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Top 10 Wine Moments of 2010

Beth Ribblett

Like it or not, New Year's Eve tends to be a day of reflection. As many news publications like to write about the biggest news stories or the best movies of the year, I started reminiscing yesterday about my top 10 wine moments of the past 12 months. This isn't a buying guide nor does it have anything to do with ratings, I'm not even sure if all of these wines are still available, and some of the experiences are not even about a particular wine. These are really just 10 specific, very special moments in time when everything came together and made me pause and say to myself "hmmm! this is why I do what I do..."

1.  As much as we like to costume and drink wine, you would think that Kerry and I would be veterans of this New Orleans Mardi Gras tradition, but 2010 Krewe of Cork Parade was our inaugural year!  And what a time we had with six straight hours of Taittinger Champagne, lots of fun with our friends from Republic and the shop, great costumes and a festive parade through the Quarter. And of course Clovis Taittinger was the perfect Grand Marshall for the event!   

2. When Lacie from Glazer's first came to me about an event with winemaker Terry Hoage, I admit I had to a bit of research about the guy and his wines before I agreed.  But after tasting his small production Rhone style wines from California and checking out the great press on the wines, it was the fact that he was an ex-Saints player and that the tasting was in that magical month of February 2010 that was the clincher for the event.  And let me tell you we drank some really wonderful wine that night with Terry and his wife Jennifer being the most gracious hosts.  Everyone fell in love with both them and the wines and responded by buying everything, all seven cases we had in stock of his delicious, high end white, rose and reds from Paso Robles.  We're still waiting on that Saint's label Terry!

    3. It was a Sunday night, I had a great day cycling, taking Sangi to the park, playing frisbee with Kerry, working on the blog, and of course, making pasta! I had a little bit of pork ragu left our dinner the night before and another pound of dough in the frig, so I made some quick fettuccine, Kerry did a beautiful salad and we were in for a delicious meal. I decided to do something very unlike me and drink a Napa Valley Cabernet with my Italian dinner! But it wasn't just any Napa Cab, it was the 2003 White Rock Cabernet made by Christopher Vandendriessche.  The crisp acidity, spicy fruit, leathery notes and lower alcohol content made it absolutely gorgeous with the food and that night I committed to seeking out more California producers that would please my old world palate! 

    4. The tragic death of artist Rudy Rowell in December 2009 marked the loss of a wonderful man who fiercely loved New Orleans and the south. His colorful works were a passionate display of that love and touched so many people. On the night of Rudy's birthday, March 30, we held a silent auction in the shop to raise money for his mother who had suffered multiple tragedies in the past 2 years.  The evening of the auction was bittersweet as we were surrounded by his beautiful spirit through his paintings and by people who knew and loved both he and his work.  We drank the 2005 Gundlach-Bundschu Reserve Cabernet, adorned with one of Rudy's now famous paintings on the label, as we toasted his life.  His work brought so much joy to so many people and we are so grateful to have known him.  We really miss you Rudy!

    5. What do you get when you combine two creative passionate wine geeks with a love of Napa Valley and an absolute devotion to experiencing all that is good about their native city? Vending Machine Winery, the love child of Monica Bourgeois and Neil Gernon, held their official launch at Swirl in April as family, friends and guests partied the night away drinking their 3 unforgettable, small production (50 cases each at the time) Napa Valley wines to Neil's crazy music soundtrack and friends running around in puffy wine bottle costumes depicting each of the three labels.  We had another event later in the year that rivaled this one, but the initial launch was a truly special night. Thanks Monica and Neil for letting us be a part of your dream, we love you both AND your delicious wines!

    6.  We first stumbled upon one of Marco de Grazia's wines by accident a few years back in a little shop in New York.  It was the first wine I had ever tasted from the Etna region, and I knew then that something very special was happening on that wild volcano in Sicilia that I needed to know more about. Thanks to our friends at Uncorked, we had the pleasure of Marco's company in the shop for an intimate, seated tasting of his wines as well as a few others he is importing.  Soft spoken, loquacious and extremely passionate about the region, it was wonderful to hear about his approach to wine making on the Etna, to taste the wines with him and hear his stories about what makes this reason so special and one of the most exciting wine producing regions in the world today. 

    7. Always more of a complete sensory overload of wonderful wine, food and people was our 2010 Tre Bicchiere Wine Dinner at a Mano with our friend Antonio Molesini leading the way. Each year we hold this dinner with Antonio that features six of the highest award winning wines of the Italian wine guide, Gambero Rosso, at a top notch Italian restaurant. Chef Josh Smith nailed all of the pairings but I have to say my favorite in terms of food and wine pairing was the fresh pasta with lamb ragu with the Feudo Maccari Saia Nero d’Avola from Sicilia.   And as always, Antonio's humorous and informative presentation of the amazing award winning wines makes the evening just that much more fun!

    8.  We were joined by friends for a last minute trip to the beach this past November to celebrate one of Kerry's milestone birthdays.  The birthday girl's request for dinner?  Steak and Champagne!  In addition to a few other beverages and snacks we popped a bottle of 2002 Taittinger Millesime as we dined on Tuscan style steak, reminisced about good times past, daydreamed about future adventures and laughed 'til we cried.  A beautiful yoga session on the beach at sunset led by our dear friend Angela made for the perfect end to a wonderful weekendIt was definitely a birthday to remember!

    9.  There's always something special about tasting wines with someone who has literally had their hands in the process from start to finish.  It's even more special if it is someone you've grown to love and respect for the person they are as we have with James Moises.  Anytime with James is in the shop is a great time, but standing beside him, while we all tasted for the first time each of his four single vineyard 2008 Moises Oregon Pinot Noirs, was a textbook lesson in how place can influence what is in your glass.  Each wine was vastly different than the next, having it's own unique signature while still being quintessential Oregon Pinot.  Thank you James for sharing your friendship and your delicious wines!  Your 2008s are gorgeous and we can't wait to see how they continue to evolve!

    10.  Dinner at Rachel's is always an event, and even the most casual of evenings ends up being something special to write about.  But this night was especially so as a small mix of people, some strangers to each other, were invited to a dinner, prepared by Rachel and Tatyana, of their favorite tapas dishes.  All that was asked of us, their fortunate guests, was to bring a bottle of wine that meant something to us and had a story behind it.  Ours of course was an Etna wine, and the Frank Cornelissen Contadino is a story in itself but our memories of drinking it with Frank outside on his black lava rock patio made for an interesting tale.  As we sat around the coffee table littered with wine bottles sharing our stories, new friendships were formed and others deepened with delicious food, interesting wines and wonderful company.  After all, isn't that what this is all about?

     Here's wishing you and yours a Happy New Year!