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Anyone experienced a Wine Spectator Grand Tour event?

I just confirmed my attendance at the Wine Spectator Grand Tour event in Las Vegas on May 4th-5th, and was wondering if anyone's been to one of these before. The list of wineries/chateaux is tremendous, and I'm wondering how packed these get and if I need to seriously gameplan to ensure I taste the premium stuff before they run out.

TIA for any insight/perspective.

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  1. Some years back, they did two events: California Wine Experience and New York Wine Experience. They alternated year to year. I attended the last CA WE and it was great. Marvin S had a big falling out with the SF Marriott (host location), and the next couple of years, it was always in NYC. Shortly thereafter, they did the "Grand Tour" events. I'm thinking about the upcoming event in LV, but have not made the arrangements yet. If it is a condensed version of the old CA Wine Experience, it should be great. I like that event, as it was over about four days, so there was time to do a lot of tasting and learning.

    Hunt

    1. I went to the one in Las Vegas two years ago and am going this year. It is truly overwhelming. They have all of the producers set up in booths made up of long tables, in a huge ballroom, with the food at the back. All of the attendees queue up at the ballroom doors before the "starting gate" is opened and then kind of storm the place. You definitely should have a game plan as to what you want to taste for no other reason is that everything is so alluring and you will end up tasting at places that may not be high priority for you because a particular producer is "on the way" to another one you are looking for. I didn't see or hear of any producers running out of anything - this is more of an endurance type tasting. It's also not a great environment for quiet contemplation or long discussions with most winemakers; there are just too many people for it to be that kind of event. We did have a good conversation with the people representing an Italian producer from Campania that we love, but that's because tons of people weren't beating down their door. For example, most of the top Bordeaux houses were pouring the 96 vintage and were still overwhelmed. It's still definitely worth going to, however. They have maps available showing where in the huge ballroom the various producers are located, but I don't know how far in advance you can get them. I recall having them far enough in advance that we could plan our route, which I recommend doing if you can. Have fun!

      2 Replies
      1. re: farmersdaughter

        That has been my experience an many tastings. One of the great things about the old "CA Wine Experience," and the alternating year NYC event, was that the Grand Tastings were over 2 nights, and those with full tickets, got to go in 2hrs. ahead of the masses. While there were still a lot of folk, it was far more casual and relaxed. One could do about all that they would want, say whites and sparklers one night, then light-reds, working up to whatever, the next. There was still time to do some tasting, even after the main doors opened, before the crowds staked out their territory.

        Now, with the satellite tours and all croweded into ONE tasting for everyone, it sound frenetic. That, plus a schedule conflict, kept me from LV this year. I may try for the NYC grand event in Nov, which probably still has the same schedule as the old bi-annual events. There is so much to be said for being able to taste, ask a few questions, and then move on, without having to fight for a spot at the tables. I have declined many an offer, to events that are too crowded, and especially with people, who just want to drink, and monopolize a certain table, with all of their friends. Not much fun, nor is it informative.

        Hunt

        1. re: Bill Hunt

          It certainly isn't the best environment for tasting, but for someone like me who enjoys big reds from all around the globe, this is heaven. I'm already looking forward to attending the 2008 event (esp. if at least one of the 1st Growths is pouring their '05 Bordeaux). I'll also check around to see where else there may be special winemaker dinners occurring in the nights leading up to the event. Those are where the real opportunities to taste happen.

      2. Thanks for the insight! I figured these events get pretty packed, so I'm going to have to try and pull some strings to see if I can get inside early.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Eugene Park

          Good luck with getting in early.

          Do have a game plan of what you want to taste. The aisles get so crowded that it is dissicult to get throught the crowds.

          1. re: chickstein

            I'm hoping my mini-whale/sucker status with The Venetian will help.

            My game plan is to run counter to "tasting wisdom", so I'll try to get the 1st growth Bordeaux completed first, then hit the cabs, pinots & ports. Silly, I know, but I suspect the traffic jams at this event will also be silly.

            1. re: Eugene Park

              Dissicult? I really need to stop typing in the dark.

              1. re: chickstein

                Or, after tasting 10 Zins in a night! :- }

                Per Eugene's plan, I've done the reverse tasting route too, with good and bad results. If one overloads their palates with heavy, tannic Bdx., the light, sublime whites, later, just do not work.

                I still go from light whites, to heavy reds, and pay the price. In PHX, there are several such tastings, and the 1er Cru Bdx. are always gone in a hurry. Same for the Silver Oak, etc. Most of the recreational tasters just hit there first, and stay, drinking it all up. OTOH, I'm trying to taste to predicate my purchases for the next year, or two.

                One of the aspects that I appreciated about the old WS events, was that the grand tastings were over two evenings, and full-attendance got you in 2 hours early. One can do a lot of tasting and schmoozing in 2 hours. Then at 8:00PM, the main doors were thrown open and the masses entered, drinking every good wine in sight. Kinda' like the locust hitting Pharoh's fields. The folk, who paid the big $s were usually done by then, or going back to a favorite, to talk to the winemaker, just a bit more.

                If we go this year, to LV, I'll just map out my spots, and try to hit them. If I miss some, I'll just add them to my travel schedule.

                These events often deteriorate into a drinking match, with a few people staking out the front of a particular table and just staying there, drinking until all of their friends can join them, or the wine from that spot is gone, whichever comes first. Good tasting etiquette dictates, that one receive their pour, ask a question, or two, of the rep./winemaker, then move away to sample the wine. Unfortunately, it doesn't often happen that way.

                Should I go, I'll do a report of all aspects.

                Hunt

                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I am not attending any of the smaller WS events this year, but I am going to NY in October for the BIG one.

                  Last year, I had Emeril and Arnold (you know the Gov), hanging out in front of my table. I even got a kiss from Emeril. I thought the events were a blast.

                  1. re: chickstein

                    I've never been to the NYC events, but the old CA ones were well worth the $, even without a "kiss from Emeril !" If we make the LV event, I'll do a critique.

                    Hunt

                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                      I hope you make the LV event. I'll do a TR as well afterwards, and would like to get perspective from other attendees of how it was. I know that I'll be skipping most of the whites and bubblies, so any feedback on those would be appreciated.

        2. Reviving this thread as I wait at McCarron Airport to board my flight home to the Bay Area. Suffice to say that the event was tremendous fun. I'll post more when I'm home. and will also post about a special winemaker's dinner that took place on Fri night where various vintages of all five 1st growth chateaux were poured (including the 2000 Margaux and the '89 Lafite), finishing with '94 D'Yquem.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Eugene Park

            Eugene,

            Please do, as I was not able to make this event. I'd like to know what I missed out on.

            Thanks,
            Hunt

          2. Will have a report up soon. Am about to leave on business for a couple of days, so I'll have some time on the road to complete my report.

            In the meanwhile, here's my TR for the 1st Growth winemaker dinner I experienced the evening prior to the event: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/399437