Yeah, sure, this event is all about the great wines. And we could do a whole blog post waxing rhapsodic about any number of wines, like the 2001 Yquem. (Confession: We didn't spit it. So what--neither does Pierre Lurton, who runs the estate.) But we also appreciate a good laugh, a touching moment, a display of unbridled enthusiasm. Here are just a few of the more memorable moments of the weekend:
• Two years ago, Edna Valley vintner John Alban showed up at a Wine Experience Syrah tasting with a beach ball, jokingly threatening to throw it into the audience, amid all the glassware, to keep things interesting. This time he was on the Top 10 Tasting panel, as his Alban Syrah Edna Valley Reva 2003 (96 points, $56) was the No. 6 wine in 2005. When it was his turn to speak, he pulled out a giant piece of bling--a "diamond"-studded number 6 on a huge "gold" chain--that he claimed to have purchased after learning of the honor. Regretfully though, he said, "I promised my wife I would not wear it today." We cornered him after the tasting and he confessed that the wife of a winery worker made the bling. But despite cajoling, he declined to actually put it on for a photo. "I do want to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary," he said.
• During the Pinot Noir tasting, as guests were enjoying Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus 2004, senior editor and lead California taster James Laube recounted a story about when he used to taste Burgundy. On a visit to Bouchard, he purchased a magnum of the 1972 Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus and carried it around the rest of the trip "cradling it like a baby." But when he got to Charles de Gaulle airport for his return flight, when the customs official reached for his wine, it fell and smashed open. "An incredible aroma filled the air," he said, laughing ruefully. "I did all I could to stop from dropping to my knees" to lick it off the floor. "The airport never smelled so good."
• Columnist Matt Kramer is always good for a quip--or 20. Where do we even begin? In his seminar on wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains, he said vintners there "are nuts--loony tunes"--terms not often used to describe debonair industry icon Paul Draper of Ridge. Kramer also coined the term "lingerie Pinot Noir"--to describe wines that are silky and seductive. And describing the trip through McMansion-filled suburbs up to Kathryn Kennedy winery and its well-manicured landscape, he said, "You come up the driveway and you expect to meet Edward Scissorhands."
• Apparently following up on Kramer's lingerie theme, while presenting the Gemstone Yountville 2002 during the Napa Cabernet tasting, owner Paul Frank, who would have called the wine Testosterstone if it weren't for his wife, said he didn't want to make a "bikini wine." Explaining the term, he quipped, "A bikini wine is alluring in what it reveals, but what it conceals is the most important part." During the same seminar, one of Napa's newest vintners, Charles Banks, answered the question posed to him frequently. "People ask why we would buy Screaming Eagle--aside from the obvious; we wanted to get on the mailing list."
• Maison Joseph Drouhin chairman Robert Drouhin poured six vintages of Clos des Mouches, including the 1976, and four of Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche, including the 2002 vintage (97 points, $315 on release) and the 1992 vintage (94, $200). Afterwards, he received a standing ovation from the audience for his generosity in pouring the tiny-production Montrachet. The charming, gentle-spoken Frenchman then stood and toasted the audience of wine lovers as "our best link between our two great nations."
• We have to admit we were a bit overwhelmed when we sat down Saturday morning and realized there were 30 wine glasses in front of each of us and it was only 9 a.m. When it came down to the final seminar of the day--the first Wine Experience tasting ever dedicated exclusively to Spanish wines--executive editor Thomas Matthews asked the audience, "Twenty wines into the morning, are you still up for more?" With a lineup including Alvaro Palacios Priorat L'Ermita 2001 and Peter Sisseck's Dominio de Pingus Ribera del Duero 2000, the crowd simply cheered loudly. We're glad to know nothing intimidates our audience.
• After 10 Spanish reds, we were getting pretty hungry. It's hard to top the annual four chefs tasting with Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Charlie Trotter, which was held Friday. (With an average of one quip every 30 seconds, that will have to get a whole future blog post of its own.) So for lunch, we had 15. Gary Danko, Michael Mina and Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys were on hand plating and serving, along with other of San Francisco's finest chefs, including those from Ana Mandara, Bacar, Boulevard, Delfina, Fifth Floor, Julia's Kitchen, Kokkari Estiatorio, La Toque, Masa's, The Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, Viognier and Yabbies Coastal Kitchen. Oh, and oysters from Hog Island. Of course, we had to try everything. So if you'll excuse us, now we're going to go look for the hotel gym.
For those of you who were at this year's Wine Experience, what were some of your favorite moments?
Cedric Choi — Honolulu, Hawaii — October 22, 2006 10:11am ET
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