On a night when more than 250 of the world's best wines were being served to a packed house, somehow the wines were not the biggest attraction in the room. On the opening night of the 2022 New York Wine Experience, it was the people.
"It's just fantastic to be back," said Christian Seely, managing director of an impressive international roster of wineries from Portugal to Bordeaux to Napa. "Not only to see the greatest wine producers in the world, but to see the greatest wine consumers in the world."
Seely and his colleagues were pouring for close to 2,000 of those consumers on Oct. 20 at the first of two Grand Tastings, kicking off three days of wine, food, seminars and fun at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This year’s event promised a chance to reconnect with those who share a passion for all things vinous.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 Wine Experience, and while the event was held in 2021, pandemic restrictions limited crowd sizes and prevented most European vintners from attending. For them, this was their first Wine Experience since 2019, and a big relief.
"It's always a great event. It's great to be back," said Damien Barton Sartorius of Château Léoville Barton. "I'm like a child in a candy store."
The problem for many attendees? Which candy to try first. For bubbly lovers, there were more than a dozen choices, starting with Pol Roger's Brut Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2013. Right next door, Schramsberg Rosé North Coast J. Schram 2013 offered a California counterpart.
White wine lovers could enjoy the vibrant Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough Te Muna 2021 from New Zealand or the elegant Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte 2017 from Italy or the complex M. Chapoutier Ermitage White de l'Orée 2011 from France. The next row over offered pristine Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Burgundy and New Zealand.
Looking to understand Cabernet Sauvignon better? Napa's Favia was pouring its Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville 2019 right across from where Château Lynch Bages was pouring its Pauillac 2018. What about Sangiovese? One section of tables offered outstanding examples from Chianti's Castello di Volpaia and Fontodi and Montalcino's Altesino and Biondi Santi. Or you could try Renato Ratti's Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata 2015 and then move to Gaja's Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn 2015. There were dozens of other options from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Australia and more.
But time and time again, as people move through the two packed ballrooms, sampling wines, they also met new people, learned about the wineries and made new friends. Winemakers took advantage to try wines they have never tasted before and to share ideas and forge connections.
"It's also nice to see all your producer friends that you haven't seen in a long time," said Jason Jardine, winemaker at Sonoma's Hanzell Farm & Vineyards. "These events really help bring people together."
The Wine Experience would not be possible without the incredible generosity of vintners who donate all the passion-inducing wines of the weekend. All net proceeds from the event go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million for scholarships and grants for the hospitality and wine industries.
Foundation beneficiaries have included students at Napa Valley College, the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture & Enology, The Roots Foundation, Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute, Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, Florida International University's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Culinary Institute of America, among others.
As the first event of the 2022 Wine Experience concluded, the feeling of joy at being back together was palpable. "Everyone is talking about how wonderful it is to be back in the room," said Randy Ullom of Jackson Family Wines.
Grand Tasting Photo Gallery
Photos by Daphne Youree