As we continue to enjoy fair skies and dry weather in Oregon, the harvest has become extended, meaning that vintners can take their time bringing in fruit. This allows vineyards to fully ripen their crops, yet, because of the cool weather and even colder nights, physiological ripeness does not necessarily mean high sugars and low acids. This is a year that reminds me of previous cool, successful years in Oregon's Willamette Valley. In fact, if 1999 and 2005 were to get together and have an offspring, it would resemble 2008.
This scenario allows me to thin out the picking schedule for three days and head to New York City for the annual Wine Experience. Bergström is honored to once again be invited to this fair city to pour our wines at what is a spectacular wine tasting event. Not only does it allow us producers to get to meet and talk with hundreds of consumers and trade people from around the United States and abroad, but we also get a chance to see old winemaking friends, taste their current wines and catch up on what their vintage was like and how their families are doing. It's truly a great event, and we always have a blast.
What's equally special for me is the opportunity to come to New York and eat at my favorite restaurants. This city’s culinary landscape has to be one of the most diverse and exciting in America. Last night was no exception. I enjoyed what was surely the second greatest meal of my life, at Thomas Keller’s Per Se restaurant. This is my second year eating at Per Se just before the Wine Spectator event and I am now a devotee of sorts. Last year's meal qualified as my first greatest meal of all time!
Pairing great wines with great food is what we all seek. Most wine lovers that I know are also great foodies. People who care about searching out and purchasing and cellaring the best bottles of wine seem to also put the same amount of care and attention into their dining experiences. And when the two of those things come together and form a synergy, then it makes for unforgettable experiences.
The meal last night was shared with friends, as good meals should be. Two of them were sommeliers from the city and one a sommelier from California. Two other friends have been in high-end wine sales for most of their lives, and know the city very well. The expectations were high, but then again, so was the anticipation. We all knew that this could possibly be the best dining experience of the year ... but would it be the best ever?
The nineteen courses not only did not disappoint but continually amazed, as each was rolled out effortlessly by the kitchen and staff. A team of close to 15 different servers, managers and sommeliers delivered and removed dishes, poured wines and presented artisan breads, butters and salts, anticipating the table's desires while remaining discreet and almost part of the background. The wine selections were guided by the sommelier, whose knowledge of our personal menu was precise enough to ensure that each and every wine that we had (most of them older vintages) paired effortlessly with each dish. The long and the short of it is that the meal was perfect.
I love to experience meals like this. I think that as a winemaker and business owner, I have learned some of my best lessons on service and experience from the great restaurants and hotels of the world. After all, wineries may be an agricultural and scientific pursuit on one hand, but on the other hand, we're in a service industry, and it's our job to ensure that our clients get the best out of us as we share our products and personal stories. And when you can create an experience that keeps people coming back again and again for more, that has to be the ultimate feeling of satisfaction.