Expectations ran high leading up to this event. We had been salivating, plotting and mapping out what we would do when the doors finally opened to Wine Spectator's Grand Tasting. And when it did open, I almost heard angelic music playing in the back of my head as my eyes woke to the heavenly rows of legendary wine producers offering a pour of their ethereal liquid.

As I walked pass the rows, I could not believe my eyes at the caliber of wines presented. Perhaps it was the humbling experience of pouring your wine next to such esteemed producers as Gaja, Chateau Lafite, and Harlan Estate that pressured every other winery to put their best foot forward. I was at once in awe and petrified.

I gleefully advanced from table to table much like the way children run from house to house during Halloween, as fast as I can so that I can accumulate as many treats as possible.

While I could spend an entire week detailing all of the great wines tasted, in consideration of my beloved busy readers, I'll provide a concise 'Best Of' summary. Before I start, I must note that these are the best wines 1) of the ones I tasted, there were several tables I was not able to cover, 2) this list represents my very humble opinion, and 3) the prices listed range from release to auction rate.

Best California Red
Schrader Cabernet Sauvignon "Old Sparky" 2006 ($100-$200)
Napa Valley Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyards
Elegant, voluptuous and extravagant, if I had to chose one wine as the 'Best of the Best', the Schrader "Old Sparky" would be it.

Best Pinot Noir
Kistler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Cuvee Natalie Silver Belt Vineyard 2007 ($125-150)
Medium-bodied with well-integrated notes of black fruits: raspberry, cherry and blueberry. Nice finish.

Best Chateauneuf-du-Pape
All of the Chateauneufs showed well, especially the 2007 vintage, it was very difficult to single out any but these two were of particular note.

Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Crau 2007 ($60-$85)
Bold, and elegant showing layers of cherry, kirsch, black raspberry, and lavender. Beautiful length.

Chateau Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 ($70-$248)
Elegant and powerful

Best Bordeaux 
Bordeaux is one category that I have little conviction in critiquing. For one reason, the astronomical prices have made first growth Bordeauxs cost prohibitive, hence my limited experience with this region. Second, it's difficult for a novice to appreciate the potential of these wines, which sometimes need as much as 20 years before reaching a drinkable state; several of the Bordeauxs poured were as young as 4 years of age. Third, most all of the first growth Bordeauxs at the tasting event ran out of wine, so I'm going to rely on the option of a trustworthy fellow attendee.

Chateau Lafite Rothschild Paulliac 2003 ($400 - $1975)
A fellow trustworthy attendee mentioned multiple times Chateau Lafite Rothschild was the best wine out of all the presenters. No tasting notes, since I did not taste.

Chateau Latour Pauillac 1995 ($395 - $1350)
Of the Bordeauxs, I was only able to taste Chateau Latour, which was quite good, but is not going to persuade me to open my wallet for that price tag.

Best Barolo
Gaja Langhe Sperss 2004 ($233-400)
This is my favorite producer of Italian wines. It is such quality wines as this one that inspired my collection of Barolos years ago. This is a beautiful and elegant wine with well-integrated tannins, concentrated fruit and long finish.

Best Italian (ex Barolo)
Masseto Tenuta dell'Ornellaia 2004 ($280-$775)
Stunning, bold, elegant showing many layers of fruit, beautiful concentration and length. 

Best Spanish
Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero Unico Gran Reserva 1999 ($251-$450)
Complex, earthy, dense, and smoky. 

Best Australian
Two Hands Ares Barossa Valley - McLaren Vale 2006 ($156-$200)
Extravagant fruit, plush texture, rich with complex layers of oak, fruit and herbs. Nice long finish.

Torbreck RunRig Barossa Valley 2005 ($157-$225)
Full-bodied, opulent, dense with several layers of blackberry and blueberry notes.  

Best Dessert Wine
Chateau Climens Barsac 2005 ($60-$194)
This is a magical dessert wine with a strong floral nose, seamless notes of honey, fresh stone fruits, orange blossoms and a hint of tropical fruits.
Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes 1998 ($181-$466)
While I did not have a chance to taste this wine, I'm listing it because of its reputation for consistently producing great wines.

Best New Comer
Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 ($75)
I'm looking forward to seeing upcoming wines produced by Kathryn Hall, the new releases indicate a bright future for this winery.  

Biggest Disappointment
Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2007 ($52)
I had somewhat of high expectations for Kosta Browne. For a winery that consistently scored in the mid-90's by WS, and has appeared on WS's Top 100 list mulitple times for the 2005 wintage, I was sorely disappointed. As it happens, Robert Parker rated similar 2005 vintage wines for Gary's and Rosella's vineyard in the mid-80's. I haven't tasted the 2005 vintage, but based on the 2007, I'll side with Robert Parker's assessment. At the very least, I'm going to extrapolate that the wines are inconsistent. I've been on Kosta Browne's wait-list running three years now for the opportunity to purchase their wines, and I'm happily relinquishing my spot.

At the end of the evening when the clock struck ten, it was evident that the people who had a taste of these ethereal juices were not ready to leave. Suddenly the floor of men adorned in fine business suits and ladies in cocktail dresses resembled something similar to a messy crowd of college students at the local dive bar. Over the speakers, the floor was given a ten minute warning, followed by a five minute warning, and then an abrupt and official announcement "Okay, ladies and gentlemen," the speaker said this very loosely, "we're closed." And the crowd still in its merry state continued drinking, rushing to squeeze in a few more sips, begging for a few more pours; to which the host deployed a large wait staff to seize wine glasses and escort people out. It was quite a humorous scene.

Now that I've shared my wine tasting experience with y'all, I'd love to know about your most memorable or top wine(s).  


KennyT said...

So, were you drunk? Hahahaha

Fresh Local and Best said...

Kenny - You're funny, surprisingly no. I was pretty disciplined with drinking loads of water in between and eating cheeses and cured meats. Also what was nice is that the event is somewhat within walking distance to my home so it was a very convenient event. I was sluggish over the weekend, but I'm glad I was not hungover.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

What a great rundown of that evening! I think next time I am in NYC that we are definitely going to have to go out for some wine tasting!!

HoustonWok said...

These events are so much funny. I always walk out tipsy lol.

Pam said...

What a fun time! I just wish I didn't get headaches from wine.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Houston - I did see a few funny and interesting things. Toward the end of the night, when I had enough of standing around on my heels, I sat down behind a random wine booth as the representatives were long gone. Some guy came up to me for a pouring and it just happened that there was a full bottle of the wine left, so I told him to help himself, and then I just waved my hands shooing the bottle and told him to take the entire thing. LOL!

Pam - I'm a light weight too. I'm glad I was able to attend, though.

NMOS said...

Wow, looks like a great, fun event. That's a lot of food and wine. :)

HoustonWok said...

Get outta here, are you serious? That is too funny, hell I would've probably shooed myself away w/the bottle forget the wine tester. I am all they need. You are a riot lol.

Debinhawaii said...

Fun post! You took in a lot of information in an evening spent sipping wine! ;-)

Fresh Local and Best said...

Deb - I did jot down copious notes. It was a good balance of enjoying the event and gathering information. I do feel like I learned quite a bit from the stand point of 1) discovering outstanding wines, 2) avoiding overpriced and not-so-good wines, and 3) what quality means.

girlichef said...

That last pic is so cool! Sounds like an awesome much would I have loved to roamed and tasted...SO MUCH!!! My tasting pretty much extends to home and local vineyard tours...which I'm long overdue for!! Great post :D

Fresh Local and Best said...

Girli - It's pretty close to a once in a lifetime event, akin to attending an all-star game for wineries. I'm glad it worked out for us to meet esteemed winemakers and taste some wines that were otherwise too expensive for our reach.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this informative and enthusiastic report on Wine Spectator's Grand Tasting. Hope to see you at another one!

Thomas Matthews
Executive editor
Wine Spectator

John D. said...

Great post! Lessons learned: Leave the hubby home next time or just let him do his own thing while you follow your plan. Maybe springing for the VIP tickets so you can hit the heavyweights next time.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

What fun! This sounds like my kind of evening!

Fresh Local and Best said...

Are my eyes deceiving me? or did Mr. Thomas Matthews of Wine Spectator leave a comment? If this is true, I am over the moon excited!

John - One day we'll arrive with VIP tickets, it'll be a glorious day.

Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite said...

Yay Christine - VIPs commenting on your blog!!!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

TW - This was an exciting event. I hope you can make it next year.

Mardi - Pinch me!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an incredible selection of wines! I would love to taste the Lafite Rothschild of course! We had baby Lafite at our wedding so would be the most memorable wine for me :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

Natasha, I had no idea you were such a conniosseur! Tasting Lafite Rothschild would have been a spectacular event on its own.

Nancy said...

This looks like a spectacular event! I must check this out next year. Is it always in NYC?

Fresh Local and Best said...


Thank you for your comment. I believe this particular event happens only in New York, typically in late October. I know from speaking to wine representatives, I was able to gather that a couple wineries come to New York to present every year, once a year, and this is the event. The woman from Vega Sicilia mentioned she looks forward to visiting each year for the shopping! LOL!


Anonymous said...

What a fun and informative time!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

What a great experience!
We go to the tastings in Niagara sometimes, but they are only the local wines. Many are great, but not of the caliber of the wines you got to try.
I love that last shot, very seasonal with the spooky looking hand!

Simply Life said...

Wow that wine tasting sounds like the perfect way to spend time - wish i could've been there! :)

Dolce said...

Great event, you managed to have fun, take notes and even get wine to some other people :)

Fresh Local and Best said...

Natasha - Thanks that photo is a bit spooky isn't it? I should note one Canadian label - Inniskillan, which is a great dessert wine.

Cookingupphd, Simply and Dolce - It was a great event. You guys should try catching it next year!

Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

How many excellent wines there!!
I'm not seeing any from South America..
Wine and food a perfect combo :)



Fresh Local and Best said...

Gera - Thanks for your comment. I tasted one wine from Argentina, Archaval Ferrer Malbec Finca Bella Vista. I adore Argentinian wines, but I didn't other wines to compare. There were many wines I wish I could have tasted.

Selba said...

Very interesting...

I wish I could have the experience of trying, tasting and learning about wine.

Velva said...

A once in a life time event! I am envious that you had the opportunity to enjoy such a fabulous event. I just loved it!What were your favorites?

Fresh Local and Best said...

Selba - Yes, it was a very good learning experience, so many wines!

Velva - It's tough to single out a favorite, there were 250 great wineries present. Of the wines I tasted, my favorites were Schrader "Old Sparky," Gaja,
Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and Two Hands.

It was exciting and we'll likely attend again next year.

The Diva on a Diet said...

What a fabulous post ... and a fabulous experience! It all sounds wonderful and I'm so glad you've shared it with us here. Ah, your husband, what can one say except ... men! ;)

My most outstanding wine experience was a stunning bottle of Corton-Charlemagne, sent to my husband as a gift from a client. Hands down my favorite wine - it was years ago and I swear I can still remember the taste.

Fresh Local and Best said...

Thanks Diva! Corton-Charlemagne is a very good wine. It's so neat to hear other people's memorable wines, like this one that leaves such a haunting impression. :)

high low said...

haha - My husband's just like yours - he's such a talker and I'm more the "we need to try everything!" one. Definitely agree with you on the 2007 Papes - great year!

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

I'm impressed that you weren't drunk. Even with cheese, meats, and water...I'd be a little embarrassing.

Fresh Local and Best said...

high low - I think 2007 is going to be a classic year.

Jessica - I was that close to being embarrassing. :)

Elizabeth in SLO said...

Were there any San Luis Obispo County wineries present?

Fresh Local and Best said...


I don't believe there were any wineries from San Luis Obispo. It seemed like the domestic wines were focused on Northern California. Perhaps in future events, we'll see more representation from that region.