Updated Oct. 22, 2011
What do you call 262 of the world's best wineries pouring their top wines in one place for two nights? Some might say heaven, but Wine Spectator readers know this as the Grand Tastings, the first of which kicks off the New York Wine Experience-a weekend filled with beautiful wines and a chance to meet the people behind them.
For the 30th anniversary event, wine lovers packed two ballrooms of the Marriott Marquis in New York's Times Square on Thursday evening for the walk-around tasting. Their goal? Taste as many great wines as they could handle. Producers from all leading regions around the globe were pouring. You could start with Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2000 and end with 2008 Port from Quinta do Noval. In between were white Burgundies, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, Brunellos di Montalcino, Napa Cabernets and classified-growth Bordeaux.
"This is my dream weekend," said Ken Fetter, a dentist from the Philadelphia area.
The winemakers, many of whom had just finished harvest, were happy at the chance to meet so many loyal customers. "It was madness at the Pichon-Baron table," said Christian Seely, who manages properties from Hungary to Portugal to Bordeaux's Château Pichon-Longueville-Baron.
"What's great is not just the number of people, but their passion," said Marilisa Allegrini of Azienda Agricola Allegrini in the Valpolicella region of Italy.
Passion is one thing, but the Grand Tastings also demand stamina. Guests face a dizzying number of options for furthering their wine knowledge. A tour of Bordeaux's first-growths? Lafite Rothschild, Margaux, Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion were all pouring. Explore the diversity of Italy? One could try nuanced whites from Alto Adige, Campania and Sicily, then move into two aisles' worth of Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico, super Tuscans and other reds. Compare the styles of Malbec from different regions in Argentina or contrast the Old World and the new wave in Spain? If you couldn't get through your entire wish list, fortunately you could return for a second night on Friday.
Check out portraits of some of the notable winemakers and winery owners who were pouring their wines, along with the guests who came to enjoy them. Click any thumbnail photo to open the slideshow.