Unfiltered was in the city that doesn't sleep for the 25th Wine Experience this past weekend, and consequently, Unfiltered didn't sleep. We were too busy keeping an eye out for stars and an ear to the ground for gossip. If you wanted to chat up your golf game, you could have talked with pros Greg Norman and Ernie Els, who were pouring their wines over the weekend. Norman was showing off his 1999 Reserve Shiraz at Saturday's tasting of Wine Spectator's Top 10 of 2004. Explaining the perils of getting involved in the wine business, he told the audience: "When you go to the doctor's office and they give you a form and you have to fill out how much alcohol you consume, how do I put down I drink a bottle of wine every day? But I do."
During their now-annual Wine Experience seminars, chefs Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Charlie Trotter like to rib one another, but back in the kitchen, Unfiltered witnessed many hugs and kind words among these friends. Of course, there was some ribbing as well. Batali (the only man on the planet who can get away with wearing orange plastic clogs, orange socks, khaki shorts and a grey vest over his chef's coat, with a lavender side towel tucked into his waist) pointed out to Emeril the disproportionate size of Emeril's plates. When Unfiltered suggested Emeril's cookie entry was three times larger than Batali's, Mario quipped, "No, it's five times larger--in weight, volume and airspace. It's OK--his empire is five times larger than mine."
|Emeril Lagasse loves his pork.|
Emeril did turn serious and emotional when recalling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its effect on his home base and his employees. "For me, it's just about bringing New Orleans back," he said. A spokesperson for Emeril told Unfiltered that a hazmat-type crew would be cleaning up his three New Orleans restaurants: Emeril's, which holds a Wine Spectator Grand Award for its wine list, and NOLA and Emeril's Delmonico, which each hold a Best of Award of Excellence. But it's likely that most of the wine stored in those restaurants has been ruined, after weeks of storage without temperature controls.
When the lunch prepared by the four chefs had been served, Wine Spectator executive editor Thomas Matthews reminded the crowd of diners, "The only people eating Charlie Trotter's food in New York are you." Although the Chicago chef recently cancelled plans to open a restaurant in New York's Time-Warner Center alongside Per Se and Masa, Trotter has expressed the hope that he will someday open a place in Manhattan. After all, he's got to keep up with his colleagues, whose holdings are growing ever vaster. But Batali, when asked what the future holds for him, had even grander plans: "The four of us decided to buy Exxon and close it."
|Victoria and Pierre fell four wines short of their tasting goal.|
Unfiltered also caught up with Adam Lee, co-owner of Siduri, who was beaming with the news that his wife, Dianna, is pregnant. This will be the third child for the couple, and Adam calls it a blessing. Dianna was diagnosed with lupus, and the couple, thinking they couldn't have any more children, recently adopted an infant. Unfiltered sends them warm congratulations.
We like the way they think: Unfiltered happened to overhear Christian Pol-Roger of Champagne Pol Roger saying in the Grand Tasting aisles: "Champagne should be cold, dry and free." In that case, we'll be stopping by the house on New Year's Eve. During the Wines of the Year seminar, which was held first thing on Friday morning, Adrian Bridge, managing director of Taylor Fladgate and Fonseca, quipped, "It's clearly going to be a great day of tasting if we're drinking Port before 10 a.m." When it comes to two 100-point wines, why wait? During the Top 10 tasting, Baron Eric de Rothschild described the 2001 Château Lafite Rothschild as "a wine that shows absolutely no resistance to being drunk." Hey, baby, come over here. And Pierre Lurton, director of both Château Cheval-Blanc and Château d'Yquem, confessed during the vertical tasting of the top Sauternes, "Yquem is a very dangerous wine for me. Because when I taste Cheval, I spit. I don't spit Yquem." We don't think anyone did that afternoon.
One of our favorite quips of the weekend came from Wine Spectator columnist Matt Kramer during his seminar. Commenting on the $41 price tag for the Renaissance Cabernet Sauvignon, he said, "You couldn't get the glue off the Harlan label for 41 bucks."
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