When I arrived, five minutes late, Robin was standing at the front door with a wine glass in hand, ready to get things started. "Well happy Birthday Madeline," he said with a cordial grin, "I hope you don't mind spending the day of your birth tasting wine with your boss." To be honest I was thrilled and simultaneously overwhelmed. It was my first wine tasting, and the Michael Skurnik portfolio tasting was more of a marathon than it was a tasting; over 700 wines from Australia to Austria, from South Africa to the South of France, all housed in a two room spread in The Puck Building - a humbling sight for a novice such as myself. Nevertheless, I gallantly clutched my glass and dove right in, beginning, quit appropriately due to the occasion, with the sparkling wines from Spain, New Mexico, and Champagne.
The first hour slipped by as we drank our way through Australia, South Africa, Argentina, and Chile with nothing too memorable other than a wonderfully rustic and attractively priced Bonarda from Huarpe/Lancatay, and a fairly interesting Chenin Blanc from Rudera Wines in South Africa.
It was not until I approached Italy that I realized how many tannin drenched miles lay ahead of us. There were nearly twenty-five Italy tables, each holding 4-20 bottles a table. Gangs of Chianti assaulted tasters, as fragrant flocks of Valpolicello romanced them, and the poised armies of Barolo rolled elegantly across their taste buds. By the time we reached Napa I felt as though I was breathing out mixed berries, violets, and hot tar. Ah, anyone have a breath mint?
California, and Oregon were massive, and Robin and I speed threw making a few stops along the way to taste a Zinfandel here, a Cabernet there, and a few Chardonnays for good measure. The Dashe Cellars "Todd Brothers Ranch" Zinfandel stood out in my fledgling mind. It had presence with nicely balanced oak, and a long peppery finish. Minutes later the cherry and spice still lingered on my palette.
Before I had time to contemplate all that I had encountered, I found myself on the precipice of of a new and distinct Land, the grand matriarch, France. A few highlights,
- The Domaine Mardon, 'Tres Vielles Vignes' Quincy had a powerfully flirtatious nose, crisp acidity, and more than a hint of mineral, and grapefruit.
- The Chateau Pibarnon, Bandol Rose had a nose that reached out of the glass and smacked you, really hard! A lovely and complex rose. I can still feel the sting.
- The Marc Portaz, 'Tete de cuvee' Vin de Savoie Apremont, was fruity, crisp, and 'easy like sunday morning...'
- and Domaine Cauhape, 'Symphonie de Novembre' Jurancon Moelleux had the undeniable flavor of candied bacon. Trust me I know my candied Bacon.
Four hours after the initial sip of Champagne, it was time to buckle seat belts, and put trays in their upright position, we were coming in for a landing. My feet were soar, my cheeks a little rosy after the cognac tasting, my left index finger was dyed red from the little dribbles of wine the splashed on the outside of my glass, and I was dying for something to eat, other than cheese of coarse.
What they must have thought, the innocent pedestrians who were there to witness the hoards of winos, with their stained teeth and lips, pouring from the front doors of the Puck building, and flooding Lafayette ave. It certainly was a sight to behold.
" So what did you think of your first Skurnick tasting?" Robin asked me. My stomach growled adamantly and I stretched a crick in my back, " It was fun but man, this is hard work!"I exclaimed. "Well at last someone understands," he replied with the unmistakable air of an aristocrat.
La vida es dura.