On Thursday, Wine Spectator brought its annual three-day extravaganza to Los Angeles for the first time in the Wine Experience's history, with a lineup of more than 200 outstanding and classic wines. While strolling the spacious halls of the JW Marriott at L.A. Live, guests traversed the New World of wine, from California, Oregon, Washington and other U.S. areas to Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and beyond.
The crowd was a mix of regulars and new faces. After sampling the Pinot Noir from El Molino in Napa Valley, area residents Brandon and Josephine Miller were considering their next stop, amazed at the prospect of a whole second floor of wineries they hadn't even seen yet. "It's the first wine tasting event we've been to," said Brandon. "We're starting with a bang."
In contrast, John and Helen Leahey of Orlando Beach, Fla., have been coming to the Wine Experience for around 20 years. Helen said they made the cross-country trip to Los Angeles because the event "is the highlight of my husband's year." John added, "We don't just keep coming back—we've added more and more people. We now bring 9 people with us, children, their spouses, a grandchild one year."
Other visitors came from even farther afield, such as Robert Joergensen, a wine importer from Norway who was tasting through wines for finds to bring into his own country. "I love this event because you meet people from all over the world, "said Napa vintner Boots Brounstein, owner of Diamond Creek.
Beyond the opportunity to try so many 90-points-plus wines in one weekend, a key draw of the Wine Experience is the chance for wine drinkers to make connections with the winemakers and vintners behind the bottlings they love. South Africa's Ken Forrester said, "I've been coming for six years. A customer just said to me, 'I love that you're here pouring it yourself every year.' Where else can you get that personal interaction?"
Here are portraits of a few of the notable winemakers and winery owners who were on hand to pour their wines, along with the guests who came to enjoy them. Click any thumbnail photo to open the slideshow.