Inside the Grand Cru Lounge at the 2011 Boston Wine Expo

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reminder: Tonight (Tuesday January 25th, 2011) is the hearing in Waltham, MA I mentioned for approval for a discount wine store within the BJ's Warehouse.  If you're a Waltham resident and like great wines at great prices your support is needed - their application was denied last time and this is an appeal.  More here.

If you've ever been to the Boston Wine Expo you may have wondered "What's this Grand Cru Lounge thing and is it worth $175?"  The Grand Cru Lounge is held in the Boston Seaport Hotel's intimate Lighthouse Pavilion where wines costing $75 and up are poured.

As the sun sets over the Fort Point Channel guests enjoy listening to a live jazz band while they sample dishes from top local restaurants and mingle with vendors pouring wines costing well over $100 a bottle.

Admission to the Grand Cru Lounge includes access to the main tasting floor at the Expo, but after a couple hours in the lounge the prospect of taking a short walk across the street in the cold to join the masses may seem like a bad idea.

A Cut Above
Everything is nicer in the Grand Cru Lounge.  Things like Schott Zwiesel stemware, crab legs, salmon, and spring rolls set the stage for an enjoyable afternoon tasting wine.  When I first arrived the room seemed a little stuffy, but wouldn't you know after a couple hours everyone was in good spirits.  Funny how wine consumption has that affect.
Sculler's Jazz Club sponsored live music for the room:



The Wines

Just like at the grand tasting, an eclectic mix of wines are poured in the Grand Cru Lounge.  Some big names were there like J Lohr, Ladera, and Justin.  Others I hadn't heard of before.
One of my favorite discoveries of the entire Expo were the wines from William Cole VineyardsWilliam Ballentine was pouring his wines (the William in the winery's name, along with his son Cole) which initially included only the 2007 William Cole Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvee Claire.  After a while he cracked open some bottles of earlier vintages including his 2002 and 2005.

The wines were amazing.

The 2007 was drinking well in its youth but tasting the 2002 alongside you could really see what the wine will become with some bottle age.  There were a lot of good wines to be had in the room and at the Expo in general but what made these wines stand out for me was the depth and the complexity of the flavors in the wine.  Yes, there were classic Napa Cabernet markers like black currant, a firm backbone and a long finish.  But the 2002 layered a touch of earth and graphite within a polished package and smooth elegance.  Really outstanding stuff.  About $150 a bottle.

Another standout were the wines from Trifecta.  I thought their 2007 Trifecta Nyarady Family Cabernet Sauvignon was one of those wines where all it takes is one sip and you say "Wow - this is nice."  Just a classic fruit-driven Napa Cab from an outstanding vintage that succeeds in finding that elusive intersection between quality and crowd-friendly deliciousness.  About $105.

Trifecta is almost an entirely Cabernet Sauvignon producer but they did have a little bit of a 2007 Trifecta Russian River Pinot Noir to taste.  Maybe it was because I'd tired of tasting so many big red wines (Ladera, Clos Apalta, Trinchero, Brunellos, etc) but the Trifecta Pinot Noir was a luscious wine to fall into.  A big, round Russian River Pinot Noir that makes no apologies for being from California.  I would've been perfectly happy to grab a table with friends, share a bottle or two of that wine, and spend the night at the Seaport Hotel.  Only about 65 cases of the Pinot were made but I hope they ramp production of that in the future.  About $45 available to mailing list members only. 

The People

This is where the small-room format of the Grand Cru Lounge worked well for me.  After a while you got to bump into people you'd seen previously so you could compare notes and share tips on things to try.  I met a really nice young couple that was attending their first Expo (shout out to Matt and Elizabeth!).  And after a while the vendors started to interact with each other and connect with guests on a personal level.

Here's Christine and Perry Clark.  They were pouring their family's wines - a 2006 Amizetta Cabernet Sauvignon that showed quite well with more earth than you find in most Napa Cabs:
And here's Lynanne Nyarady of Trifecta.  She lives in Massachusetts and owns the winery in Napa:
William Ballentine, owner and winemaker at William Cole Vineyards.  Definitely on my list of people to ring up next time I'm heading to Napa:
A connector between all of these nice people were the ladies from Hazel B Baking whose wine tasting cookies were being sampled.  An attendee told William Ballentine that his wines were good - but after she had them after trying one of The Original and Authentic Wine Tasting Cookies the wines were outstanding.  Wellesley's own Tiffany Zides and Hazel Burdetta Juliani from Hazel B Baking:
Conclusions

An afternoon at the Grand Cru Lounge rounded out what was probably the most relaxing and enjoyable weekend I've experienced at the Boston Wine Expo.  It favored quality over quantity presented in an elegant atmosphere.

Is it worth $175?  Perhaps not, but if you sleuthed around a bit you could get $50 off the Lounge on the less-crowded Sunday.  That's a modest uplift from the tariff on the main floor so it might be worth considering especially if you're looking to make a weekend out of the Expo.

I'll look forward to attending again next year!

Further Reading: Winemakers Impress at the 2011 Boston Wine Expo Grand Tasting

Question of the Day: Did you attend the 2011 Boston Wine Expo?  What were some of your highlights from the show?

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