Our friend Kellie invited Michelle and me to an incredible wine tasting event - the Garagiste Great Producers Tasting. Garagiste is a small company who sources interesting wines from around the world and then sells them via their mailing list. This tasting event was held in their warehouse in Seattle; definitely nothing fancy. But, for $175, they poured dozens of amazing bottles of wine for the 40-50 people who attended; they maybe had one bottle of each wine, so not everyone got to try everything, and we really got just a taste of each. However, I've never had so many old and (in many cases) rare wines.
The theme of the evening (revealed at the end of the night) was "Is it worth it?" In the tastings (some blind) they laid out comparable wines from different areas, producers, or eras. I admit my taste buds are simply not tuned enough to discern what was so great about many of the old wines; the bouquet was often lovely and I loved the brownish color of the old wines, but the flavor was often disappointing to me. Still, I loved the opportunity to learn about the wines (Jon Rimmerman, the owner, presented detailed backstory on the wines and delivered the talks with obvious passion).
My favorite of the evening was a 1978 Chateau Montelena Cab from Sonoma. Absolutely delicious. Some of the other notables in the line-up were 1947 Bourdy Cotes du Jura, 1989 Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay (the Australian white that stunned and outraged everyone in blind competition in France), 1966 Grands Echezeaux, a pair of 1942 Spanish wines - Bosconia and Tondonia (interesting how they had to scrounge for bottles during the war), 1982 Sassicaia from Italy (yum), 1982 Yarra Yering (the wine that helped really put Australia on the wine map), a pair of Celestins Chateauneuf-du-Pape (contrasting different styles of Chateauneuf from different eras - 1978 vs. 1998), and an amazing '94 Dunnhoff Auslese. Oh, he also poured some DRC, Screaming Eagle (pretty universally panned that night), and Chateau Lafite.
I think if I knew more about wine (especially old wine) I would have been even more impressed; I didn't get to ooh or ah with everyone else when the wines were announced. Once we move back to Seattle, I'll undoubtedly sign up for the mailing list. The write-ups are fascinating and educational; I just can't handle more email that I can't act on right now though.
It was a great experience. I'm definitely inspired to learn more now.
(For the record, my answer to the question "are they worth it" is no. The stories and history were fascinating, but none of the bottles were worth hundreds or thousands of dollars to me.)