As I sit down to write about this event I think it only appropriate to give you some context:
2009’s UGC 2006 vintage Bordeaux tasting was the first “big city” tasting I didn’t work (and by work I mean pour for free for a producer for a chance to taste some wines at the end). I had just moved to California and bought my ticket online, having no idea what to expect. I drove up to LA…it was my first time on the 405 (scary)…and my first time trying to park there (circled the InterContinental twice before parking in the Century City mall garage). I threw on a dress in the car and proudly fixed my sommelier pin to its collar. I hadn’t started the blog yet, so I guess I was there to improve my palate for Bordeaux wines – and maybe meet a fellow corkdork. Hiking up to the InterContinental from the mall garage, I felt prepared, but still nervous. The night before and that morning, I spent studying the characteristics of the different appellations and the top chateaux, but when it came to navigating a large tasting with strangers, it was best to just try to enjoy those few minutes of anticipation…
Suddenly, the holding room was crowded, I was sweating and casually talking to someone about the turnout. I was really just trying to watch what was about to go down. The receptionists were then given the signal to open the doors and we were off to the races. After checking in, I grabbed my glass, smelled it (because I saw everyone else doing that), and headed to the whites, which were stationed to the front left of the room. I didn’t even see there was a price list. Just went by my study guide and made my way from the whites, to right bank Bordeaux, to left bank, and then to Sauternes (or what was left). I took my time, scribbled notes, spit, ate some bread, used the restroom, and drank lots of water. It was a very modest, educational experience.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, this year I will write a different story. Probably because I feel different. My head is in another place - one that has me constantly thinking about my family before myself and trying to make the right decisions about participating in extracurricular activities, like wine tastings.
Sunday night, I buy the ticket at the last minute (secretly hoping the event will sell out so I’m not even tempted to go). I spend every hour before the event working on Drybar tee-shirt designs and Sponsorship Packages. I hail a cab on Santa Monica and call a friend on the walk up to The Annex to meet him in line. I take a look at the price sheet, circle a few chateaux and then ask my friends who they recommend tasting. I swallow and get a little buzz. I’ll give a list below of some flawlessly balanced, fineFINE wines, but no details. I can email them to you, if you like.
The point of this post is that like many physical things in life, my experience with them becomes less about a myopic personal encounter, and more about enjoying the opportunity this thing presents to bring human beings together. Offline.
On Wednesday night, I was in a large, loud room with PEOPLE. Looking into their eyes, backing into them (sorry), feeling their wine spit backsplash in my face, grinning at them with purple teeth, shaking their hands, and giving high fives (like I tend to do after a glass or two).
This made me beyond happy. Yes, the wines were outstanding, but it was also the environment they were tasted in that made me crave awareness for those two hours. Every time I tried to put my head down and take detailed notes, a conversation would start or a friend would say “hi.” This was a time to step away from the minutia and appreciate how fortunate I was to be there.
Thank you to the following chateaux who poured me outstanding wines (I felt bad even putting one and two stars next to some, but had to give them a little credit for somehow standing out among their peers):
M A R G A U X
Chateau Las Combes**
P A U I L L A C
Chateau Clerc Milon*
P E S S A C - L E O G N A N
Chateau Pape Clement (blanc and rouge*)
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte (blanc and rouge*)
Domaine de Chevalier (blanc* and rouge)
P O M E R O L (HAD TO TRY THEM ALL...)
Chateau La Cabanne
S A I N T - E M I L I O N (GRAND CRU)
Chateau La Gaffeliere
Chateau Troplong Mondot
S A I N T - J U L I E N
Chateau Gruaud Larose**