What do the Wine Experience sommeliers do when they sneak away for an hour or so? They're certainly not relaxing with a glass of wine. We were taking a break ourselves, and spotted sommelier Richard Betts from Little Nell in Aspen drinking a nice, tall, cold pint of beer at Hog Island Oysters, at the back of the Ferry Terminal.
The volunteer sommeliers actually have it pretty rough. Starting at 7 a.m. each day, they taste through the entire lineup of wines being poured, checking to be sure each bottle is in good condition. And they know there's an audience of 1,000 waiting for them.
Tribeca Grill sommelier David Gordon, who is a Wine Experience veteran, went to check on Betts’ decanting effort just before the start of Saturday's Maison Drouhin tasting. Betts was just finish working with the 1976, when Gordon suggested that it'd be faster if he decanted from bottle to bottle instead of decanting everything and then pouring back into the bottles. Betts, whose wine list holds a Grand Award, agreed, and Gordon jokingly assured him, “You’re gonna make it someday, kid.”
We joined Gordon and Gary Danko’s Christie DuFault as they tasted through the 1999 Torres wines, their lips, teeth and gums already stained a deep, dark purple and their palates pretty roughed up by then. And the Spanish wines were some of the most tannic of the day. Sure enough, it started out enjoyable and quickly became a struggle. Out of the six cases, eight bottles were corked, though two were borderline. Said Gordon, “You’ve got to be sure. If someone out there says it’s corked, it’s us who have to go out there and collect all the glasses, and it doesn’t make us look good.” So with teeth and tongue really struggling now, the team pressed on through the replacement bottles, all of which were deemed worth pouring.
But none of the wines can be served until the two sommeliers assigned to each bottling do a final count, write up a tasting note and both sign the form. Christie took the honor of writing up the tasting note, calling the 1999 Torres a “grand wine,” then handed it to Gordon. “Grand?” he asked. “Would you really say that? I’m not signing the form,” he joked. Christie rolled her eyes. Gordon sighed mockingly, borrowed a pen, looked as if he would sign it anyway, then crossed out the word “grand” before handing it back to her. Ah, those crazy sommeliers.
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