Carl Kanowsky: The wine tasting of a lifetime

Chelsea Bellows of Bellows Wine Consulting, left, and Kilee Lockwood of The Unfiltered Collection poured wine from The Debate at the Matter of Taste event. Courtesy photo

For my 50th birthday (which was ___ years ago), my loving sister, Becky, gave Terry and I tickets to Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour, held that year in Los Angeles.

Now, we’d never been to a major wine tasting event before. As we walked into the ballroom at the Century Plaza Hotel, our breath was taken away. It seemed like there were almost acres of wineries pouring.

And, what wineries! Four of the five first growths from Bordeaux attended. (The only absentee was Haut Brion, but its stablemate La Mission Haut Brion was there.) Other luminaries included Sassicaia and Ornellia from Italy, Taittinger from Champagne, Caymus and Diamond Creek and Opus One from Napa.

We staggered out of there, overwhelmed with the riches offered that night.

I have not experienced anything like that since (even with two follow-up Grand Tours). That is, until August 2019.

Tension has existed for decades between Wine Spectator and Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. But until recently, just the ratings from each publication formed the basis of the competition.

Now the Wine Advocate also sponsors notable tasting events. Last year, I devoted column space to an excellent tasting that it held in San Francisco. One of my impressions was that Europe, particularly Spain and Italy, were well-represented. There was another floor devoted to American wines, but I felt that the European wines were more impressive.

Well, this year Wine Advocate hosted its event (entitled Matter of Taste) in Napa. And, I don’t know if the proximity to home fueled the California attendance, but regardless of what caused it, the stars of Napa (and other California locales) were out in force.

Here’s a few of them (not in any particular order): Carter Cellars, Continuum, Dominus, Kapcsandy Family Winery, Kistler, Maybach, Morlet, Plumpjack, Myriad, Ramey, Schrader Cellars, Sloan, TOR, Clos Solene and The Debate.

Some luminaries from Washington also graced the tasting: Cayuse, Quilceda Creek, and Horsepower.

An absolutely stunning lineup! It would take five columns to talk about every amazing wine I drank that wonderful day in August.

Amazingly, the place was not jammed. I could walk up to Luc Morlet, sample some of his delicious wine, and try to appear somewhat educated about wine. I got to hang with Alex Stewart, Quilceda Creek’s winemaker. Over the years, Quilceda has done incomparable things with cabernet sauvignon. I had a delightful conversation with Brett Brockmeyer, the associate winemaker for Cade Winery, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s own label.

Quite unexpectedly, this turned out to be the best wine tasting event I had attended since the initial Grand Tour more than a few years ago. If you have the resources, treat yourself to the Matter of Taste in New York City on Nov. 22 and 23.

I will discuss some of the wines in my next column.

Carl Kanowsky is an attorney, a fledgling baker, an enthusiastic cook and an expert wine drinker.

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