Broadway is no stranger to sold-out shows on opening night, but excited fans queued up for Hamilton and Neverland aren’t usually buzzing over what they’re most eager to taste when the doors swing open. Wine Spectator’s New York Wine Experience is a one-of-a-kind performance. Last night the show returned to Times Square, offering wine-industry superstars and amateur wine lovers alike the chance to taste 267 of the world's greatest wines.
The Grand Tasting was the first of two at New York's Marriott Marquis, and the official kickoff of the 35th-annual Wine Experience. The three-day event includes winemaker seminars, multicourse lunches with wine pairings and the black-tie Grand Award Banquet, featuring a performance by the heart of rock and roll, aka Huey Lewis & the News.
"To me, this is the biggest wine event of the year," said Kevin Vogt, wine director for the Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning Emeril's Las Vegas. "I get to see all the biggest players in wine and taste the best of what the world has to offer."
This year's event sold out more than a week in advance. More than 2,000 wine lovers filled two huge ballrooms to meet winemakers and owners pouring wines rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator's editors.
Many in the crowd went straight for the bubbly to kick off the event, starting the evening with a taste of Krug Grande Cuvée Brut NV or Bollinger's Brut Rosé Grande Année 2005. Taittinger offered its blanc de blancs Comtes de Champagne 2006 while California's Roederer Estate poured its Anderson Valley L'Ermitage 2006 and Italy's Ferrari F.lli Lunelli offered its Brut Riserva del Fondatore 2002.
Vibrant, complex whites awaited, including Chardonnays from Jermann in Friuli, Italy, and Hamilton Russell in South Africa. Burgundy's Maison Joseph Drouhin poured its Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche 2012.
For Pinot Noir lovers, Louis Jadot offered a gorgeous Clos Vougeot 2012, while at the next table Anderson Valley's Black Kite had Kite's Rest 2012. Bordeaux fans could compare Château Haut-Brion's 2006 with its sister estate La Mission Haut-Brion's 2006. Lafite Rothschild poured its 2004. Some other châteaus brought their classic-rated 2010s, while Pichon Lalande and Pichon Baron both brought their 2005s, as did Pontet-Canet.
"To me this is more than ecstasy," said attendee Shiel Edlin of Atlanta after taking a photo with Pontet owner Alfred Tesseron. "Pontet-Canet is incredibly sexy, and to meet the winemaker is just amazing."
One floor away, Will Harlan was pouring his Promontory Napa Valley 2010. "We've never poured it for anybody," said Harlan. "We couldn't have found a better place to first present it. The response has been incredible."
With only three and a half hours, however, wine lovers had to prioritize. Enjoy an impressive range of 2010 Brunellos, including Altesino Montosoli, or several outstanding Châteauneuf-du-Papes, like Beaucastel and Vieux Télégraphe. Old favorites from Spain, Argentina, Australia and Chile were all represented, and emerging regions, from Japan to Virginia, were there too.
For the winemakers, the reward was meeting enthusiastic wine lovers, including some of their most passionate customers. "This is always a must-attend event, but this year the size and energy of the crowd is incredible," said Trevor Durling, winemaker at Napa's Provenance vineyards.
As the tasting wound down, people hurried to try a large array of dessert wines, including several Vintage Ports, and grab a last chat with old and new friends. All too soon, it was time to go home. Thankfully, the doors to the 2015 New York Wine Experience Grand Tasting will open one more time, on Friday night.
Additional reporting by Ben O'Donnell