On a night when more than 250 of the world’s finest wines were served to a packed house, the wines were somehow not the biggest attraction in the room. On the opening night of the 2022 New York Wine Experience, it was the people.
“It’s just fantastic to be back,” said Christian Seely, director of an impressive international selection of wineries from Portugal to Bordeaux to Napa. “Not just to see the biggest wine producers in the world, but also to see the biggest wine consumers in the world.”
Seely and his colleagues poured for nearly 2,000 of those consumers on Oct. 20 during the first of two Grand Tastings, which kicked off three days of wine, food, seminars and fun at the New York Marriott Marquis in Times Square. This year’s event promised an opportunity to reconnect with those who share a passion for all things wine.
The pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 Wine Experience, and although the event was held in 2021, the pandemic restrictions limited crowds and prevented most European winegrowers from attending. For them, this was their first Wine Experience since 2019, and a great relief.
“It’s always a great event. It’s great to be back,” said Damien Barton Sartorius of Château Léoville Barton. “I’m like a kid in a candy store.”
The problem for many attendees? Which candy to try first. For bubbly lovers, there were more than a dozen choices, starting with Pol Roger’s 2013 Brut Champagne Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill. Right next door, Schramsberg Rosé North Coast J. Schram 2013 offered a California counterpart.
White wine lovers can enjoy New Zealand’s vibrant Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough Te Muna 2021 or the elegant 2017 Livio Felluga Rosazzo Terre Alte from Italy or the complex 2011 M. Chapoutier Ermitage White de l’Orée from France. The next row offered pristine Pinot Noirs from Oregon, Sonoma, Santa Barbara, Burgundy, and New Zealand.
Do you want to better understand Cabernet Sauvignon? Napa’s Favia poured his 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville right across from where Château Lynch Bages poured his 2018 Pauillac. What about Sangiovese? Some of the tables offered excellent examples of Castello di Volpaia and Fontodi from the Chianti and Altesino and Biondi Santi from Montalcino. Or you could try Renato Ratti’s Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2015 and then move to Gaja’s Barbaresco Sorì Tildìn 2015. There were dozens of other options from Spain, Portugal, Germany, Israel, Australia and more.
But time and again, as people walked through the two packed ballrooms and tasted wines, they also met new people, learned about the wineries and made new friends. Winemakers took advantage of it to try wines they had never tasted before and to exchange ideas and forge connections.
“It’s also nice to see all your producer friends you haven’t seen in a long time,” says Jason Jardine, winemaker at Sonoma’s Hanzell Farm & Vineyards. “These events really help bring people together.”
The Wine Experience would not be possible without the incredible generosity of vintners who donate all of the weekend’s passion-inducing wines. All net proceeds from the event will go to the Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation, which has raised more than $35 million in scholarships and grants to the hospitality and wine industry.
Beneficiaries of the Foundation included students from Napa Valley College, the University of California at Davis School of Viticulture & Enology, The Roots Foundation, Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute, Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Culinary Institute of America, among others.
When the first event of the 2022 Wine Experience ended, the sense of joy to be back together was palpable. “Everyone is talking about how great it is to be back in the room,” said Randy Ullom of Jackson Family Wines.
Grand Tasting Photo Gallery