This evening, the Top 100 Wineries of 2014 will be pouring their top wines at City View at METREON in San Francisco. Guests will flow in the door and head for the patio, where they can sip Champagne and sparkling wine from some of the greatest producers in the world, and eat oysters as fast as the Hog Island guys can shuck them. As the sun sets over the city, they’ll head inside to take in the multiple offerings from more Top Wineries pouring everything from German rieslings to Sonoma chardonnay; Rioja and Barolo to Napa Valley cabernet. In many cases, the winemakers themselves are pouring the wines—Rudy von Strasser of von Strasser and Ross Cobb of Hirsch are two of the folks driving down from wine country. Louis-Michel Ligier-Belair is flying over from Burgundy to pour his Chapter 24 wines, Gary Mills of Jamsheed is coming in from Australia and Franz Wehrheim is coming from Germany—and they are just a few of the visiting dignitaries.
This year, we’ve added another exciting component to the tasting: the first Annual Sommelier Scavenger Hunt. Months ago, we asked five of our favorite somms from around the US to get together a couple friends and take on a challenge: Focusing on a single wine region, they set out to find six wines that sum up the terroir of that place through a single variety—to find six wines that are so explicit about where they are from, that anyone with a taste for wine could sample them and get a sense of the region.
Yesterday morning, the teams gathered at the Stillhouse Room at Dirty Habit in the Palomar Hotel to present their wines. Fifty of their peers filled the audience, ballots in hand. Each team had ten minutes to present their wines while the audience tasted through their lineup. We asked the audience to judge each team based on how convincing a portrait of regional character the sommeliers captured in their wines and in their presentations.
The results were fascinating.
The Finger Lakes rieslings were a revelation to the mostly West Coast folks in the room; for others, they were a confirmation of the exciting quality and diversity of wines coming out of this cool-climate region.
The Santa Barbara County chardonnays and Anderson Valley pinot noirs surprised a lot of the guests. “I’m from California; I should know these wines,” one sommelier confided, “but this is a picture of Santa Barbara Valley I hadn’t seen before.”
The Bordeaux-variety blends from Washington State and cabernets from Napa Valley had many jaded palates reconsidering their position. “I thought I knew Napa Valley,” a sommelier in the audience admitted. “I was wrong.”
For us at W&S, the Sommelier Scavenger Hunt is a great reminder that the only way to really know wine is to experience it: You need to travel to a place and taste the wine and the food that grows there, you need to walk the vineyards and talk to the wine growers. You need to ask the right questions. These five teams of sommeliers did, and the results are as delicious as they are fascinating.
Tonight, at the Top 100 event, we’ll reveal the winning team, and the lineup of wines that landed them in first place. All of the teams will be there, and you’ll be able to taste a selection of the wines, poured by the people who picked them out: Just look for the Sommelier Scavenger Hunt table. We hope to see you there.
The somms who competed in the First Annual Sommelier Scavenger Hunt.
Team Anderson Valley
Vanessa Trevino-Boyd (60 Degrees Mastercrafted, Houston)
Steven McDonald (Pappas Bros., Houston)
Christian Varas (River Oaks Country Club, Houston)
Team Finger Lakes
Matthew Kaner (Bar Covell, LA)
Pascaline Lepeltier (Rouge Tomate, NYC)
Steven Morgan (Alinea, Chicago)
Team Santa Barbara
Ian Becker (Arlequin, SF)
Haley Guild Moore (Stock & Bones Group, SF)
Gianpaolo Paterlini (1760, SF)
Team Napa Valley
Michael Madrigale (Boulud Sud, NYC)
Josiah Baldivino (Bay Grape, SF)
Michelle Biscieglia (Blue Hill, NYC)
Lindsey Whipple (Charlie Palmer, NYC)
Will Costello (Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas)
Mark Heftner (Crush Wine Bar, Las Vegas)
This is a W&S web exclusive feature.
is W&S’s editor at large and covers the wines of the Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe for the magazine.