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2nd Annual Robert M. Parker, Jr. Wine Tasting, St. Helena, Oct. 20th

Earlier this week I wrote about the stages of a self-education in wine. In one of those stages the curious and committed wine drinker must start to define benchmarks for their experience and their taste. By far the best way to do this is to somehow find an occasion to drink some of the best wines in the world. Now some wine lovers I know, especially those who are winemakers, would love to sit around all day long and argue with you about what wines are actually the best in the parker.head.jpg world, but the reality is that it's fairly easy to pick them out, especially from the major wine regions of the world. Mostly they're a combination of the names that have been vaunted for centuries, and newcomers who have received the accolades of among others, Robert M. Parker, Jr.

So, when Parker comes to the Culinary Institute of America on October 20th with 14 Grenache wines to hold a guided tasting, it seems to me that the event is not only an opportunity to listen to the critic talk about wine for a couple of hours, but to calibrate your palate for one varietal (at least for recently made interpretations of it), and learn something in the process -- if only, in the end, what Robert Parker thinks makes for the best Grenache in the world.

I was able to attend the first of these guided tastings with Parker last February and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, if only for the opportunity to listen to Parker talk about wine and to chat with him a bit. I came away from the experience with a much more nuanced and appreciative view of the guy than I've gotten over the years through his writings. Of course for those of us in the business of reviewing wines, there's also the slightly competitive aspect of trying to see how your palate calibrates with his as the tasting is fairly interactive in its discussion of tasting notes for the wines under examination.

The tasting takes place in one of the classrooms at the CIA. Around 60 people attended the last one, and we sat in stadium-style seating with 14 glasses of wine in front of us and a handy book with nicely printed copies of the wine labels and space for notes. The wines had all been double decanted for five or six hours prior to the tasting, and had been checked for faults and spoilage. We then chatted and tasted our way through all 14 wines.

This second tasting will be much like the first, with the proceeds again going to fund scholarships at the Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies in Parker's name. Through my contacts at the CIA (that's a fun phrase isn't it?) I've gotten a hold of the list of wines that they are lining up for the tasting:

2003 Alban Vineyards Grenache
2000 Sine Qua Non "Incognito" Grenache
2003 Beckmen Vineyards Grenache Purisma Mountain
2003 Clarendon Hills Kangarilla Grenache, Australia
2002 Torbreck Grenache Les Amis, Australia
2002 Greenock Creek Vineyards Grenache Cornerstone Vineyard
2002 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Aquilon, Spain
2003 Domaine de le Mordoree "Reine des Bois" Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 Domaine de la Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape Vieilles Vignes
2003 Roger Sabon "Cuvee Prestige" Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape
2003 Pierre Usseglio "Cuvee Mon Aieul" Chateauneuf du Pape
1998 Domaine Pegau Cuvee Reserve Chateauneuf du Pape
2001 Chapoutier "Barbe Rac" Chateauneuf du Pape

Interesting, huh? Certainly all pretty young wines, but that was also the case for the Syrahs we tasted last time. All will have many more years of life ahead of them, but should be fun to try now.

2nd Annual Robert M. Parker Jr. Wine Seminar & Tasting
October 20th, 2005 from 1:30 - 4:00 PM
The Culinary Institute of America Greystone
Ecolab Theatre
2555 Main Street
St. Helena, CA 94574

Tickets are available for $350 per person. Please contact Reuben Katz at 707-967-2305 or by e-mail at: [email protected] to secure your reservation. Checks may be mailed to Reuben Katz, CIA, Greystone, 2555 Main Street, St Helena, CA 94574.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud