When a day starts by opening a 1963 Penfold’s Grange and a Hundred Acre 2005 Single vineyard bottling… you know it’s going to be a great day!
Those were just two of the highlights on November 23 when the world-renowned Matter of Taste (MOT) global series of exclusive wine events for Robert Parker Wine Advocate members and guests returned to New York City for the final event of 2019.
This year’s fourth edition of the NYC Matter of Taste event took place at a new venue moving uptown to the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan (originally the famous Ziegfeld Theater). With unique, top tier tastings in Master Classes and over 250 wine vendors set to pour over 400 wines in the big hall. When the doors opened at Noon, everything was in place. Each premium wine, handpicked for its outstanding quality, had been awarded 93 points or above by the Robert Parker Wine Advocate.
Well over 600 guests attended the event that included a walk-around Grand Tasting. “What makes this event special is that so many winery principals and winemakers are here to pour their wines,” says Joe Czerwinski who hosted an intimate Masterclass with Penfold’s chief winemaker Peter Gago. The duo led attendees through an eight-vintage retrospective of Australia’s most famous wine, encompassing six decades of winemaking history.
Only one thing missing at this year’s MOT event: the one and only Robert Parker himself. Although Parker appeared last year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Wine Advocate Magazine, over the past seven years, the now 71-year-old wine aficionado has slowly been relinquishing control of the publication he founded in 1978.
“The father of modern wine criticism, our publication’s founder and namesake, my greatest mentor and a dear friend, it is with mixed feelings that I announce that Robert M. Parker Jr. will, as of today, be formally hanging up his wine criticism boots and retiring from the Robert Parker Wine Advocate,” wrote current editor-in-chief Lisa Perrotti-Brown in last year’s article entitled “A Tribute to Robert M. Parker Jr.” “I say ‘mixed’, because if anyone deserves a rest from our frenetic world of wine reviews, it is Bob. And yet, his contribution to significantly raising the bar of critical, unbiased wine writing and wine quality cannot be overestimated. His unrivaled tasting experience and expert straight-talking opinions will be sorely missed by consumers and trade alike,” added Perotti-Brown.
Parker first introduced the world to a 100-point wine scoring system that ultimately became the industry standard. After selling a controlling stake in his publication to Asian investors and the Michelin Group he stepped down as editor-in-chief. In the following years, he continued to relinquish some of his duties before curtailing all wine reviewing two years ago.
In late 2019, The Michelin Group became 100 percent shareholder of the Wine Advocate. “Integration will ensure the synergies between oenology and gastronomy through the pursuit of experiences based on food and wine pairing independent expert reviews.” said a representative of the Michelin Group.
Unfortunately, Bob couldn’t make the trip to New York from Maryland this year. He is taking it easier these days, relaxing at home with his dogs. Yet the show must go on!
On the day of the event, the first attendees started arriving at noon for the VIP session that allowed them early access to the tasting. American Wine Society members were qualified to receive a free VIP upgrade when they registered. Participants’ eyes lit up as they made their way into the Ballroom and began perusing the selection of unique wines. Like kids in a candy store these oenophiles smiled and salivated as they strolled up and down the aisles. The greatest wines of France, Spain, Italy, Australia… and then you stepped up to the plate for the premiere Napa Cabs. These “killer” wines that I deemed as “Murderers Row” since we were in the home of the unbeatable 1920’s NY Yankees, was a casting of spectacular wines guaranteed to knock your socks off! Schrader, Mt Brave, Pride, Ovid, White Hall Lane, TOR, Bevan, Alpha Omega… and they just kept on coming. Can anyone really spit out these wines? I found it nearly impossible but I kept it to smaller sips because of the long day ahead.
Upstairs in the Master Class suite, the skilled Sommelier team included Master Somms as well as those from top NYC restaurants, Atlantic City casinos and American Wine Society members. They scrambled around the staging and pouring room to make sure that the precious wines were at the right temperature while deciding the best time to decant each. They kept the Masterclasses running smoothly, while making sure every detail was taken care of.
The Somm room buzzed with excitement as these wine professionals experienced the vertical retrospective tasting flights of Penfold’s Grange, Hundred Acre, Chappellet, Laurent -Perrier and Produttori del Barbaresco that were presented in sold-out classes. “It was a peak wine experience to taste through the Hundred Acre vertical with Penfold’s Gago,” gushed AWS member Frances Denmark.
“This occasion delivers tasting notes to the readers in real life” says Events Manager Christophe Smith, “there is a mutual respect because MOT, unlike other publications functions; does not accept any money from the from wineries to participate,” He continues. “We have a three way promise to provide the best consumers, the best wineries and the highest quality wines with new discoveries.”. And they sure did!
As if such a full day wasn’t enough, the MOT event was followed by “The Hedonist BYOB” that took place at the Michelin Starred Gabriel Kruenther restaurant on 42nd Street. The stellar food complemented the impeccable lineup of wines set up by the organizer that included priceless bottles dug out of the guests’ cellars and brought for this occasion. Opus One 2001, Harlan 2007, Tiganello, Lail Sauvignon Blanc, Ornellaia and more in Double Magnums, Jeroboams and Imperials filled the room. It was like a Disneyland for the wine aficionado… without the long wait in line!
Parker’s Wine Advocate hosts the events six times a year with only two in the USA; in 2020 these will include Napa in June and NYC in November. All others are held in Europe and Asia.
By 10:00pm I was starting to fade. It had been a long day of great wine, great food, new friends and old friends to share them with. As a key organizer of the event, I was finally able to kick back and savor a perfect day. While I did think about of the great wines that I missed and didn’t have time to sample during the six-hour event, I realized that I can always come back next year for another spectacular program of Master classes and great wines!