Posts Tagged ‘Toast of the Town’

Toast of the Town & am I becoming a wine snob?

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Once again I had the good fortune of attending the Wine Enthusiast Toast of the town.  This was my 4th year, but this was the first time I attended as a vendor as opposed to as a journalist (OK, blogger).

In a new location (Avery Fisher Hall instead of Koch Theater) within NYC’s glorious Lincoln Theater, Wine Enthusiast put on its annual Toast of the Town event this past Thursday May 5th.

It was bigger than its ever been before with a ton of wine and lots of great restaurants.  This year there were also spirits and beers being poured.

I attended this year on behalf of Israel’s Barkan Winery.  The Barkan lineup this year was a pretty cool one.

The 2007 Barkan Superieur Pinotage is a very cool & interesting wine.  Rich chocolate, toffee & ripe fruit… A great wine that really makes you go “hmmmm”.

Speaking of going hmmmm, we also poured the 3 wines in the “Altitude” series.  The altitude represents vineyards at different heights above sea level, representing different terroirs.  The wines also come from different regions, so the altitude isn’t the only difference.  But the 3 wines (a 412, 624 & 720) are basically all made the same way – so like an experiment with the winemaking as the control.  It was lots of fun to hear the people, most of whom had different favorites amongst the 3.

I did try to hit up a few other tables while I was there and I managed to taste about 30 wines.

In no particular order, I liked the following:

Perry Moore: A 2008 Napa Cab & 2008 Beckstoffers vineyard Oakville Cab that reminded me a lot of the wines I got to work with when I lived in Napa and worked in the lab.

Don Sebastiani & Sons 2007 Aquinas “Philosepher’s Blend”  had great acidity balancing out its ripe fruit.

A Greek wine, the 2004 Oenoforos Lanos Cabernet Sauvignon had dusty fruit & a good earthiness that reminded me of an aged Israeli wine (which makes some sense as they are both Eastern Mediterranean).

The 2004 Batasiolo Vigneto Cerequio Barolo was a WOW wine with great liveliness, subtle burgundian fruit and cola flavors.

Of the whites the one standout for me was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (which when done well I find to be so refreshing…I can drink LOTS of NZ Sauv Blanc) the Matua Valley 2009 which had fresh pink grapefruit.

Sooooo….what do I mean by “Wine Snob”?  Sure I prefer good wine to mediocre wine, but the reality is that most wine these days (and surely almost all being poured at events such as this) is pretty good.  I guess I felt like a bit of a snob at this event more because I’m tough to impress.   I’ve come to expect most wine to be good these days.  But good isn’t good enough anymore, it needs to be interesting.  And in the end, very little of the wine that I had the opportunity to try was truly interesting.

Happy Interesting Wine Tasting


Wine Enthusiast – Toast of the Town (Ch. 3 – 2010)

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

For the third consecutive year I was fortunate enough last week (May 24) to attend the Wine Enthusiast “Toast of the Town” Food & Wine event at Lincoln Center’s Koch Theater (year 1 & year 2).

If there is anything negative I can say about this event it is that it is so damn predictable…predictably GOOD!!!

Seriously though I believe that this is the quintessential wine & food event.  There are other TOTT’s in major US cities such as Atlanta, LA, Chicago & Washington, DC.  I can only imagine that the others are also quite special.  Top restaurants send their chefs who prepare (sometimes actually cook over burner) small tastes of 1-3 items and distribute to the guests.  And while I was there for the wine, I heard many guests comment how the food was the best part of the evening for them.

But this is a WINE blog, not a food blog.  So I’ll keep things short, but I do want to mention a few standout wines.  Though there were probably several hundred (I’d guesstimate about 250) wines there, I only had a chance to samples about 60 wines (I counted 59 short tasting notes though I must have tasted something I neglected to make note of).

Before mentioning the noteworthy wines, I’d be remiss to ignore the flawed wines I found that night.  Now flawed wines happen.  Wines can be corked as much as 10% of the time (though the # is probably closer to 5%).  And other flaws do occur, especially when producers are showing older vintages (which wasn’t that common, but I did try an older vintage wine or two).  What surprised me most was the amount of flawed wines I discovered that the pourers had no idea were flawed.  I suppose they weren’t all majorly flawed and it is possible that some I thought were flawed were not.  But the fact that the pourers didn’t seem to have any clue about the wines I thought was pure laziness on their part.  Maybe I am taking this strong position as I was SHOCKED when a pourer concurred with my assessment of a wine as cork & proceeded to put the wine aside to be “later to the masses”. Again, maybe they were simply appeasing me, but with what these producers spend on marketing and to be at these events don’t you think they should make sure that they are showing their best???

OK, standout wines (in no particular order)…

I’ve tried the standard Marlborough Kim Crawford Sauv Blanc before, but here I had the opportunity to try the “Drylands” Sauv Blanc (herbaceous & tart) as well as the “Small Parcels Spitfire” Sauv Blanc which felt more old world in style – restrained minerals and dried grass rather than new world citrus & freshly cut green grass.

I tried a 2008 Fevre Champs Royaux (Chablis) at the Henriot table that was fresh, steely & crisp – all qualities I love about Chablis.  I remarked to the woman (KZ) that I previously did a Fevre tasting that I enjoyed but did not love and she informed me that there was a change of ownership and I might have tasted the wines from the previous owner (Fevre).  I was excited to hear that my palate was good enough to detect a change in style (with the change in ownership)…only to return home, read my post about the previous Fevre tasting and realize that I was WRONG.

Also at the Henriot table was a Champagne (NV Blanc Souverain Pur Chardonnay) that was bready/yeasty with a complex palate and decent mid-sized bubbles.

I had 3 wines at the Francis Ford Coppola table.  The “Director’s Cut”, a blend of Cab (54%), Zinfandel (34%) & Cab Franc (12%) was velvety soft & complex with an array of fruit.  The “Votre Sante” Pinot, a Cali Pinot (usually NOT my favorite) was light & restrained with a lively acidity.  And the famous “Rubicon Estate (2006) CASK Cab was still pretty tannic, LOADED with fruit, yet super soft on the palate and quite nice.

The Yalumba 2004 Signature Cab/Shiraz was one of my favorites of the night.  Deep, dark ruby colored wine, with cola, mocha, cherry coke & even chocolate aromas.  A fresh & fruity wine that was not heavy and finished long and pleasant.

From Evaton, I most enjoyed the Sogrape 2007 Callabriga Reserva Tinto that had a pronounced tar/cola nose and with soft tannins and a long finish.

I tried the Robert Mondavi 2006 Cab reserve that was pretty good but I probably did not give it a fair chance as it was a “Mondavi” wine.

The Ruffino 2004 Romitoria di Santedame had pronounced herb & cherry cola aromas (do we see a theme of what I enjoy here?) with a light & fresh palate and medium-long finish.

Louis Martini Monte Rosso Vineyard Cab (2005) was deep, dark & brooding, with black fruit, mocha-chocolate & a soft palate.

The Antinori 2005 Marchese Antinori Riserva was already throwing lots of sediment with its lovely red berry nose and LONG finish.

The Hogue Cellars 2006 Reserve Merlot had mocha chocolate & bitter orange peel wrapped around silky tannins and a pleasing long finish.

And among my last stops was PerryMoore Wines to taste their Cabs, the 2006 Beckstoffer To Kalon which was deep, rich, complex & extracted with blue fruit & silky tannins.  As well as their 2007 Stagecoach vineyard cab which had black fruit on the nose, a big, lush midpalate that transitioned to a eucalyptus/mint and a medium-long finish.

In all yet again a winner event.  And while unless you live in Washington, DC (event coming on June 11) you will have to wait until next year, I strongly recommend you keep an eye out as no matter whether you are a foodie or wino there is plenty at the Toast of the Town for you to enjoy!

Happy WE TOTT Wine Tasting!


Wine Enthusiast NY Toast of the Town – review

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I attended the Toast of the Town gala food & wine tasting last night.  It was held in the beautiful David Koch Theater in Lincoln Center and surprisingly to me (given the rough economic climate), was very well attended.

Several hundred people, all dressed their best, turned out for this annual event.  With about 30 restaurants providing sample fare, as well as over 70 winery (or wine reps) pouring multiple offerings, there was certainly no shortage of food or wine.

The event opens with a VIP portion (that costs a premium to attend).  During this 2 hour pre-tasting, the wine people pour high end wines and the crowds are thinner.  Consequently people have better access to those pouring/serving, all in a more relaxed environment.

And at 7PM, the masses come in.  And boy did they show up last night.

As stated previously, despite the tough economic times and high price of a ticket, this event seemed just as busy as last year’s.  And the bottom line is that it is a fun event.  Early on in the evening while speaking with a pourer at the event, I pointed out that the tasting booklets did not leave much room for tasting notes, and the tables were in no specific order – things as a professional that I found frustrating.  And he said to me, “this is not an event for industry professionals, it is an event for mainstream NY wine & food lovers to get out and try all kinds of food & wine”.  And he was right.  Expecting this event to be like a tasting for professionals was my fault.  It is not advertised as such.   And with my expectations now modified, I realized that this is simply a really fun evening out.

SO, having clarified the difficulty I experienced trying to write proper tasting notes, without further ado, I’d like to make mention of some favorites, with only brief comments about each…

I started the evening with some friends from Admiral imports who were pouring some sparkling wines from Tosti.  The Tosti NV Moscato d’Asti was sweet and fun.  While the Tosti NV Bracato was a sparkling red with nice violet and cherry notes.  I haven’t had too many sparkling reds in my day so trying this one was a treat.

The 2006 Clos de Tart Grand Cru Burgundy was not the best choice for one of my first wines…cause it was darned good and set the bar quite high for the rest of the wines.  It had subtle fruit, some mintiness and minerality, all packaged in a soft elegant package.

In what I can only assume is a coincidence, some of my favorite wines of the night were Chianti Classicos.  My first of the night, the Carpineto 2005 Chianti Classico Riserva, had a very nice combination of earthiness, raspberry & minerality and was a very nice wine.

The Carmel valley of California does not carry the cache of Napa or Sonoma.  But some of the Monterey wineries are producing very nice wines, and my visit at the Bernrdus table included a treat.  I first tried their 2004 Marinus Estate red, a blend of about 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and the remaining 10% (or so) a blend of Cab Franc, Petit Verdot & Malbec (nice usage of the 5 Bordeaux varietals).  This was a big, crowd pleasing wine,  with notes of dark berry, mint & chocolate.  Somehow or another the gentleman pouring the wines figured out that I was in the industry and poured me a small taste from a single bottle of Pinot he had behind the table.  The grapes from this Pinot came from the Santa Lucia region and the wine was quite nice – strong words from someone who is not shy about discussing his distaste for new world Pinot Noir.  There was very evident fruit, but it was subtle and elegant.  The wine was soft and round, had just a touch of heat on the finish, but overall was a very nice Pinot Noir.

Speaking of new world Pinot, Jekel Vineyards was pouring some wines from their Sanctuary line of wines.  I enjoyed the 2005 Mariah Vineyard Zin, which was NOT typical Zin.  No huge alcohol & stewed fruit.  It was actually a light wine with nice acidity.  While the 2006 Sanctuary Bien Nacido vineyard Pinot was soft with subtle fruit, a little earth and a nice finish.

Staying in the new world, Hogue vineyards was pouring a bunch of wines.  One of the first bonded wineries in Washington, Hogue  sources all of their fruit from Washington State.  My favorite of the lot was a 2005 reserve Merlot from the Wahluke slope.  The wine is aged for about 2 years in oak, and comes from vines that are between 25-45 years old.  It had red & black fruit and a touch of mint, was soft and round and had a long finish.

Nearing the end of my new world favorites, I stopped by the Kunde Estate table.  Here my favorite was the 2005 reserve Sonoma county Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was soft, with ripe – almost stewed fruit that was big, but not overpoweringly big.   Nicely round with a touch of heat, this was a very nice showing from a winery that is known for good value offerings.

The last new world wine I will mention was a sparkling wine.  When working in Napa I visited Mumm winery, a winery that specializes in sparkling wines.  Pernod Ricard was pouring the Mumm Napa vintage 2000 DVX sparkler.  This wine had nice citrus, yeast and bready notes, in a soft wine with small bubbles and a clean refreshing finish.

Getting back to the old world, another of my favorite Chianti Classicos came from the “Da Vinci” winery.  I tried a bunch of wines at the Da Vinci table, and they were all nice, but my favorite (the one I felt was showing best last night) was the 2004 Da Vinci Chiant Classico.  This terrific food wine was light, with tart berries, some cherry cola notes and a nice medium to long finish.

The 2003 Castello di Querceto 2003 Chianti Classico Riserva had subtle fruit, some minerality, a touch of earth, with gripping tannins and a medium long finish.  While the Barone Ricasoli 2006 Brolio Chianti Classico had a spiciness to it, with blackberry, red fruit and a tart juiciness matched by a nice acidity and pleasant finish.

Another nice Italian wine was the Sergeo Alighieri 2005 Poderi del Bello Oville, a blend of 80% Sangiovese with 15% Canaiolo & 5% Cilegiolo.  Aged for 12 months in 600 liter barrels (of which 50% was new), this wine had nice red fruit, minerality and was crisp, tart and quite nice.  While the Tormaresca 2003 Masseria Maime Negroamaro had blackberry, earth and mint aromas with a round, soft long finish.

This modest writeup has become much longer than I initially intended.  What better was to end than with some Port?!?!  I tried 4 ports last night, but the best were some 20 year Tawny ports.  The first, Sandeman’s 20 year Tawny, was light brown in color with clear oxidation on the nose.  After trying Sandeman’s 10 year tawny I was blown away by how soft and smooth this port was.  With its sweet carmel and nutty flavors this was delicious!  But I think I preferred the Ramos Pinto Quinta do Bom Retiro 20 year port.  This light brown almost tan wine was also was very soft.  It had an oxidized nose with a nuttiness that I could not quite pinpoint on the nose as well.  Upon tasting this velvety wine I immediately thought of candies hazelnuts as its sweet, soft, minty and nutty wine had a lot of real good stuff going on.

Whew, that was a LONG one.  I am off to the Bay area tomorrow to meet my NEW NEPHEW!  Can’t wait to see the little guy.  And of course excited to see his parents (my sister and brother in law) as well as my brother who I recently found out is coming in from Israel for the Brit (pretty cool huh).  I do hope to sneak away for a quickie somewhere in wine country, so hopefully I’ll have something to report about.

Happy Toasting the Town with Wine Enthusiast!


Toast of the Town 2009

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

I attended this event last year and had lots to say about it.

These events are truly special and unique opportunities for people with any level of wine interest to come out, try more wine than is humanly possible in one evening (remember to spit people), nibble on some tasty, freshly prepared food, speak with producers and enjoy a lavish food & wine Shmorg.

America’s premier wine & restaurant tasting” is coming up this Monday, June 15th at the David H. Koch Theater (Formerly the New York State Theater) At Lincoln Center on Broadway at 64th St in NYC.  There will once again be over 500 wines and food from over 20 NYC restaurants.

I am looking forward to seeing how (if at all) this event is relative to last years event.  I enjoyed the event last year and had little critique.  You may remember that I would have liked the tasting booklet to contain more space for notes as well as provide some sort of price guide (MSRP?).  I wonder if those changes/additions were considered.

Either way I expect to attend and hope to report back as soon as possible.  If you are going get in touch & we can try to meet up – though if this event is anywhere near as busy as last years that may be a challenging feat.

Happy Wine Enthusiast Toasting the Town!


Toast of the Town – NYC

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

Wine Enthusiast magazine put on their “Toast of the Town” wine & food event yesterday in NYC at Lincoln Center.  A very large event that took place on two levels & a large balcony & included some of NYC’s finest dining establishments.  There was lots of good food, good wine & happy people.

But it wasn’t all perfect.  (more…)