Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Best of the Best 2010-Best Seat in the House

Over the weekend of February 26th, 27th, and 28th, I had the opportunity to attend the tastings, seminars, and events revolving around the Food Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But instead of being a guest or patron of the festival, I was an employee (albeit without monetary compensation).

The event that I attended on Friday evening (February 26th) is called Best of the Best. Participation of a winery or restaurant at this event requires that a principal of the business (owner, winemaker, or chef) be present, and that the winery present its tete de cuvee (best wine) and at least one other wine that represents the quality of the winery. Several wineries also bring older vintages to portray the progression of a particular wine’s evolution.

I was assigned to pour for Vine Cliff Winery, a well-known and respected Napa Valley winery, whose owner was unexpectedly called away and could not attend. I was provided with the 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville appellation) and the 2006 Private Stock (16 Rows) Cabernet Sauvignon.

Le grand fromage of this blog has opined recently regarding the difference between a tasting and a pouring, and the expectations that an attendee may have for each type of event. I tend to think along these same lines and agree with the stipulations referenced in that post, but I also tend to draw expectations based on the size of the event and the opportunities available for an event attended by several thousand people to be educational and informative.

With the attendance level well over 1500 people, I anticipated that this event would be a dash from table to table in search of high-end wines, gulp them down, and move to the next table. I was (and I must say pleasantly) mistaken. The majority of those that I poured for (and I lost count at over 200) requested that I tell them about the winery, its history, the composition / similarities / differences of the two wines, my personal opinions and recommendations on each wine, and other similar questions. Not only that, but several had follow-up questions, indicating that they were actually paying attention to my answers, rather than just making niceties.

With a tariff of $350 per person, Best of the Best does not lend itself to the casual wine consumer, but may also encourage the attendee to attempt to get ones money’s worth. I will now have to reconsider whether the price, the sheer volume of the wine available at an event, or those serving the wine influences the overall tone, or perhaps it comes down to the caliber of the patrons in attendance.

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