Walking in a wine-filled wonderland

You spin me right round, baby, right round - after three hours, at least.
Photo: Melissa Arseniuk

Wine Spectator chose just three cities to host over 200 of the magazine’s top-rated wines for the sipping, swirling and, sure, drinking pleasure that is its 2009 Grand Tour: Atlantic City, Chicago and Las Vegas.

So, as an aspiring wine connoisseur, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check things out and do a little tasting when the tour made its final stop here in Las Vegas at the Venetian this past weekend.

Hardly a wine pro – heck, I can hardly tell the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese most days – it would be wrong of me to critique the various bottles that were showcased on tour. (Anyway, they’ve already been reviewed and rated by the real pros at Wine Spectator.) I’ve decided to chronicle my journey – and progressive states of intoxication – with all of you.

Stop #1: Weingut Gunderloch

I love a nice, dry Riesling from time to time, but have a hard time remembering which ones I like and which ones remind me of syrup. I recognized the Gunderloch name, though, and gave it a try.

Yup, it’s a sweet one – but not painful, hurts-between-the-eyes sweet. Just two sips in my partner in crime arrived. I dumped the rest of the Rothenberg-cultivated 2006 and moved on to number two.

Stop #2: Chateau La Mission Haut-Brion

The wine was fine, but this pick-up line took the cake: “I love your bowtie, can I get some?”

The wine-toting and bowtied gentleman was all too happy to fulfill the request from the flirtatious female standing next to me.

Most people milling about the Grand Tour floor had been swigging for nearly two hours. I suddenly felt shockingly sober; I had a lot of catching up to do, apparently.

Stop #3: Two Hands

Stop #4: Wolf Blass Shiraz Platinum 2005

Everyone and their wine-drinking dogs seem to raves about Wolf Blass wines, but I’ve never been a huge fan. However, this platinum Shiraz was a nice surprise.

Stop #5: Hardys

More Aussie Shiraz, Hardy’s was a throwback to my college days when I served bottles of the stuff while paying my way through university.

Stop #6: Cicco Zaccagnini

Time to try some white wine. This bottle, however, tasted more like beer than the fruit of the vine. Not surprisingly, my companion, a self-admitted amateur wine drinker who prefers hops to grapes, loved it.

(Later, we both [quietly] confessed our love for lowbrow so-called Wednesday night wines like Yellowtail)

Stop #7: Il Borro Tuscana

I can’t remember how the wine tasted because I was too distracted by the portly gentleman standing next to me. He had greasy, slicked-back hair, blue jeans and a black sport coat, paired with an obnoxious scarf and black vinyl running shoes.

Now, I know Las Vegas is oftentimes fashion faux-pas central, but this fellow would have put even the most over-the-top, blinged-out Ed Hardy offender to shame.

Stop #8: Vina Errazuriz

This wine made the whole night and $200 ticket price worthwhile. I have loved this hard-to-find Chilean Cab-Sav for years and have always had a hard time finding it. Bumping into the 2006 Don Maximiano was like bumping into an old friend.

I had a photo taken with my dear friend Don Max, then said goodbye once more, not knowing when we’d cross paths again. (The man at the booth couldn’t tell me where, if anywhere, I could find it in Las Vegas.)

Stop #9: Castello Banfi

Stop #10: If only I could remember. After 10 stops what do you expect?

After waxing poetic about the beauty of Argentine Malbecs, my first taste of this one made me cough. I told my very-confused friend to hold onto his Malbec virginity until the next stop.

Stop #11: Trapiche

Much better.

Stop #12: Bodegas Y Vinedos O. Fournier

My high school boyfriend’s last name was Fournier so I felt compelled to at least try this one. Unfortunately, the similarly-named wine also left a slightly bad taste in my mouth.

Stop #13: Yalumba

Whoever was in charge of the pouring had abandoned his or her post, but we didn’t let that stop us from trying a little – OK, a lot – of the Voigner.

Stop #14: Mumm

Nearing the end of our journey, we reached the Mumm Napa table only to find it abandoned. A crate of empty bottles sat behind the table, and the two of us started longingly at them for a moment.

As we looked on, a middle-aged man in Adidas shorts and cross trainers stumbled past, empty glass in hand, emitting a curious sound that I can only describe as a sustained whine-meets-hum. I checked my watch: Just 10 minutes to go until the three-hour event came to a close.

Stop #15: Kim Crawford

The woman chuckled as she remarked on my double-fisting (I had poured the excess Yalumba into another glass to save for later), but was all-too-happy to share with me some Sauvignon Blanc – tasty.

Stop #16: Chateau Chasse-Spleen

We had agreed this stop, our sixteenth, would be our last, but I didn’t care for this wine, and of course, I had to end on a good note so…

Stop #17: Mollydooker

The night came to an end with a two-ounce pour of the top-rated red wine in the world that retails for less than $25: Mollydooker’s “the Boxer.” And so, after a swirl and a few sips, we made our exit.

Did we learn more about wine at the Grand Tour? Not really, but we drank plenty and enjoyed ourselves and the crowd along the way. And, of course, we picked up a copy of Wine Spectator, as well. All the better to appreciate the complexities of the various wines we had just tasted in retrospect.


Melissa Arseniuk

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