such as these are always on my must-do list, as they're a perfect way to celebrate the change in seasons. With nearly 200 wines to choose from and proceeds going back to student scholarships, this is an event you won't want to miss. 

Carson Bodnarek, a self-proclaimed “cork dork”, is a certificate recipient from the Court of Master Sommeliers and is currently studying for his certified CMS exam. Always on the hunt for his next great bottle of wine for his collection, he is an avid jetsetter and devout foodie. After moving to Quad-Cities from Iowa City in 2013, Carson now resides in Bettendorf.

Contact Carson Bodnarek at 563-383-2299 or cbodnarek@qctimes.com.

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