I had an interesting and mostly fun time last weekend at the 2009 Boston Wine Expo. I volunteered both days taking tickets at wine seminars (classes). When you volunteer at the Expo, in exchange they give you 2 free tickets to the Grand Tasting (value $85 each) for each volunteer shift. So I received 2 x 2 = 4 free tickets for my volunteering and was able to give these 4 tickets to friends to enjoy the Expo.
The first day volunteering was quite well-organized and I received my assignments when I arrived. I took tickets at the following seminars: Champagne Brunch, Rioja and Jerez: Spain’s Wine Royalty, and 2005 Bordeaux ‘The Greatest Vintage Ever!’. A problem with collecting tickets at the seminars is that you often have to leave halfway through the seminar to collect tickets at the next seminar. This was the case the the Rioja and Jerez seminar hosted by the very energetic Doug Frost. I was super enjoying his talk about the history of Spanish wines when I had to get up and leave. Ah, well.
But then I was able to participate in the 2005 Bordeaux seminar hosted by the Bordeaux négociant house Aquitaine Wine Company. This company specializes in distributing wines from less-famous, under-the-radar, more-affordable Bordeaux chateaux. Co-owner Margaret Calvet presented, and available to taste from her company were 18 wines, some quite fine, a very generous tasting. In fact, the class got a bit rowdy after a while, and I actually had to tell a group of 4 women to pipe down as they were partying too hardy.
There were 2 great after-Expo parties but I didn’t attend either of these as I knew I needed to catch the 7:09AM train Sunday morning, as I needed to be back into Boston for a 10:15AM seminar. It turned out I didn’t even have to collect the tickets for that seminar as it was free to the trade only. Argh. However, it turn out to be a super interesting seminar about Biodynamic Agriculture given by Montinore Estate (Willamette Valley, Oregon) winemaker Rudy Marchesi. Mr. Marchesi stressed that he uses biodynamic methods in his vineyards because they work, not because it’s his pagan religion. He stated that, yes, plants have feelings, which I hadn’t heard since the talk from Olivier Humbrecht at Gordon’s last year. When you listen to biodynamic adherents explaining their methods and the results, it’s so clear to me that this is the way to grow happy vines.
I caught a cold or virus from any of 10,000 (?) people but am getting over it now. Also I believe spending so much time running between the World Trade Center and the Seaport hotel in sub-freezing, near zero degrees F weather and generally being nerved up impacted my immune system somewhat.
I saw wine wunderkind and gadfly Gary Vaynerchuk at the Wine Library booth on Sunday and he gave me a t-shirt. He was his usual ebullient, friendly self. I also remembered him mentioning in passing on a WLTV episode that ‘Gary’ is not his actual first name. His real (Russian) name starts with a G and ends with a Y, but is not Gary. Can you guess what it is? First person to guess correctly in a comment will receive a copy of Al Franken’s book The Truth (with jokes) if you want it.
On Sunday with my Press Pass I was able to taste a few wines at the Grand Tasting with my friends. I paid special attention to wines of Greece and wines of New York state. I was curious to taste Retsina again, having experienced the pine-resin influenced Greek wine in the past and found it to be pretty much not palatable. At the Expo, I tasted Retsina from maker Achaia Clauss which was created purely for export to American market, with MUCH less pine-resin influence.
I tasted some great wines from New York state from Dr. Konstantin Frank, including the exotic Rkatsiteli, which is as delicious as it is unusual.
I’m excited to report that I will be attending the Boston Wine Expo again this year. Last year was my first time attending and I wrote up a pretty detailed blog post about my experiences. This year I will be volunteering on both days of the event taking tickets at Seminars. This makes me quite happy as I am very into wine education (evidenced by my frequent blog postings about wine classes at Gordon’s Fine Wine and Culinary Center). I consider this a plum volunteer assignment. I also was gratefully able to garner a Press Pass for Sunday, thanks to this here (mostly wine) blog, but this will be redundant with my volunteer duty that day. Still, I may sport my Press Badge as a unique wine-writer accessory.
I hope to see many of my fellow Boston-area wine lovers there!
Here are a few words about my experiences at the 2-day Boston Wine Expo which was held at the World Trade Center in Boston this past weekend. This was my first time attending this since my intense interest in wine is a fairly recent development. The only way for me to attend the Expo was to volunteer my time for the event. In exchange for one day of volunteering, they gave me 2 “Grand Tasting” tickets for the other day. So Saturday I attended, and Sunday I volunteered.
It took about an hour and 45 minutes for my friend Adrian H. and I to get into Boston from out here in Groton, MA. We initially tried to get into the Expo on the end opposite of the actual entrance – but this was a blessing in disguise as I found where the office was where I needed to collect our tickets. So we figured out the proper entrance, got our glassware, and entered the humongous Grand Tasting area.
This stadium-sized floor plan was divided into approximately 8 rows of wine vendors and 1 row of ‘Lifestyle’ product or service providers. We had a complete list of vendors so I tried to tick off the ones of particular interest. Since I’m a newbie, I really only noted about 10 producers. But of course by far the most *ridonculously* interesting attraction to me was the Wine Library tables located in row 800 starring the very addictive and energetic and over-the-top host Gary Vaynerchuk (see WLTV link on this page).
So, the thing is, that most of the wine being proffered is not necessarily anything of any special interest to the wine aficianado. This event is more of a gigantic party. The (audible) volume on the floor starts at a low bustling hum and ends at the end of the afternoon in a semi-deafening roar. The vendors of special interest have rather huge crowds in front… if you don’t feel like waiting and pushing through those, you will tend to quickly sate yourself with stuff where no line is there to fight. Here we are.
The tendency for first-timers is to drink too much of the readily available stuff, and we did. However, there were a couple of standouts that I noted, as follows, with my extremely abbreviated tasting notes:
Michael-David Petite Petit Sirah 2005
Smashing Petite Sirah & Petit Verdot blend with knockout nose and smashing lingering finish. Yumitude.
Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay 2006
I remembered that this was top-rated in Wine Spectator, and this did not disappoint. Remarkably complex and pleasing in the mid-palate for an inexpensive CA Chardonnay, with no evidence of over oaking. Bravo.
Mionetto Sergio Prosecco NV
All the Mionetto Prosecco offerings were outrageously tasty, and this particular extra-dry sparkler added some other local grape varieties to the mix (30%) for maximal interest.
WE MET GARY VAYNERCHUK
The 32-year old host of Wine Library TV was very sweet, attentive, and polite to us. And I have to say he’s even cuter in person than on his taped show (tv.winelibrary.com). He’s obviously very sharp. He’s serious about buying the New York Jets, and I definitely wouldn’t put it past him. We met his wife Lizzie briefly, and saw his Dad Sasha talking on his cell rather excitedly. Also little bro AJ was around, just having turned 21. Saturday it was surprisingly easy to speak with him (I expected to fight through a mob of Vayniacs). Sunday I saw him briefly too and there was a much larger mob of fans about, and I was nervous as I had no Dutch Courage to help me with my shyness problem.
WE MET RICHARD STALLMAN
On the ride home on the T to Alewife, where we parked, we were sitting next to a wild-haired gentleman typing emails on this laptop. Accompanied by 2 young fans/acolytes, he started talking to us about the non-necessity of constantly being hooked into the Internet. Adrian joked – who are you, Stallman? He admitted that, well, yeah, he was. We were shocked as all getout and rather thrilled to be chatting with the legendary Free Software Foundation guru/People’s republic of Cambridge lefty. In fact, in one of my IT positions, I used GNU tools extensively. He seemed pretty happy and was friendly with us.
Sunday morning I wasn’t feeling all that wonderful (surprise!) but needed to get into Boston for my volunteer shift 11-4. So pretty much I was taking Advil all day until the late afternoon. It somehow only took me an hour and 15 minutes to get into Boston this time. I had 3 shifts on Sunday taking tickets at Expo-hosted seminars. This was great. This particular volunteer task is wonderful as usually you get to participate in the seminar when there are no-shows, which there usually are.
The first seminar was Champagne and Artisan Cheese Pairings. There was a completely full house for this one, and we had to turn away Press people, who apparently always try to crash the seminars (and are usually successful). The second seminar was my fave – Zinfandel Madness. Here there were quite a number of no-shows, so both of us ticket-taking volunteers got to participate in the tasting. The Four Vines guru Christian Tietje presented four of his Four Vines Zinfandel offerings including the outrageous “Sophisticate” and the luscious “Maverick”.
This had the most outrageous nose I’ve ever experienced in my wine newbie life. I could have kept my considerable shnoz in the glass all day. Basically, a fruit and spice blockbuster with lots of jammy goodness and a considerable finish. If this is a New World Fruit Bomb, then I LIKE IT!
The third and last seminar for me was Pinor Noirs of the World. Again, quite a few no-shows at the end of the afternoon, so I got to participate. There were so many no-shows that I just let a couple of the Press crash it. There were 8 wonderful Pinots there with an expert panel presenting.
Archery Summit Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2006
Next year, I’ll definitely volunteer again, and if I attend the Grand Tasting again, will avoid the expediently available plonk and just taste what I have a reasonably good feeling will be worthy of my attention.