A few days ago I was drinking beer in Sidecar11, waiting for Jai to wrap up with a client, down the street at New Vintage. The bartender, Aaron, asked me if I was going to the C&G Wine distributor tasting. As I no longer work restaurant per se, this was the first I’d heard of it. He kindly forwarded the invitation and I took advantage of it.


Most tasting events print “tasting sheets” in something like single spaced, 10 point Arial and if you’re lucky, they’ll put an extra space between each wine. That’s because they know that most of the people attending are waiters and bartenders who think they’ve been invited for a free drunk. Doug doesn’t invite those people and I have, in fact, had him walk out of one of my cattle calls at a restaurant, because the owner/my boss was using the time for just that. But that’s another story. C&G provided booklets about the wine but also double-spaced tasting note sheets; nice touch. I didn’t have an invitation but I thought Doug wouldn’t mind. (He didn’t, and I pitched his Blanquette de Limoux to the hotel; an excellent value I wouldn’t have known about.)


I tried every sparkling wine first, with particular attention to making notes and quizzing the importer at length (somewhat challenging, due to a thick French accent). Two high points: Claude Genet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly (non-vintage), and, Michel Genet Claude Genet Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Chouilly, 2008 Grande Reserve. My notes read, “Crisp, clean, green apple, mineral finish,” for the first and, “Fantastic. All the above but finer still.” That was cool.


After that, I went into… the Rhone. A few highlights from my notes:

Quaff of the Day: 2013 Domaine Boisson Cotes du Rhone—“Easy, pleasant, plums and blackberries.” This wine would go with a lot of different meals. About $15, retail.

Good, Long Term Investment: 2013 Chateau Sixtine Châteauneuf du Pape—“Big, sturdy structure. Awesome ripe fruit. Great collectible.” This is one to hold for ten years, which should be relatively easy since it goes for around $50 and you won’t open it for just anyone.

And, the Holy Shit Award: Domaine Olivier Hillaire Les Petits Pieds d’Armand—the notes say exactly that: “Holy Shit.” I stood there stunned as layer after layer of dark, ripe fruit flavors unfolded in my mouth. I was certain after 10-15 years, those flavors would only be more clearly defined. My notes also say, “Extraordinary.” But it’s not cheap: about a hundred bucks.


Best tasting I’d been to in years, and I’ll tell you why: I was surrounded by professionals. The spittoons had to be dumped over and over as we all tasted, spat, wrote notes and repeated. Almost everyone around me was doing the same thing, and I noticed the conversations were subdued and generally focused on the wine. That’s why we were there—not to party. I tasted 25 wines that day. There’s a comment in my notes that I was “starting to lose it,”  so I bid farewell three wines later. Sometimes, being surrounded by professionals is a good thing.