Monday, January 15, 2007

Wine, wine, wine!

Lots of wine-related fun this week. It started with a link The Boy sent to the usual suspects from Modern Drunkard Magazine, about the drinking prowess of Andre the Giant:

"It has been estimated that Andre the Giant drank 7,000 calories worth of booze every day. The figure doesn’t include food. Just booze. 7,000 calories. Every day."

On a (slightly) more civilized note, I found this article on slate.com about
the correct way to spit wine:

"If you want to be seen as legit by the Crips, it helps to have a drive-by shooting to your credit. If you want be seen as legit by wine geeks, you need to be able to shoot a mouthful of Chardonnay in a clean, straight line."

Working on the premise that we fall somewhere between Andre's liver-defying consumption and Jancis Robinson's projectile perfection, on Friday we headed over to the opening reception for the 2007 Boston Wine Festival, now in its eighteenth year.

I really had no idea what to expect; on the one hand, this was a $100-ticket event, held at the schwanky Rowes Wharf hotel. On the other, the point of the evening was to showcase some of the festival's premier labels. Which meant there would be various wine importers, only too happy to have as many people as possible sample as many of their wares as possible.

This had the makings of a kegger. With bowties.

The event started at 7pm; we arrived at about 7:30 to find hundreds of people in evening dress fighting over the buffet. With good reason, I should add: the food came courtesy of Meritage's chef Daniel Bruce, who's known for making sure wine and food pair well (
his menus list dishes according to wine type).

If we'd thought ahead, we could have spent the evening grazing the buffet without even hitting the bottle. Especially good were the cocoa-rubbed venison with roasted brussels sprout salad and the five-spice pork tenderloin pastrami, but there were also coconut and Riesling-poached shrimp; grilled Pinot Grigio-tossed calamari on a tomato-olive salad; and lorryloads of interesting cheeses. Ohhh, and the desserts--tables of teeny-tiny squares of lemon tart, cheesecake, fruits in creme anglais ...

Oh yeah. But we came to drink. So after a couple of sessions of lining up for food alongside people who hadn't been in a cafeteria since Princeton (for god's sake, I know the serving spoon has fallen into the veal bolognese! Stop trying to flag down the waiter and damn well pick it up and wipe it off yourself! There are people in line behind you trying to get to the truffle-laced fingerling potatoes!) we braced ourselves for the wine vendor tables.

As it turned out, there were only six importers represented. Six tables. Each one was staffed by two, maybe three people. The smallest brought just five or six varieties; the largest, Ruby Wines, had 12 different wines for the samplin'.

Did I mention there were hundreds of people? Who had each shelled out four ponies (or a fifth of a monkey) to get through the door? Had dressed up in their best bib 'n' tucker? Had driven all the way in from Newton (possibly Concord or Wellesley)?

And now they were expected to line up for wine???

So, um, yeah, it was a little chaotic. The whole idea of forming a polite queue went out the window pretty quickly; many people just hogged a corner of a vendor table and stayed there, resolutely making conversation until they'd had a swig of everything on offer. Others (and this seemed to be the most efficient course of action) simply stuck their glass out in the direction of someone holding a bottle and waited for random liquid to be poured into it.

Not knowing what to expect, we'd figured ahead of time that there was no way we could taste everything, so we should decide which wines we'd really like to try and stick to those. My vote (as ever) was for the Guigal 2003 Chateauneuf-du-Pape; The Boy favored Guigal's '98 Hermitage.

As we made our way through the rooms, past lamb dressed as mutton and
mutton dressed as lamb (and mint-rubbed grilled baby lamb chops), We stopped long enough to try the 2004 Robert Foley Charbono, the 2005 Kim Crawford Pinot Gris, the 2005 Martin Ray Riesling (the only Riesling at the event! What gives??) and the 2004 Prunotto Fiulot Barbera, which I assumed was pruno made by Italian convicts--thankfully, I was wrong.

And finally we found the Classic Wines Imports table, and the Guigals we'd been searching for, and--wait--why was there no Chateauneuf on the table? Oh, the guy's holding a bottle with about two inches of liquid left.


What's he saying? That's the last of it??

The Boy, thinking quick, thrust his glass out and yelled something indecipherable, and--yes!--the guy emptied the bottle into it. The Boy passed the glass back to where I stood, grinning, and I handed him my empty one, which was quickly filled with Hermitage.

We retreated to a quiet corner to savor the victory of snagging the wine. And then The Boy said, "I think we need red meat with this," and disappeared toward the steamship-carving table, returning with two pink slices of beef. Oh, perfect pairing.

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