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Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting

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[Photo: Ashley Teplin]

For the oenophiliacs of the Bay Area, the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting is a must. A tribute to the best wines in the eyes and mouths of the magazine's editors, this yearly event promises a feast for the senses and stellar opportunities to taste rare vintages. Now this year's event at the SF Design Center was no exception. With insider media pass in tow, Eater contributor Courtney Cochran made her way through the glass doors into the galleria and prepared to be blown away. In some ways she was. In other ways, not so much.


· One of the first people I bumped into at the Champagne Roederer table was long-time Chez Panisse somm, Jonathan Waters. When asked what brought him to the event, he quipped, “I’ve tasted with Josh [Greene, W&S editor,] for years and he has a very good palate.” Waters should know, I suppose. Though neither of us could account for the non-vintage Brut Roederer drinking leaps and bounds better than the label’s posh Cristal. Mon dieu!

· Perfectly positioned next to the outstanding Dageneau Loire whites and Veuve Clicquot bubbles, the bottomless Hog Island oysters and bubbly stations were a hot spot. I’d received a tip-off from wine scribe W. Blake Gray that the ’88 Veuve Rare Vintage Champagne was THE wine of the evening, and so sampled along with a few mollusks. It was possibly the best bubbly I’ve ever tasted, though I’m not sure I’d go so far as Blake’s description: "The first time I tasted it I walked into the next room, dropped onto my knees to thank God for making this wine."

· Easily the most spectacular part of the evening was when Ales Kristancic of Slovenia’s Movia Winery disgorged a bottle of his cult popular sparkling“Puro” into a bucket of water to oohs and ahhs of onlookers. The essentially unfiltered sparkling wine was mineraly and attention-grabbing, but the man himself was far more fascinating. Onlookers kept gripping my arms and saying ardently, “he’s THE guy” – “look at those enormous hands!”. Still more gripping was when he took my business card, held it up to his nose and inhaled deeply. He was still smelling it when I walked away.

Not so awesome:

· There was little room to breathe -- let alone mingle -- inside the packed first floor of the atrium. Then again, who really cares when you’re tripping over Jordan Mackay to get to the ’88 Veuve or running headlong into a table of Comstock Saloon’s tasty bites?

· A significant portion of the second floor balcony – home to most of the red wines featured for the evening – smelled strongly of ripe cheese in a really uncool way. Needless to say, I skipped that portion for the sake of my olfactory senses.

· The best wines and best scene are to be had during the early trade portion of the evening. For non-industry-insiders, this means you have a year to hatch a plan on how to score this ticket.

Quote of the night: "There’s no place like the bus," mused John Vuong, somm-about-town who just migrated from Gary Danko over to Ame, while sipping a zingy Corton Charlemagne, “Drinking this is like taking the 33 Stanyan across the city.” Now that's what I call keeping it local. - Courtney Cochran