The Bristol Motor Speedway is usually filled with fanatical Nascar fans at its peak times, but every October the track is silent except for the March of Dimes Wine Tasting we rarely miss.

This was the 10th Anniversary benefitting this important charity in our region and features food and wines from the area’s best restaurants and live music high above the quarter-mile track in Bristol.

It’s a great cause and for $30 per ticket, this is a night to remember especially with a gang of friends – we had eight in our party including Dan and Tracy Strickler, Jennifer and Scott Kilgore, Matthew Carroll, Crystal Robinson and Lisa Bettini.

Before the night was over, we enjoyed two hours of great hospitality and celebrated another successful social event high in the sky.

The entrance to the track was kind of quiet turning into the gate. There were prominent signs pointing to the wine tasting that lead up to the parking lot behind the track.

Running ahead of schedule I ventured out into the grandstands to look across the track. The low overcast made the racing arena look small even though it welcomes over 140,000 fans in the Spring and Summer. After years of watching races, it always seems a bit smaller than the time before – despite all of the new suites surrounding the top of the track.

We signed a waiver to enter the benefit and were welcomed at the top of the elevator by several hostess who took our tickets and exchanged a small suite schedule featuring the restaurants which include Bristol Country Club, Stir Frye Cafe, Russos, Riverfront Seafood, CJ & Company, Java J’s, Levi Restaurants, World Classics Catering by Food City and Wellmont Chef Stacey Beddingfield.

Each hospitality suite is decked out with plenty of food and from the first we heard the Broadway piano of Brent Billheimer. Bill is a lively performer and he played piano next to the first bar which featured a Red Rock Merlot and Mirassoun Sauvignon.

The one thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the wine glasses get smaller although the food is more plentiful. My friend Greg commented, “yes, the wine glasses are small, but the fact they won’t fill them up – that’s sad.”

We both agreed that since it was for charity, it didn’t matte that much. There doesn’t seem to be a limit of how many times you can ask for a glass of wine, but the 2 ounce plastic “sipping cups” are rarely filled with more than a sip of wine. The wines are all fairly moderate wines – anywhere between 8 to 10 dollars at your favorite package store, but the real excitement is the food and the social setting.

Here’s a tip if you want to go next year. Go to the end of the suites and work your way backwards. It seems the early guests like starting up front and the lines can get a little crowded, but this year, it seemed to work very well.

The Bristol Country Club had a room with two Spanish wines and excellent finger foods and I was completely consumed with the World Classic Catering room which adjoined the faire from the Stir Frye Cafe.

This was their first year for Stir Frye at the taste and their table was ornate with every kind of sushi I could imagine and leafs of wasabi and complementary chop sticks. This was my personal favorite for the night.

Richard Banks was performing his acoustic set of music along with Tony Rominger on saxophone and ewi and they seemed to be one of the more popular rooms throughout the evening.

Riverfront Seafood had a Riesling and a Zinfandel for sampling and it was a delight to meet the owners of Bristol’s CJ and Company and share a sip of Gallo Pinot Noir. Their business is located on sixth street near the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion offices and we enjoyed their cornbread dressing too.

The Wellmont room had a bounty of foods and Australian wine while Java J’s had a small coffee suite at the end of the hall that was very popular toward the end of the night.

My overall favorite room for food, wine and music was the last one in the sky.

Russo’s from Johnson City had the place jumpin’ with jambalaya, chicken gumbo and new taste for my picky palette this evening with a South African Pinotage Shiraz that I fell in love with for the rest of the night.

The Mud Bugs were the perfect musical compliment to this festive room too as Mike Knowles, Phil Leonard, Sam Burke and Dr. Ron Baisden performed a fun set of New Orleans laced jazz – everything from Professor Longhair to Fats Domino.

Each year, the two-hour event seems to scream by and I’m pretty sure this was our fifth year, so we knew how to make our rounds and surfed in and out of the rooms throughout the rest of the night to hang out with our friends who show up each year.

Johnny and Lee Ann Rasar were one of the first couples I met and their daughter is going to be featured on an upcoming magazine cover for the March of Dimes. They are delightful couple and Johnny is a talented musician.

My high school bud Greg Taylor was with a gang of wonderful looking women – his wife Deanna, Jessica and a friend who was celebrating her birthday. We also commiserated about the stock market this week too. Greg is a financial planner for UBS and has been up to his eyeballs this week.

I enjoyed talking to our friends at Stir Frye and all the bands and musicians through the night too. We had time to catch up during the break and it’s always great to spend some time with these folks.

Thanks to everyone at BMS, Wachovia Securities, BB&T. GlaxoSmithKline, Wellmont and all the volunteers, restaurants and musicians who made this another great taste. See you next year!