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Written by Nikitas Magel   

Wine & Spirits Magazine's Top 100 Tasting Event


Though I like to think I'm not exactly a heathen, I have to admit that I've never promenaded along a red carpet, let alone ascend a long set of stone steps overlayed with one.  But that's exactly how guests were welcomed to the recent Wine & Spirits Magazine's Top 100 Tasting Event.  Showcasing not only the best wines, as submitted to the publication over the last year, the evening was also a true cornucopia of fabulous food, all for the enjoyment of a throng of industry professionals and enthusiasts hobnobbing in the labyrinthine interior of the Old Mint Building where the event was held in San Francisco.

In the interest of acclimating before the crowd became unwieldy, I arrived on the early side of the media preview.  It became quickly apparent that the wines were organized — a bit creatively, I thought — into separate rooms based on style or varietal.  This made it easy not only to locate the wines, but perhaps more importantly, to taste numerous wines of a particular style without experiencing the sudden palate-shock than if they'd been arranged in any other manner.  After all, there were wines from nearly every conceivable wine region, making for varietals and styles that ran the gamut.  Here is where the structure of the building itself was a strength, rather than a liability.  Whetting the crowd's appetite in preparation for the tasting experience ahead of them was the first table of eats, prepared by Bar Bambino, and featuring Roasted almonds and olives, Grana Padano cheese, a Salumi Selection of u'ndoui and wild fennel; and Baccala Mantecato, a pillowy puree of salt cod and potatoes.

In the courtyard were featured wines described as "Sparkling and Crisp".  First were the Champagnes, including vintage Blancs de Blancs by Diebolt-Vallois's (1997) and Louis Roederer (2000), along with their effervescent cousins, highlighted by the 2003 Green Valley Classic Vintage Brut from Sonoma's Iron Horse Vineyards.  Alongside these were a number of lean, still wines made primarily from Sauvignon Blanc.  Standouts among these hailed from Sancerre, with the surprisingly round and lush 2006 Les Baronnes by Henri Bourgeois, and Chile's Casa Marin with its 2007 San Antonio Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc.  Wonderful examples also hailed from New Zealand, with Saint Clair's fresh and grassy 2007 Vicar's Choice, and Napa, with St. Supéry's delightful own 2007 vintage.  Not to be overlooked, the up and coming region of Greece made a solid showing with not one, but two producers hailing from the volcanic island of Santorini: the 2007 Assyrtiko by Sigalas and the 2006 Kallisti Reserve by Boutari.  Offered alongside these wines was the opulence of oysters-on-the-half-shell by Aquatic Culture, plus a sumptuous preparation from Sebo of yukon gold potato and mentaiko (raw, spicy cured cod roe) salad with scallions and kizami nori (fine shredded seaweed).

The natural progression led to room featuring "Floral Whites" or those known to be highly aromatic, which were heavily represented by Rieslings.  Standouts from Germany were two vintage 2006 Beerenauslesen — one by August Kessler, the other by Dr. Loosen — both with a shimmering acidity that beautifully balanced a generous expression of sweet, ripe fruit.  Garnering the attention of Ernst Loosen himself is Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle, resulting in a collaboration on the production of Eroica, a Columbia Valley Riesling making a bold statement of its own and an memorable appearance at the event with its 2007 vintage.  Another standout, both for its value-driven wines and its hailing from the relatively unknown but increasingly attention-grabbing region of New York's Finger Lakes, was Fox Run Vineyards with their 2006 Gewurtztraminer ($22).  As an perfect accompaniment to these wines, Fish & Farm featured grilled marinated monterey bay squid in phillo cups with spiced roasted fall squash — a delectable combination of flavors that had me coming back for more.



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