The Wine Quest Premier Dining Experience, held at the JW Marriott on Saturday evening, was one of the most self-serving events that I have ever attended. It left me speechless but once I regained the use of my senses, I walked out on the proceedings.
The event schedule called for a 7:00 pm champagne reception followed by dinner at 8:00. A live auction was also included in the evenings events. In order to have an even fuller evening, four of us decided to take some wine and hang out in the hotel lobby from about 5:30 pm and to then join the Wine Dinner when it began. I took a 1990 Gruaud Larose and Adam took a 2004 Chaves Hermitage Blanc so when we found out that Gloria Ferrer (a sparkling) was being served at the "Champagne" reception, we decided to remain in the lobby and finish our bottles.
At a few minutes to 8:00, we made our way to the event entrance, signed in, and began reviewing the auction items. Shortly thereafter the call came for diners to take their seats. As we entered the room I noticed that it was so large that the 250 people and their tables took up about half of the space (It made it appear as though the event was undersubscribed; even though it was not.). The room was arranged with a band of covered, circular tables sandwiched between two rows of rectangular, stainless-steel, uncovered, cold, butcher-block-looking tables. It was not clear how one was assigned to the tables with the table cloths. We were not. The rectangular tables were doubled up so, depending on where you sat, you might need a cell phone to communicate with your table mate.
The first three courses were uninspiring -- a Foie Gras, a beet lettuce, and a duck with undercooked rice -- paired with equally uninspiring wines that did no justice to the cost of entry. The wines were so pedestrian that Adam went over to Primo and bought a bottle of wine and brought it back to our table. Our pains were only just beginning though. Rather than proceed to the main course, the dinner was suspended so that the live auction could begin. Apparently, last year's auction was held after the dessert course and a lot of people left. That was not going to happen to them again. They were going to hold the entire dinner hostage and have their live auction. Who cares if it is 9:15 pm and you are starving because the preceding courses were famine-sized.
After sitting through six lots, we got up and went to Luma for dinner.