Thursday, March 4, 2010

Best of the Best 2010: Another Perspective

Wine Spectator's Best of the Best, sponsored by Bank of America, and held at the spectacular Fontainbleau Miami Beach, was positioned as one of the highlights of the Food Network South Beach (SoBe) Wine and Food Festival.
Fontainbleu Miami Beach (Source:

The event featured 42 chefs preparing dishes alongside 60 winemakers pouring their best wines and, for the first time, 16 of the top champagne houses displaying and pouring their products. In the previous post, HlyTerroir gave an "employee" perspective of the event. In this post I will provide a perspective from an event-consumer point of view.

Event attendees could valet their cars at either the conference or main entrances to the Fontainbleau. We parked at the main lobby and this allowed us to take in the full grandeur of this recently refurbished dowager of Miami Beach as we take the long walk to the conference area where the actual event is being held. Along the way we pass, on the right-hand side, a large bar bathed in a blue, luminous light (I found out later that it is called Bleau Bar.). It was all I could do to keep walking.

The event registration area was located at the bottom of a double stairway and after negotiating through the "entry" procedure (Hey Spoto), we climbed the stairway to a brightly lit reception area which was ringed by champagne house booths interspersed with chef cooking stations. I was awestruck. Fidel (Wine Barn) and Spoto hurried us over to the Ruinart booth where glasses were produced and generous portions were splashed into our glasses by well-coutoured pourers. Thus began the champagne orgy. We began with the Ruinart (Rose NV, 1998 Dom Ruinart, and Blanc de Blanncs), went on to Dom Perignon (1995 OEnothique, 1998 Rose, and 2000 Dom), then Perrier-Jouet (200 Fleur Brut, Blason Rose, and Grand Brut. By this time adam and Gigi had arrived so we trooped over to the Krug booth and camped out for a while (1998 Vintage and Grande Cuvee). It was at the Krug booth that I first noticed something which became clearer, and made more sense as a Best of the Best attendance strategy, as the evening wore on.

Our group was comprised of two Wine on the Way Board members and their wives, along with Adam and Gigi. At the Krug booth, Adam presented his business card and told the pourers that he was here with some of his best customers. With this introduction we got the fullest attention both in terms of pours and dialogue. As the evening continued, Adam was able to steer us to the most relevant booths (he knew our palates) thus ensuring that we maximized the time that we spent at the event.

I drank a lot of wine that evening inclusive of the '98 and '04 Volcanic Hill (the '04 was great), the '05 Palmaz Cab, the '04 Diamond Creek red Rock, the '07 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Bertani '06 Secco-Bertani and '00 Amarone, and the Schrader '06 G111 Cab and '07 Aston Estate Pinot Noir Clone 777, among others (This was hedonistic rather than evaluative drinking.). The Schrader experience was a lot of fun because Adam and Gigi had hung out with him at the Shore Club until the wee hours of that same morning and they were reminiscing about the high points.

Throughout the evening I kept running into Fidel (who was ostensibly working) and HlyTerroir (who was also supposed to be working but could be seen walking around drinking wine out of the largest Reidel glass I had ever seen).

All in all it was a very good night. It was one gigantic cocktail party except that the pace was a little more hurried as people tried to move from point to point in as expeditious a manner as possible. The chefs' stations and the pouring booths were against the walls of the conference hall so the route that you took around the event depended on which door you came through initially. This flow-counterflow did make for some discomfort. People were in a good mood though and the mood improved as the evening progressed and the alcohol wended its way deeper into the brain.
Pourers were helpful and smiling and seemed to be enjoying showing their ware. My disappointment was that even though the show was billed as the best of the best, there were some labels there that I would not exactly place in that category and there were many that I would categorize thusly that were not present. That fact did not take away from the impact of the evening.

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