Log In / Join Now

The World of Wine, in Three Different Ports of Call

More than 200 wineries join the 2011 Grand Tour

Thomas Matthews
Posted: May 16, 2011

On May 12, a warm Thursday evening in Chicago, the line outside the ballroom at the Navy Pier was hundreds of people long. Inside, representatives from 216 wineries were uncorking their bottles. It was the first stop on Wine Spectator's 2011 Grand Tour.

The people in line had come from multiple states—from Ohio, Nebraska, New York, Virginia, Georgia, to name just a few. A high percentage had attended previous Wine Spectator tastings, and many had crafted meticulous plans of attack. Some planned on making a beeline for Bordeaux. Some would start with sparkling wine and work their way to Vintage Port. Some were just eager to explore.

They had the world to choose from: The wineries came from 15 countries. Among the 13 Bordeaux châteaus were first-growths Margaux (pouring their 2004 vintage) and Mouton-Rothschild (2005). There were Pinot Noirs from Kosta Browne (California), Bergström (Oregon), Brancott (New Zealand), Bouchard Père & Fils (Burgundy), and more. The 10 Barolos comprised an all-star lineup, including Bruno Giacosa (Falletto 2007), Paolo Scavino (Bric dël Fiasc 2006) and Marchesi di Barolo (Cannubi 2005). Beyond the bold-faced names, adventurers could try two whites from Greece, an unsulphured Ribolla from Slovenia and a Nebbiolo from Mexico.

The Chicago attendees on Thursday were dressed up and decorous. Many worked with wine, in restaurants or retail stores. When the Tour moved to Las Vegas on Saturday, the ambience shifted, too. The crowd was bigger, younger, more boisterous; the fashion was more flamboyant, the tattoos more exposed. "The people here surprise you," said Leonardo Bellaccini, winemaker at San Felice, in Chianti Classico. ”They look like they came to party, but then so many of them are asking questions and taking notes."

Mostly, it seemed, people came to expand their horizons. John Meier came to Las Vegas from Phoenix, Az. "I'm getting to taste wines that I would never try—ever. Wines that I might not buy a bottle just to see if I like it. Now I have a list of wines that I'm going to look for from now on."

The final stop on the 2011 Grand Tour will be Thursday, May 19, at the Marriott Copley Place in Boston. A limited number of tickets are still available; find more information or place an order here.

Excited guests line up for the Grand Tour’s stop in Las Vegas.

Anna Abbona, owner and winemaker at Marchesi di Barolo, with her daughter Valentina Abbona.

Evangelos Gerovassiliou of Greece’s Domaine Gerovassiliou.

Château Margaux was one of the stars of the event.

Guests Jeff Sheetz, Dave Jensen, Paul O’Dowd and Lisa Shaporian decide what to taste next.

Guests prowling the Venetian ballroom had 216 wineries to choose from.

Siduri co-owner Dianna Lee.

Cliff Lede winery proprietor Cliff Lede.

Sharing with friends is a time-tested strategy for tasting.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.