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Grand Tour Kicks Off in D.C., Travels to New York

Wine Spectator's 11th annual tasting event showcases wines from around the world

Thomas Matthews
Posted: April 30, 2012

Updated May 3, 2012

Wine Spectator’s 2012 Grand Tour kicked off in Washington, D.C., April 27, when nearly 1,000 people attended the tasting at the Ronald Reagan Building. They sampled wines from more than 200 producers, representing 16 countries and five states. The evening was the first of three stops on this year's Grand Tour, which a few nights later filled two ballrooms in the New York Marriott Marquis.

“It’s the premier wine event,” said David Kramer. "There’s nowhere else you can taste so many of the world’s great wines." Kramer and his wife, Melinda, are both attorneys from Baltimore. They have attended many Wine Spectator events, but said this was a highlight. David had brought a bottle of Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2009, Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2011, to be autographed by Michael Browne, who was pouring at the tasting. He was happy.

Kate Bolduan, CNN Congressional Correspondent, was attending her first Grand Tour. “I wouldn't describe myself as an expert,” she said, “but I am definitely an enthusiast. The Grand Tour was the most expansive selection of wine talent I've ever seen. I was very impressed with the high quality of the wineries on hand—and all just steps from each other.”

Ed Sands, an owner of Calvert-Woodley, one of the top wine shops in Washington, D.C., observed the crowds in the Bordeaux section of the event. “I don’t know whether the 2011 futures campaign will be a success,” he observed. “But people are clearly still interested in Bordeaux wines.”

They had quite a selection to choose from. A dozen châteaus poured vintages ranging from 2009 to 1999. Among the highlights: an opulent 2009 Pontet-Canet, a focused 2008 Cos-d’Estournel, a balanced 2006 Lynch Bages, a powerful 2005 Giscours and a vivid 2002 Palmer. Then there was a 1999 Château Margaux, elegant as always.

There was food, conversation, sipping and spitting. Most of all, there was the happy buzz of the wine world sharing what they love most, in all its glorious diversity and abundance.

Tickets are still available for the tasting in Las Vegas on May 5. For more information, visit www.WineSpectator.com/GrandTour.

Washington, D.C. Grand Tasting Photo Gallery

Below are just a few of the producers and guests who attended the first of the three 2012 Grand Tour events. Click to see the enlarged images in a slideshow format.

Photo by Danuta Otfinowski Photo by Danuta Otfinowski Photo by Danuta Otfinowski
Photo by Danuta Otfinowski Photo by Danuta Otfinowski Photo by Danuta Otfinowski
Photo by Danuta Otfinowski

New York City Grand Tasting Photo Gallery

Below are just a few of the producers and guests who attended the second of the three 2012 Grand Tour events. Click to enlarge the images.

Photo by Michael Gross Photo by Michael Gross Photo by Michael Gross
Photo by Michael Gross Photo by Michael Gross Photo by Michael Gross
Photo by Michael Gross
Todd Cook
Dousman, Wisconsin, USA —  May 5, 2012 11:21am ET
I was in attendance at the NYC Grand tasting event on May 2nd. I have attended the last 3 years (10'Vegas, 11'Chicago & 12'NYC). The 2012 event was dissapointing. Here are just a couple of examples why: Columbia Crest, in 2010 served the 95pt WOTY 05'reserve~$100. In 2012 they served a 90pt H3 cabernet~$12. Same year comparison, Caymus served up the 07' 96pt SS to this year's 09' 93pt SS (93 pts was a generous rating). Dow didn't bother to show up this year, in 2010 they served up their 100pt 07' vintage port. The event staffers removed the bottled water at 9:15pm, even though the event was supposed to be over at 10pm, just when the bulk of the attendees could have used a bottle of water it was gone. Many wineries left the event well before it was over, apparently due to lack of wine? For $200/ticket, in my mind, wineries shouldn't be leaving early or running out of wine at the 8:30pm. The highlights included food that was far superior to year's past and Croft's amazing vintage port. I believe that when obviously less superior wine is going to be served, ticket prices should reflect that, OR tell us in advance of buying tickets WHAT is going to be served instead of just which wineries are "supposed to" be there. This will mark the end of what my wife and I intended on being a yearly tradition unless the above changes are seriously considered.
Thomas Matthews
New York City —  May 6, 2012 1:22pm ET

Thanks for your comments. We're pleased that you are a regular at our events, and sorry you were disappointed this year. As you know, every vintage brings a different story, and neither the wineries nor Wine Spectator can completely control the outcome; Caymus, as you pointed out, poured their best wine each year. Just as different people have different preferences, I heard from many attendees that they were very pleased by the wines this year -- citing the range of Bordeaux, the amazing Avignonesi Vin Santo, the diversity on offer, with 16 countries represented. We hope that by presenting more than 200 wines, every attendee will find plenty to like, whether old favorites or new discoveries. We hope you'll give the event another try next year.
Michael Bonanno
CT —  May 6, 2012 9:13pm ET
While I understand Wine Spectator can not completely control the outcome, it certainly can do more. I attended the Washington, D.C. event and felt cheated by the clock. We arrived reasonably early and still lost 30 minutes of precious time waiting in a ridiculously long line. I also shared Todd's dissapointment when key wineries (or any, for that matter) packed it in early. Three Grand Tour events all year and they can't pour for the full three hours? Those are two specific shortcomings I believe Wine Spectator should be able to avoid and remedy in the future. As for the particular wines a winery shares, I supppose they must live with the impressions they make. Although I'm a huge fan of Columbia Crest, and frequently buy their wines (including cases of the '09 H3), bringing a $14 bottle to this cosmopolitan event is like wearing a pair of jeans to a black tie dinner. Tried and true, but not appropriate for the circumstances.
As for patting yourself on the back for multinational turnout, I respectfully decline commendation. For me, the Grand Tour is the single most anticipated event of the year and I had preselected more than half of the participating wineries only to taste/enjoy about 40 of them. If you want any meaningful interaction with the wineries, besides a cursory "pour, sip, spit - repeat" routine, I think you would agree that one can only cover a fraction of them. Instead of increased variety, my $200 would be better spent by being given the full 3 hours to vist my perinnial favorites and making some new friends inbetween.

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