Bon Appétit magazine's Wine & Spirits editor Anthony
Dias Blue again made the mistake of inviting us to judge several hundred wines
at the 2004 event in San Francisco.
Held at the Hotel Nikko, nearly 4 dozen judges (and a veritable army of
volunteers) gather from various corners of the countryside on a weekend in one
of the most amazing displays of organization one might imagine.
The Nose Knows!
Much of wine tasting involves the ability to swirl the wine in a glass (this
shows you're cool and "in the know") without spilling it on yourself
(or the judge next to you). One then nonchalantly sticks one's nose into
the glass and has a few short sniffs, avoiding sounding like a Hoover vacuum
cleaner in the process. It's also bad form, I've found, to have wine
dripping off the end of one's beak afterwards.
About 3,000 wines are entered in the hopes of snagging a medal at this
prestigious event. A gold medal gives some winery marketing folks more
confidence in selling their wares. A Double Gold is a real rarity, all the
judges on a particular panel pegging a wine as worthy of a "gold."
Thousands of wine glasses are at the ready.
Our fearless leader spearheads the effort.
Please notice: "Andy" is left handed, a common trait
amongst the wine judging community.
New York Times wine guru Frank Prial adds decorum and
dignity to the weekend.
Larry Walker wisely sits near an emergency exit in case a flight of wines is so
poor, he can stroll out to Foley's for a pint of ale.
Ann Littlefield shows how to hold a wineglass. This always impresses the
heck out of people who drink wine out of paper cups or straight from the bottle.
Alan Goldfarb is a St. Helena "Star" and works diligently to get to the
bottom of the barrel on every wine-related story in the Napa Valley.
Drake McCarthy is a Bay Area fixture in the wine trade, somehow finding time to
spend the weekend at this wine judging in between trips to Italy, France, Spain
It figures a guy named Rusty would be pretty much surrounded by water.
San Francisco's Rusty Albert is famous for his ability to do wine
impressions. (Ask him to do his Asti Spumante or Gros Manseng
Upstate New York's famed (or is the proper term "notorious"?) Charles
Mara is well-known for various wine critic short-cuts.
"DNPM" is one of them. Not good news for the winemaker, though:
Do not put in mouth.
Tim McDonald used to play safety for the San Francisco 49ers. Now he's
in the federal witness protection program and working for some little family
winery operation called "Gallo."
Rosina Tinari Wilson manages to smile as she tastes a 1998 Chardonnay that
"ought to be in the Fino Sherry division!"
Michael Feil is seen here thinking about his golf game.
Leslie Sbrocco searches for wine for women.
A guy named "Cooper" probably looks for wines with the most oak, but
Jerry Cooper professes to appreciate wines which have not been matured in
barrels. "I'm not a termite." he says.
Bev-Mo's big-wig Wilfred Wong.
KeVINO Vogt likes escaping from Las Vegas because what goes on in SF stays in
Hedy is a master of wheeling the cart full of wine glasses!
She's had a lot of experience.
Another left-handed taster!
Famous globe-trotter Claudia Temby says "Hey, this stuff tastes
Also on our tasting panel is Lance Armstrong.
No, wait! That's Patrick Comiskey who writes with his right hand.
Mister Petite Sirah, Steve Pitcher, is the only wine judge skilled enough to not
have to wear a "lab coat."
Joseph Nase has a nose for wine. Here he's showing off the art of tasting.
Monsieur Robert Kelly O'Connor was quick to discern the wines in this flight
were not reds from Bordeaux.
Janet Dyer was especially thrilled to tasted several hundred Merlot wines.
"It's my favorite grape." she explained. "I keep a water
heater full of it at my house and my car even runs on Merlot!"
Country music legend Waylon Jennings also enjoys a glass of Merlot from time to
time. Here he's seen toasting to Janet's continued good looks.
For some reason, though, Jennings is wearing a name tag with "Mendel
Kohn" on it.
Someone placed a glass of tomato juice in front of taster Ken McDonald to see if
he could tell it apart from some of the Merlots. He was lobbying for a
"Hey, 2002 was a great year for tomatoes!"
Katie Ballou Calhoun was tasting on a panel with Kid Shelleen, I think.
"I'm kinda fonda some of these wines." she told us.
Newsweek's Tara Weingarten (that's her real name...we checked her driver's
license to be sure!) looks over her ratings.
A few of the wines we tasted should have a warning label on the
bottle! Maybe even two.
MORE PHOTOS ON THE