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Jun 16, 2014 08:11 AM

Restaurant and wine recommendation for a vertical tasting

Our recent experience at Nectar wine lounge in the Marina, and a tasting of a 1950 CB, has made us want to explore more the aging process of a wine. What better way to do this than vertical? Ideally exploring differences of > than 5 years for each vintage.
So here we go. The goal would be to do this in early July.

Two aspects: the wine and the restaurant
The wine.
The goal is to experience how a wine evolves over the years. Ideally a single wine, multiple bottles. I was thinking differences of > 5 years between each vintage. I find that closer in vintage will showcase more the differences between each vintage (hot year, etc) rather than the aging itself. But happy to be told I'm wrong!

My preference and the easier region to choose from seems to be Bordeaux. Many wines age well and there is fairly good availability of wines up to 40 years. But very open to other suggestions.
In terms of budget, I am thinking we could spend around 100$/bottle with some variations. About 5 bottles would allow us to explore a broad range of aging, (that means we'll need to invite more friends though, I don't like wasting and I don't think my liver could take that much...)

The restaurant
5 bottles puts it in the range where a restaurant won't be comfortable bringing this and paying corkage (I would think). But finding these wine on a wine list will be challenging and including full markup also limit our options. So I need advice here... How would you approach this?
Recommendations of both venues and format very welcome.

Thanks in advance for your insights!

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  1. FWIW, good wine merchants are a major source of vertical (and other) tastings (the whole event, not just wines for it). That is part of their educational outreach and building of customers. They do it as supplies and circumstances permit, rather than very predictably; I've attended these periodically around the Bay Area since the 1970s, sometimes at wine shops, sometimes at separate venues such as restaurants, arranged by wine shops.

    K&L (which came up in the Cheval-Blanc restaurant thread) is one good example, they have hosted visiting experts from other regions and built tastings of their wines. The only general advice I can suggest is get onto reputable merchants' mailing lists and watch for events. This is a longterm rather than a one-shot strategy.

    A great difficulty in assembling ANY one-time vertical tasting, _especially_ if you're not in the trade or a longtime collector, is bottle provenance. The risk of finding differences reflective of the disparate storage histories instead of the wines' different ages or vintages.

    The best "vertical" multi-year tastings of a given label that I've experienced were organized either by a collector who'd carefully accumulated the bottles over the years as they came to market, or else were organized with participation of the winery. If you're in the Bay Area, passionate about learning fine wines, and expressive of your interest to friends and merchants, then opportunities and invitations tend to come your way; that has been my consistent experience. These are passions that other people like to share and pass on to others who sincerely share them.

    People talk about the expense of buying aged or rare wines, or the impatience of waiting a decade or two to age them from new. Some people can afford to go out and buy rare or aged wines (I recall a conversation about this with Alder Yarrow a decade ago) but many cannot and even those who do face the provenance pitfalls. Much of my own tutelage about wine and its potential came not by such measures, but via mentors who had been down the path much earlier and had accumulated fine collections which they kindly shared with passionate newbies. And, merchant-organized tastings as I mentioned above.

    1. Bordeaux is a good choice, but IMHO it is going to be hard to stay within budget if you are looking for pre 1990 wines.
      It will be impossible to stay within budget trying to do it off a restaurant's wine list.

      The best thing to do is to find a sleepy neighborhood restaurant that allows corkage and serves plain food ( eg steak). Call beforehand and explain what you want to do.

      We have done this at Sundance steakhouse in Palo Alto.

      2 Replies
      1. re: goldangl95

        Who is the contact @ Sundance to do this? Might look Into this for hubs upcoming birthday

        1. re: letsindulge

          I wasn't the one who arranged it sadly! So not sure. We tipped very well, offered the wines to the staff if they wanted to try, and obviously paid corkage on each bottle. As far as I was aware, Sundance was super accomodating considering the extra glassware and service involved in doing a vertical for a group.

      2. Keiko à Nob Hill could pour such a vertical but not in that budget. E.g. you could do La Lagune 1970, '76, '84, '88, and 2000 for $820. A big plus of buying in a restaurant is that if there's a bad bottle they'll open another or not charge you. You might call and talk with the sommelier, maybe they could cut you a deal.

        1. I once organized a tasting at One Market, and their corkage policy for these events was $20 per person, not per bottle. You might call to ask them whether this is still the case. They might have a different policy for small groups, though--there were about 20 of us.

          And the tasting was one of the best for our group. The restaurant set out very good stemware, five glasses per seat, and stayed out of our way (the staff didn't do any pouring--they left it to us).