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Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour 2009

Sometimes it feels like my life is full of lucky coincidences like it’s a series of events where I happen to be in the right place at the right time. I’m pretty sure that’s how I wound up with an invite to the 2009 Wine Spectator Grand Tour, and how I found myself waiting in line to get into the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier at 6:45 last night.
 

The event was excellent, if a bit short. Only three hours to taste all 213 wines being poured (only one from each producer). I’ve said this before: what a complaint to have! By my notes, I was only able to try about a third of what was offered, and I broke a sweat in the process.
 
What is there to say about the wines? They were wonderful. People ask me “What were the highlights of the night?” Pretty much everything was a highlight. Just off the top of my head, some I remember fondly:
 
The Ornellaia is awesome, The Gemstone is amazing (I joined their mailing list, my first mailing list ever because I simply can’t afford it) Sassicaia’s 2006 Guidalberto is huge, the First Growths are elegant and distinctive, and the other Bordeaux are right up there too. The 2005 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet is excellent, surging back from a slump a few vintages ago. The Brunello di Montalcinos (Brunellos di Montalcino?) from several producers were huge and youthful, from both 2004 and 2001. And many more, and many more.
 
Values that stick out in my mind: 2006 Torrione Petrolo is great, even better than vintages I’ve had in the past, but still very young. 2006 Querciabella Chianti Classico is great for the price, and was the first wine of the evening where I wanted to pair the wine with dinner. Hogue’s 2005 Merlot Reserve is a powerhouse, and Spring Valley’s 2006 Uriah shows wonderful complexity and finesse for a wine Binny’s offers for under $40. The 2007 Mollydooker Boxer Shiraz, though a little too flamboyant for my personal tastes, stands up against wines ten times the price. These two guys I met, George and Brett, talked to me about it George uses the Boxer as a litmus test for all Australian reds he said If you like it, you like Aussie wine. I recommended he try the Vina Cobos, and the Colonial Estate Emigre, and everything from Spain, and the Two Hands Bella’s Garden, and the Bennet Lane Reserve Cabernet, and many more, and many more.
 
And that, if I may veer into subjective rambling, was the highlight of the night. There, amid the ocean of world-class wine, were all these people sharing this wonderful experience – pouring wine and tasting wine and talking about wine. They were even willing to talk to me, an awkward guy needing a haircut with a pen behind his ear, clutching a glass and a book of hastily scribbled notes. Rubbing elbows and working the crowd are not skills I’m known for.
 
Wearing my Binny’s name tag surely attracted attention. Most conversations started with “You’re from Binny’s? Well, what are the highlights of the night?” I overhead this: “Do you want the rest of my Caymus Special Selection?” Then the lady who said that turned to me and said, “I bet that’s something you’d never expect to hear. Oh hey, you’re from Binny’s!”
 
One group of young ladies requested my attention, pulled me to a table, forced me to taste the wine there (which was very good). I thought maybe they were looking for my expert opinion, or just liked me, or something, until they demanded that Binny’s carry the wine, which unfortunately doesn’t have distribution in the Chicago market. I told them I personally didn’t have that power, but promised to see what I could do. We chatted for a while, I ran out of things to say so I awkwardly blurted out “Shop at Binny’s!” and they told me they were going to get another glass of port, and that I should have a nice night.
 
My palate fatigued, I told a waiter working the cheese table that there wasn’t enough time to taste all the wines. He told me that people use that excuse, but that there’s always time, as long as you use your time on what’s important. He told me the same thing is true of money. His name is Andres. We started talking about the restaurant he recently opened, and how time and money are in short supply, so he has to invest them wisely.
 
Maybe all this chatting is why I only got through a third of the wines offered.
 
Um…
 
So yeah…
 
Shop at Binny’s!



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