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by Megan Leigh Barnard

Reinventing the Meal: 10 for $10 Wine Tastings

You don’t have to have a complicated idea in order to be inventive.

Landon Proctor just wanted good people to taste some good wine–without a fiscal hangover, or a snootful of shade about one’s lack of knowledge.

Thus his 10 for $10 wine tastings was born, several-times-weekly pop-up wine events around the city where everyone from the wannabe somms to simple sippers can expand their palate for the price of an Alexander Hamilton. The result has been a true local phenomenon, one that draws crowds in the hundreds and has been successful enough for Proctor to go full-time on the vine.

In between tastings, we went 10 for 10 with Mr. 10 for $10:

What was the first glass of wine you ever had? I had my first drink a little later in life; grad school is hard so I took up wine at 24 to obsess over something that wasn’t math. My first glass was of Beaujolais Nouveau—a deliberately simple French wine meant to be drunk young and without airs. It was straightforward enough that I could start to pick apart the flavors even without a lot of experience. I remember thinking, “Oh crap, this is great but don’t pick up an expensive habit, dummy!” Too late.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about drinking/appreciating wine? That there’s a “right way” to do it. So many people come to my tastings and are so worried they’re going to be judged for not having had a wine from Italy before, or not knowing how to pronounce Gewürztraminer, or swirling too much or not enough. If you’re going somewhere where you’re being talked down to, about wine or anything else glorious and fun, get the hell out of there! It’s honestly just booze, people. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Besides your own events, what is the best bang-for-your buck drink spot in town? I mean, you’ve basically set a new standard for happy hour in town… The Bottle Shop is my go-to spot for a wide variety of fantastic drinks at stupidly good prices. It doesn’t hurt that the proprietors Barbara and German are straight-up wonderful human beings who put a lot of thought and effort into making their small business one of the best hangouts in town.

Do you remember the first time you were like, Holy shit, where are all these people coming from? Yes! I had been doing small, intimate wine tastings for $10 in bars and restaurants regularly for a few years in the hopes that community would build around them. I had been getting about 10-15 people at my well-attended tastings and suddenly in Fall 2016 I started seeing 75, 100, 150 people a night. It took me a while to figure out Facebook changed how people see who is attending events and suddenly a lot of people heard about these tastings for the first time. I’ve been doing the same thing three nights a week for about four years now and it’s gratifying to see it finally resonating with so many people!

In all of this madness what was one customer that summed up exactly why you started this, and why your philosophy on wine is one people are embracing? Every single time I can change someone’s preconceived notion about a grape, a style, or a region it makes me smile. Have you had bad experiences with over-oaked Chardonnay? Try this unoaked French version. Think all Rosé is sweet? Come to my annual all-rosé tasting where 90 percent of them are dry. One of my favorite moments was after a tasting, a man came up to me who had clearly been a reluctant participant the whole evening and said, “I wanted to not like this but you made it not suck.” That’s high praise!

I like to make analogies with pop culture, to laugh, to make things accessible and break through the stuffy trappings surrounding supposedly mystifying wine tradition. I’m trying to be the non-condescending wine person I wish had been around when I was trying to learn about this stuff. A bottle of wine is a shared experience and I’m trying to make that experience interesting and memorable.

What are your thoughts on Sideways? I think Sideways f*cked up American wine drinking for a certain age group. The protagonist was a pretentious, failed wine snob. It’s incredible to me that most of what people took away from it was how to emulate the language and attitude of a pretentious, failed wine snob. Hopefully more people will watch things like Chef’s Table on Netflix and replace that outdated, fear-based, defensive approach to wine with something more joyful, inclusive, and celebratory.

What are the best and worst wine trends of the last 10 years? Best: people learning sparkling isn’t just for New Year’s Eve; the rediscovery of quality German and Austrian wines; that new wine drinkers aren’t beholden to points or scores anymore; the rise of dry Rosé.

Worst: the fixation on gadgets and pumps and expensive aerators—you just need a bottle and a glass (and sometimes not even the glass); blue wine is not a thing; wine during yoga; countertop wine-making machines; the rise of crappy, sweet California Pinot Noir.

Wine in a can? Sure-why-not, or never-ever Excuse me, I think you meant to say, WINE NOT? There’s no harm in it but I’m not 100 percent sure who it’s for. Seems like a solution in search of a problem.

What would you rate, personally, as the success rate of uncorking a bottle of wine with a shoe—without ruining the shoe and bottle? I’ve only ever done this twice and it worked both times. Once because I heard about it for the first time and had to try and once because I brought wine to a house with no wine key. The process of opening it with a shoe was more fun for everyone than the wine itself.

In 10 years, where do you see yourself and what bottle are you drinking? Hopefully still doing some version of this, honestly. There will always be people just getting into wine for the first time, whether they turned 21 yesterday or are newly retired and are looking for something to fill their time. I want people to experience the incredible aspects of wine in a welcoming, creative, social way and that never ends. In 10 years I probably want to be drinking Von Winning’s Forster Ungeheuer Riesling because if that infinitely beautiful wine ever gets old to me I’ll know it’s time to pack it in and go back to math.

You can catch Proctor and 10 for $10 Wine Tastings all over the city this spring, including stops at Rehab Tavern, Market Italian Village, and Crafted Drafts. For more, visit columbus10for10.com.

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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