They look paltry alonside the Moet Hennessy all-star squad.
Last week Moet slouched into New York with its cru crew of winemakers representing some of its top table-wine brands. Moet didn't even have to pop any of its stellar line of bubblies to get our attention. Let me count the names:
Chateau de Sancerre (Marc Sorrel), Cheval des Andes (Nicolas Audebert), Lapostelle (Andrea Leon), Monsanto (Laura Bianchi), Capezzana (Leone Contini Bonacossi), Cloudy Bay (Ian Morden), Domaine Chandon (Joel Burt, showing the still wines only), Livio Felluga (Andrea Felluga), Newton (Chris Millard), Numanthia (Manuel Louzada) and Terrazas (Adrian Meyer).
The morning started with a seminar led by everyone's favorite wine educator and sommelier, Kevin Zraly, who did his best James Lipton routine by questioning the panel on everything from the best, or most notable, wine they had tasted to what they really thought about wine critics - which was a bit of fun as there were a couple of dozen of those of us on the other side of the table. The wine writers, in retaliation, did what wine writers do best in these situations: They made positioning statements about what they thought about everything from high-alcohol wines to the loveliness of Greek whites and reds in the guise of asking questions.
To mix metaphors - but staying with sports - the seminar was the home run derby before the actual game. Each of the 11 winemakers or owners next went to their respective tables to pour one or two of their top wines and answer questions one on one - which was really quite delightful for the palate and the increasingly benumbed brain. In addition to these 11, Moet threw in a couple of their top wines whose owners were not present, so we were also treated to the Lurtons' 2001 Cheval Blanc and 1995 Chateau d'Yquem.
The tasting was really quite spectacular, both because of the great wines and the conversations with the winemakers, all quite intelligent and charming. If I had to choose a favorite combination - not necessarily the best wine - it was talking with Newton's Millard about how science is allowing winemakers to becoming more traditional in their winemaking, without suffering all the traditional downsides of doing so, while drinking his 2007 The Puzzle. The Puzzle is a a Bordeaux blend of Newton's top Spring Mountain vineyard blocks. I love the savory characteristic of this wine - dried flowers and herbs, brambles, mint (does Spring Mountain have garrigue?) to go along with the dried raspberry and blackberries and a lean finish.
If I gave a complete report on the wines and the winemakers, it would take more space than even the ethernet can make available. I have had many great one-on-one experiences with winemakers and their wines in fine restaurants, among cellar barrels and at kitchen tables, but this one counts among the best of the staged group affairs, which too often become mad jumbles. It is a credit to MH and its agency, Gregory White PR, that this one was just the opposite - a large group tasting and seminar that was fun and inspiring.
Until next time...