My friend Linda had long been asking me to join her at a certain monthly wine tasting; one that has a unique rep, to be sure. I wasn't a stranger to local wine events, having attended various vino shindigs at The Cellar Rat, Wines by Jennifer, and, of course, the much-missed John Glenn wine tastings at the Elms Hotel and Spa. I finally relented to join Linda at this other wine tasting, at a place that is a truly unique joint called Red X.
Red X is a deliriously strange independent discount store in Riverside, MO. The latest (and most awesome) KC foodie bible, Food Lover's Guide To Kansas City, by Sylvie Hogg Murphy, has a terrific write-up on the Red X phenomenon. Ms. Hogg points out that on a wine tasting night, the parking lot looks like a major concert is going on inside. Indeed, these monthly Thursday night wine events pack them in from all over and soon I would see why.
Its quite easy to be a bit taken aback when you enter Red X. If you go through the liquor department door, you might first see the giant wooden Indian or the display case of antique alarm bells. The very vastness of the place leaves you awestruck and unsure of where to begin, so I was most grateful for being with Linda, who knows Red X like that the back of her hand. We quickly grabbed our wine glasses and waited for the lights to blink which signaled the beginning.
Soon, the wine was flowing and we were sampling. People walked by balancing plates of bread and cheese. There were quite a few vendors represented, all with Rotary volunteers pouring freely. We moved quickly from vendor to vendor and admittedly, at times, I felt a bit overwhelmed. As Linda rolled through like a pro, I just needed to drop back and drink it all in...so to speak. The vendors explained their wines as the volunteers poured in the shadow of antique carousel horses in various poses behind them. Considering the size of the crowd at this point, its a wonder that everyone minds their manners as they continue through the line. Said line moves so quickly that you have to be alert to catch all the wines. Speaking of the wines themselves, there were plenty of gems to sample, including the Primitivo Primaterra; a wow of a bold, fruity red that I purchased a bottle of. I stood back, savoring my taste of this wine and... ooh, look, a six-pack of boxer briefs for only $13.oo! Indeed, this ain't your typical wine tasting...
Various liqueurs and craft beers were also being sampled and I swooned over a Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale. I bought a couple of bottles as part of a mix-and-match six pack. My meager buys for the day paled in comparison to most, who walked out with grocery carts filled with wine. And maybe some tools from the hardware department. Or some Champs Fried Chicken while making plans to return the following night for Frog Legs Fridays. Red X, in all seriousness, carries one of the most astounding selection of beer and wine that I've ever seen. On our way out, Linda introduced me to Zeke Young, the son of founder E.H. Young, who carries on the proud Red X tradition. Alas, I was so spun 'round from this experience, I forgot to look for the glass eyeball collection before we left.
We met Keith for dinner at nearby Corner Cafe after the tasting. Per Linda's suggestion, I ordered their homemade chicken and noodles with fried okra and cole slaw. The dish, was a warm, comforting bowl of goodness than served to ground me after the dizzying experience of my first Red X wine tasting. Reflecting, I realized that the Red X tasting, like wine itself, is an acquired taste. I also realize that I really dig the eccentricity of the experience....nothing else even comes close. For that reason alone, I can completely appreciate the one-of-a-kind Red X wine tasting.