"The intersection where great wines meet reasonable prices"



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ruinart: Bubbles And Batter?


Champagne, Fish 'n' Chips: Say It Aint Sole!

Okay - so eating fish and chips with a fine Champagne may seem a little weird but it made complete sense to me.  Allow me a few lines to set this appetite for degustation in a historical context. You see, as a young teen, I was sent out to the local youth club every Saturday night.  Aside from the opportunity to hang with older kids and listen to music my parents wouldn't allow in the house, youth club was my chance to get fish and chips at the "chippy" just around the corner. At 9 pm, we would collectively gather our jackets and, like a clutch of chattering ducklings, brave the cold for the hundred yard walk to our gustatory reward. 

Yes, it was almost always cold.  It was Ireland, and the youth club was closed during what we called the "summer months"), but I digress.  The smell of hot oil, freshly cooked chips and crisp batter filled the air, and we were transported almost cartoon-like on the wafting scent to the brightly lit doorway.  We would often share a portion of fish and chips between two or three - partly out of a need to combine our pocket money and partly because the servings were simply huge. At least, that is my recollection.

We would huddle together, can of ice cold Coca-Cola in one hand, and the other, frigid, carefully lifting the freshly salted, crisp and steaming delight from the paper.  Oooh, I can almost smell and taste it. I can also remember the sensory confusion of combining ice cold and intense heat, when it was my turn to hold the food. I would have to balance the hot chip packet in same hand in which I needed to hold my coke, liberating the other hand so I could still eat.  It was almost painful but all I was interested in was devouring the glorious deep fried delight before it cooled in the night air. The chilled, carbonated soda was, I thought, the ideal thing to wash it all down, leaving only a salty, greasy memory on my lips.

I was reminiscing about these halcyon days with another expat colleague, whilst complaining that no such thing existed close enough to my home outside Baltimore when I was struck by the somewhat obvious idea that I could recreate my once-favored meal.  However, this idea also presented a new and somewhat tantalizing opportunity. What would be my grown-up beverage of choice, soda?  Nah!  It would be Champagne!  Yes, it would be bubbles, and I knew just the one with which what I wanted to try my home-fried treasure - Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV.

In Belfast, in the '70s/'80s, hot, fresh, Fish and Chips was frequently the closest thing to sunshine in a long dreary winter of conflict.

I retrieved the champagne from the chill cabinet and set about preparing my home made fish and chips.  I cubed a 1 lb piece of cod in to approximately 1" pieces while the oil heated.  I made a simple beer (Guinness) batter and seasoned some flour in which to drench the fish.  If you need details reach out to me on twitter @BruisedGrapehttps://twitter.com/bruisedgrape. The results are pictured above and I can tell you, I was once again transported back to the youth club.  So, what about the champagne?

Sample kindly shared by Moet Hennessy USA


Ruinart Blanc de Blanc NV – no need to wait here. The cork released and glasses poured, this wine was delicious. I used simple white wine glasses for the wonderfully aromatic Ruinart. Beautifully high-toned aromas buttered toasted brioche, nutmeg, candied lemon, honey and orange zest and blossom leaped from the glass. On the palate, the brioche was layered with Seville orange marmalade and great notes of honey nectarine, and ginger baking spice. (Ruinart is on twitter @CarnetsRuinart

It was clean, crisp upon entry, finishing creamy dry with lovely bitter-edge lemon pith.  I loved everything about this wine, even the fact that I might not want to cellar it for a few years as I do with some others. The Ruinart gave the impression of being a pleasure to enjoy now, no waiting required. A highly rewarding experience. Available around the USA for approximately $65, meaning it may not be an everyday sipper but if you need a reward for what life can throw at you...   Here's your wine!  If you really need a score on this, I would place this comfortably in the 92-93 point range.

Follow me on twitter @bruisedGrape

Your comments are always appreciated! 


Disclosure: This was a media sample provided for the review process.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

In Pursuit of Wine Happiness


In part two entitled "In pursuit of Wine Happiness" we continue to take another insiders-look, into the world of high-end Food and Wine, an article written by new and weekly guest contributor; Ilona Thompson the Editor in Chief for Palate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility. She is also a regular contributor to the Brenner Brief. Look forward to seeing Ilona's contributions here, each and every Wine Wednesday, please help me welcome her to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog.

Due to its uncanny emotional appeal, wine has long been a source of inspiration for many. Nonetheless, some have ridiculed the cost of drinking the world's finest wines. In my experience that it's simply the price you pay for greatness. Next time someone assures you that you can get just as exciting of a bottle for $40 as $400, don't believe them. In wine, as in life, you often get what you pay for.
If you want a good bottle of wine, $40 will often get you there. If you want an experience unlike any other, you have to play the odds in a category prohibitive for most. $400 will not guarantee you an ethereal experience, but spending that much will certainly improve your chances of achieving wine ecstasy.Trends come and pricing follows, however nothing worthwhile is subject to trends of the moment. DRC may fluctuate in auction market, but it will never be a bargain, and for a good reason.
Those of us who spend quality time on 'Planet Wine' have had a few epiphanies. My initial epiphany occurred with my first sip of 1995 Bryant Family Cab, an experience that I’ll never forget. Shortly thereafter, I was privileged to taste a 1997 Marcassin Pinot Noir,  which rearranged my perception of what this varietal can deliver.


With tasting extraordinary wines comes an inevitable conclusion that truly exceptional examples transcend the original source, i.e. grape, varietal, winemaking, time and any preconceived notions you may have had.  Somehow, the confluence produces a result that is more magic than mere manipulation. An illusion that feels as real as the purple liquid in your glass.
One of  my wine-life’s defining moments came from sampling a 1978 Henri Jayer Richebourg from a Magnum. I was fortunate enough to be a dinner guest at a prominent restaurant in San Francisco that involved some extraordinary Burgundy wines. I have only had Henri Jayer wine (Cros Parantoux) once prior to that and it was a mind boggling affair. What happened that evening made me feel like my definition of wine experience was highly inadequate. One of my dining companions, a man who is not easily rattled, cried. Another one excused himself to walk around the block; to have a solo moment in order to clear his head. Instinctively, all of us knew that this was a special moment, not soon to be forgotten.
It's human nature to try to replicate these rare,  ultimate ecstasies. The rules of the game is that there are no rules. You simply don't know where your next wine revelation will occur.  On numerous occasions I have sat through elaborate, multi-course, food and wine pairings prepared by the finest chefs and served by top winemakers and felt grateful, but not turned on. Like really great sex, if you knew the precise ingredients that facilitate it, you would never stop having it.
My most recent winegasm occurred under somewhat unlikely circumstances. Yes, Champagne Krug is a revered house unlike any other in the world, which was amply confirmed by Olivier Krug who brought a stunning line-up to the GourmetFest Festival in Carmel-by-the-Sea.


The thing is, I always thought my next wine epiphany would come from a red wine, likely a Pinot Noir. I often compare Pinot to a watercolor painting, unlike Cabs or other red blends, Pinot Noir is pure. Winemaker can’t allow you to paint over or blend the flaws when producing Pinots. They cannot be manipulated post-production. Perhaps that's why Pinot folk had always struck me as a different breed of winemakers and wine drinkers.


To put it in proper context, here are some wines which were presented:


Domaine de la Romanee Conti Richebourg line-up included bottles from 1971, 1991, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010.


Chateau Cheval Blanc tasting featured wines from 1967, 1986, 1988, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005 and 2010.

The Krug line-up of Champagnes included:
•Krug Grande Cuvée (current)
•Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1998
•Krug Clos du Mesnil 2000
•Krug Vintage 2000
•Krug Vintage 2003
•Krug Grande Cuvee (2003 base)
•Krug Rosé (NV)
•Krug Collection 1989
Krug is regarded worldwide as the King of Champagnes and Champagne for the Kings. Third generation vintner, whose grandfather is responsible for the legendary 1928, Olivier Krug made it clear that the Krug name is synonymous with greatness for a reason. For Krug, when it comes to quality there are no compromises. Every square inch of the vineyards is meticulously tended to, harvested  at different times and by hand. Great acidity and "freshness" are key.

The lots are fermented separately in mostly 20L lots. For Krug, the blends are not about varietal composition, it's about choosing the right combination of "ingredients" from their vast, 150 plus wine "library" and creating a wine with superior balance that is worthy of the name Grande Cuvee. 

The brand is constantly innovating and coming up with new ways to extract the essence out of the varietal many associate with joy and celebration. Arguably the most age-worthy Champagne on the planet, Krug places tremendous value on it, their philosophy is "part of the definition of quality is how the wine ages" and versatility is another hallmark, as well as food pairing.



Krug Grande Cuvée is an annual blend of well over a 100 wines (this year is was 142!) utilizing Pinot Noir , Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay sourced from numerous vineyards and vintages. Often it takes over twenty years to craft it, including several spent in the cellar once bottled.


Krug Clos d’Ambonnay hails from a postage stamp of a vineyard of 1 ½ acre, with miniscule yields, that sits in the heart of Ambonnay, a village in Champagne. Once bottled its aged for twelve plus years. Krug Clos du Mesnil is sourced from a single plot (“clos” in France) of Chardonnay: a 4 ½ acre vineyard located in the village of Mesnil-sur-Oger. It’s aged in Krug’s cellars for a decade plus.


Krug Vintage is composed of wines from a single year.  It sits in Krug’s cellars for at least a decade before release. Krug Collection is an arm of Krug Vintage, with bottles that have been cellared for at least ten additional years with the current offering of 1989.


Krug Rosé is an annual blend of several different vintages from Krug’s library of hundred and fifty reserve wines, aged five plus years. Apparently, when asked, Madonna said that her two guilty pleasures are french fries and Krug Rose. If that does not give it sex symbol status, I don't know what will.
To further contextualize what I tasted that weekend, there was Maison Joseph Drouhin, Harlan Estate, Quintessa,  Weingut Donhoff, Weingut Kunstler, Calera, Flowers, Roar, Pahlmeyer, Lail, Heitz and many, many more. As you can see, this was no ordinary wine weekend, rather the kind that evoked self-envy. To pick one bottling out of this line-up is like asking the Duggars picking a favorite child. They are all different yet beautiful in their own way.
             
Beauty is not a standardized notion. It is often associated with symmetry, balance, harmonious appearance.  It reveals itself in an unmistakable way and has inspired humanity since its inception. I was surrounded by it that weekend, in a form of terrific, glorious wines, thoughtful, impeccably executed food and many amazing personalities, whose paths I would not have crossed had it not been for David Fink who plotted to create an event that was nothing short of epic. By any stretch, to stand out in this lineup.

"So there I was, utterly clueless as to what's about to happen to my heart and my palate, casually putting my lips to 1998 Clos d' Ambonnay."
The world has effectively stopped moving at that moment. It wasn't abrupt, yet palpable, unmistakable, strangely comforting and disturbing all at once. Time and space became a casual if not superfluous commodities. Any tasting note I could have produced would have fallen far short of what I was actually tasting. I didn't want to merely taste that wine, I wanted to be it...by any stretch, to stand out in this lineup is a coup d'état.
"It was getting close to noon as I reclined on a balcony of a sprawling Chateau, overlooking French countryside. A light breeze was caressing my face and the air was filled with spring in all of its refreshing glory... The perfume emanating from my glass was subtle yet entirely intoxicating... alluring, profoundly seductive filled with floral, creamy, delicate notes, balanced on the palate by superb acidity, laser-like focus and vivid minerality that lingered on for a luscious lifetime...  The delicate, golden bubbles reminiscent of the tiniest, perfect caviar spheres were dancing in my sunlit filled glass and an aura of sweet anticipation filled my heart before each sip."
In my transformed world, there will always be a BC (before Clos) and after, that much was clear. What is not clear is whether I will ever get to experience the same high again. The bar has been set and it is impossibly high. Will I subconsciously compare every single glass of bubbles to my new Crown Jewel?
Over the years, I've asked dozens of prominent winemakers and vintners the same question: What is your epiphany wine? The details, varietal, producers, vintage, or circumstances all varied. However, what was constant was the way they spoke. When the recounted their experiences, their demeanor changed. Their voices became softer, their eyes glazed over with that dreamy look when someone is sharing a special, somewhat naughty, secret with a stranger. The emotion those wine experiences evoked was clear and present. Like a great book or film, wines can transport your mind and take your emotions to a whole new level. Cheers to that.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Malbec Man Rides Again?

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They're hallmarks of a pretentious ass.” – David Ogilvy

Ha, thank you Mr. Ogilvy for that amazingly well put clarification about how to avoid that classification. I will attempt to avoid the use of any of those words in today's article. But if somehow, I just can't avoid it, I hope none of you will judge me too harsly with your comments. That said, if you'd like to opine, please feel-free to deposit it below. Besides I'm saving all my dime store words for another article, so please stay tuned, and remember don't touch that dial!

Welcome to Malbec day, a great opportunity to find out if  Malbec Man will ride again. As many of us already know [and have read] the US Market now drinking more wine than ever before, and especially so when it comes to imports. Personally, I'd be glad to see Malbec-Man ride to save the day once more. How could this be accomplished, well simply by providing budget [$15-$40] conscience, well made wines that could once more become real thirst-slakers they use to be.

So will Malbec-Man ride again? Who is that masked man anyways? Seriously tho, if the wine in today's review is an indicator of a new trend, then there is hope. In the past [not so long ago really] Malbec from Mendoza represented wines with lively acidity, lovely wild blueberries and dark ripe blackberry flavors and aromas, coupled with its inexpensive price profile, it was big win/win for the average vinosapien in search of real bang for the buck.

In general there has been plenty of mouth-filling fruit ripeness, a style often found very pleasing to the "California" palate and that's not always a bad thing. Sometimes you just want a bit of hedonism, I'm guilty of that desire and I make no apologies for it. Many of us know Malbec has a reputation of providing a very good quality-to-price-ratio, this wine below has it spades.

This Malbec caused me to ponder the possibility, can Malbec Man once again ride to save the day? This wine pictured below gives me hope that he can. Just one slurp of the 2010 Lauren's Vineyard, from Casarena has convinced me, that it's possible to once more see authentic, soulful Malbec fill our collective cellars and that brings a big smile to my face.



Casarena Single Vineyard Lauren's Vineyard Malbec 2010


In today's review Malbec-Man can be seen sitting on a high-peak overlooking Agrelo, a small wine-producing village about 20 miles to the south of the city of Mendoza. It's said to be one of this region's most famous wine estates. The village is located in the western foothills of the Andes Mountains, wine-producing zone of Agrelo slopes upward from the town toward the Andes. As many of know may already know, but I think it bears repeating, that height is a key element in what makes Argentine Malbec so special.

It can be said that in many ways that like people, "where you attitude determines your altitude in life" so to the Malbec grapes of Casarena Winery and Vineyards growing on the foothill slopes of the [altitude] Andes [many thousands of feet above sea level] exposed to the sun's greater ultraviolet effects, these grapes grows a thicker-skin [attitude] and with that produces wines with far more aromatics and elegant tannins, much more-so than their counterparts across the pond in Cahors, France.

So are you now left wondering, "um, okay what do you think about this wine?" I'm so glad you asked, In a word, it's quite delectable! Finally a Malbec that I can recommend to my friends, family and other interested onlookers gathered around the wine cooler.

Looking for authenticity, a wine with real soul and substance? This Malbec has it in spades. The 2010 Lauren's Vineyard from Casarena is a true delight, uber approachable, a vein of acidity keeps the abundant blueberry and blackberry fruit in check. And yes it's high octane, tho you'd hardly notice. But those with an overactive sensitivity to any wine over 12% will be easily repulsed by its stated 14.9% abv oh-my. The finish is long and clean, plumbed nicely with vibrant minerality, a real crowd pleaser!

While the suggested price tag of $45 [I didn't pay that much tho] may have you wincing a bit and places you squarely in the 5% club, you'll not regret one moment of the sheer pleasure you derive from one of thee most pure expressions of Argentine Malbec to come along in quite sometime.

Could this wine signal the return of Malbec Man? Actually I'm not sure, but we can hold our collective wine-loving breath, hoping he's about to ride again. Until next time folks, please remember life is short so don't settle for the everyday commodity plonk that so many of the 95% quaff without so much as a thought. So choose wisely, slurp long and prosper cheers!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Quality And Value In Piemonte Reds

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"...happiness is given to [people] who were born where good wines are grown…” Leonardo da Vinci

Some of the finest wines in the world are born among the hills in Piemonte (Piedmont), embraced by the open arms of the Alps. It is here that the Grimaldi family has made its home, forging its reputation for fine wines that will not break the bank. 

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In 1957 Giacomo Grimaldi began selling grapes and by the early ‘60s he had progressed to the production of jug wines. By the ‘90s the present owners, Bruna Grimaldi and Franco Fiorino, had begun the winery's transformation, pursuing contemporary and sustainable farming and elevating the quality of the wines.  The result can be seen in four wines I recently tasted: 2011 Barbera d’Alba Superiore Scassa; 2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Briccola; 2010 Camilla Barolo; 2009 Badarina Barolo. Each one pleases the nose and the palate at a price point that will not hurt the wallet. 


Samples kindly shared by Massanois Fine Wines
Barbera d’Alba is a lovely representation of the Barbera varietal. It's wine which are characteristically Italian, bright, juicy with red fruit and plum and very approachable while young.  They also demand a lower price than their more revered nebbiolo-derived neighbors, Barolo. Their youthful accessibility, food friendly character and price also make them a great choice for restaurant food pairing.

In their 2011 Barbera d’Alba Superiore Scassa – Bruna and Franco provide a delightfully disheveled wine, nonchalantly lacking in sharp edges. The Barbera displays a bright red fruit and plum overlaid like a coulis on mushrooms, herbs and game. A truly worthy effort, lifted by ample acidity and revealing hints of clove and orange zest on the finish. This one made me hungry - so I ran to the fridge for some cheese to enjoy with it.  $20-25/btl. Drink now.  88 points.


Bruna and Franco make a wonderful range of Nebbiolo-based wines, the pinnacle of which are their Barolo. 

Barolo finds its genesis in the Nebbiolo grape of Piemonte generating translucent, light colored and light body, tannic wines with high acidity. Made well, a Barolo is a bright, textured and age-worthy wine that yield characteristics of rose petal, cherries, spice and even tar in their aromatics and on the palate.  Their tannic structure can make them difficult to approach in their youth but provides a spine upon which great evolutionary trajectories can be built.  If you do not have the patience or do not want to spend the requisite $40-400/bottle, Nebbiolo d’Alba provides an entry point for beautiful energetic, food friendly wines from the Nebbiolo grape at a fraction of the cost ($20-40).

2011 Nebbiolo d’Alba Briccola - Nose shows wonderful ripe red currants, cherries and herbs, sweet oaky vanilla and spice.  The front of palate is supple and light, displaying lots of the ripe red currant fruit without cloying. The mid-palate opens up to a broad open knit swathe of juicy, herby energy finishing long with a nice combination of red fruit, plum skin, spice and forest floor/garni, overlaid on crushed stone tannin. It’s a  lovely wine with an open affect. Delicious!  Did anyone say Prosciutto and dried fruit?  $20-25/btl. Drink now and over the incoming few years. 89 points.

2010 Camilla Barolo - Bricked translucent crimson in the glass, the nose was initially reticent.  However, with 30+ minutes of air it opened to reveal a wealth of subtle fresh aromas - violets and rose petals, anise, Christmas spice and leather cherries/raspberries/dried cranberries. The palate is layered with fresh cherries, strawberries, raspberry compote and dried cranberries. Candied, spiced oranges, earthy herb and hints of cola round out the play list. Everything harmonizes with excessive volume from any one instrument. The Camilla is supple, lithe, and light on its feet. It skips across your palate, touching every nook and cranny. Fine-grained acidity leaves the same sensation one gets after biting into a granny smith apple and offers up a tinge of minerality on the finish. It pairs wonderfully with a rustic Fettuccine carbonara, laced with shards of crispy bacon. $30-35/btl. Drink over the next 5-10 years. 90-91 points

This is a delight. The Camilla brings to mind childhood memories of sitting on the beaches of Co. Down in N. Ireland, eating fresh-picked summer fruit with my sister, wrapped in a blanket against the wind, warm sun sneaking out from behind the clouds to chase a salty drop of sea water down my cheek to my mouth.  Camilla finishes well, with dried cherries, chased by herbs, a kick of salinity and tangy spice-infused acidity.   BTW – if you have never been to Ireland, put it on your bucket list.



2009 Badarina Barolo – The Badarina is dark crimson in color and wonderfully translucent against the page. I opened it, let it breathe for an hour and poured without decanting. The nose is beautiful, displaying notes of cherry, dried red fruit, rose petals, anise and cloves. On the palate, fruit and spice are elevated by an incisive acidity. Once again, red fruit, herb, clove predominate in an ample finish edged by licorice and fennel and the savory minerality of cured meats. The Badarina is well balanced, mid-weight and energetic.

Everything about this wine says enjoy with food – outside on a warm spring afternoon. Unfortunately, the rain was also pouring tonight but we made the best of it. We enjoyed the wine with fresh-baked crusty bread and a plate of great Salumi, Prosciutto and Pastrami with Toscano, Chèvre and Stilton cheese. It was served family-style and I sipped it contentedly with our kids around our feet, devouring some brick-oven pizza. 

Wine, cheese and cured meat - the great taste of a Saturday night.

Summary - Early maturing, the Badarina emerged wonderfully over 3 hours, with the fruit intensifying over time. It also performed very well with the flavors, saltiness and fat content in these foods. The Badarina was a delight and will drink well over the next 10+ years but you don’t have to wait that long.  You need only be a little patient. Let it breathe, and enjoy it with food that complements – not competes. At around $50/btl, I will buy some more. It is absolutely worth the price of admission. Drink over the next 10-15 years, although with a little air, one need not wait too long. 90-92 points

After all is said and done - this is a wonderful collection of wines from Bruna Grimaldi. I would be happy to see any of them on my wine list in the near future.

Buon appetito!

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

GourmetFest Carmel: Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions” - Dalai Lama
Another insiders-look into the world of high-end Food and Wine, an article written by new and weekly guest contributor; Ilona Thompson the Editor in Chief for Palate Exposure, a self-described believer in the Sustainability of Critical Thinking and Personal Responsibility.

She is also a regular contributor to the Brenner Brief. Look forward to seeing Ilona's contributions here, each and every Wine Wednesday, please help me welcome her to the Cuvée Corner Wine Blog.


We all know that hard work and dedication can result in becoming very wealthy. Wealth allows one to buy glamorous toys and sumptuous experiences. This past weekend I had an opportunity to experience life with the 'one-percenters', and attend the GourmetFest, in lovely Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Over the last decade I've been privileged to attend virtually every wine festival of note. Arguably, I’ve experienced the best that California has to offer in gourmet food and fine wine. I have been fortunate to have sampled the best of the best. Or so I thought.
The Gourmet-Fest turned out to be the "Mother of All Events;" because of its spectacular, ultimate confluence of wine, food, service and location. Like a dish composed of beautiful ingredients, when combined by a skilled and thoughtful hand, it transcends a sum of its parts. This event went above and beyond any wine and food festival I've ever experienced. Stepping into the event’s venue, Carmel’s Sunset Center, I felt like Alice falling into the rabbit hole. I took a step into a magical world of wine and food royalty that was both delightful and bewildering.
It’s one thing to watch Michelin-starred chefs and world-famous winemakers on television or read about them in magazines, it’s quite another to have them all in front of you, graciously serving you. For foodies and oenophiles, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. An impossible dream, complete with a note pad and a spit bucket; when no one wants to spit or take notes.
Relais & Châteaux, the renowned luxury hotel and restaurant group, presented the event. They are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year. Judging by this experience, they clearly learned a thing or two about impeccable service and head-spinning luxury over the years. At the head of it all, overseeing everything and leaving no detail a chance, was David Fink, CEO, Mirabel Hotel & Restaurant Group (a Relais & Châteaux member)

David is one of three brothers and hails from Virginia. He started out as food and beverage manager at Highlands Inn. Throughout his career, his religion has been guest satisfaction. None of their requests were too outrageous, too big or small. He quickly rose to the top ranks as one of the most important hoteliers and restaurateurs in the country. 

He is the owner of L'Auberge Carmel and a number of much lauded restaurants. As a director on the Board of Relais and Chateaux, he oversees a number of top luxury properties. Additionally, in 2000, he developed the Fink Family vineyard, dedicated to the production of small lot, vineyard designated Pinot Noir.
He is no stranger to prestigious wine events. At the Highlands Inn, back in 1987, Fink was one of the original founders of the legendary Masters of Food and Wine, an annual event which enjoyed a fourteen year run under his leadership.
To say that Gourmet-Fest was an overwhelming, ultra heady experience would be an understatement. The seminars were presented by the elite wineries of France: Aubert De Villaine of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, Veronique Droughin, Oliver Krug and Cheval Blanc. Notably, all the wines for the seminars came directly from Chateaus. Interestingly, the vintners themselves noted that this was the first time they’ve had an opportunity to taste such extensive verticals of their own wines, much less that of their peers.
The panel moderators were stellar. Master Sommelier, Larry Stone from Augustin Huneeus Vintners (Quintessa, Flower, Faust & Neyen) was the epitome of poise, wisdom and grace.
The sommelier team, led by Toby Rowland-Jones, founder of the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival, was world-class, cohesive, precise, consummate professionals.
The audience was filled with some of the most important wine personalities of our time, including Josh Jensen from Calera, Paul Lato, Gary Pisoni, Archie Mclaren, Chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic, etc., they asked the sort of inspired questions that made the audience feel awestruck.

I have never seen the room fall silent in utter otherworldly reverence during a wine seminar. Every word, every pause carried a special meaning. Aubert de Villaine teared-up. Olivier Krug's, third generation vintner's enthusiasm was quite contagious, and his Champagnes brought the sommeliers and guests to their proverbial knees. You could hear "Oh My God" whispered under the breath of professionals who have seen and tasted it all.
Nothing Fink puts together is ordinary. Every single aspect of this event was spectacular, from breathtaking floral arrangements, to a ballet like food service, to luxurious and ultra courteous transportation. I think even he knew that he outdid himself. For a man who put together DRC La Tache and Henry Jayer vertical tastings in the past to say "this is the best series of events I have experienced yet" was quite something. The common theme was, "if it wasn't for David asking, I would not have come.”
The food was provided by Chefs from luxury Relais & Chateau resorts worldwide: Barbara Lynch from Menton, (Michelin 3 star) Christopher Kostow from The Restaurant at Meadowood, (Michelin 3 star) Jean Michel Lorain from La Côte Saint Jacques, Gaetano Trovato from Arnolfo, Jason Franey from Canlis, Joachim Splichal from Patina, Johann Lafer from his namesake Johann Lafers Stromburg, Justin Cogley from Aubergine at L’Auberge Carmel, Michael Tusk from Quince and Cotogna, Michael White from Marea, Patrick O’Connell from Inn at Little Washington, William Bradley from Addison, Jean-Michel Lorain representing La Côte Saint Jacques and many more.


Wineries pouring Champagne included Krug, Reinart, Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot, Burgundies were presented by Domaine de la Romanée Conti, and Maison Droughin, Bordeaux from Château Cheval Blanc, wonderful German wines by Weingut Dönnhoff and Weingut Künstler plus some of the most illustrious California wineries: Calera, Chappellet, Harlan, HDV, Kongsgaard, Lail, Mt. Eden, Pahlmeyer, Peter Michael, Roar, Pisoni, Quintessa, Talbott and many more.
If any of this appeals to you, sprint, don't jog to sign up for the next year's festival.
So does money does buy you unique experiences that are virtually irreplaceable, but what about happiness? According to a Russian saying, some people are "born with the shirt on" meaning that they were born into fortune, luck, wealth, or anything else we associate with ingredients for happiness.
Although I write about food and wine what I really speak about is human experiences. There is a meaningful difference between living and existing, at any level. Gunter Kunstler put it best, when he shared with me his life philosophy, that is rooted in German proverb, loosely translated as "man's last shirt doesn't have pockets" That means you don't get to take it with you.


“Living and loving life to the fullest is a must for those of us who believe that.”
For a few thousand dollars David will arrange for you to be picked up in the newest S-Class Mercedes (that changes ambient lighting according to your mood,) sleep in one of the most luxurious hotels in California, Aubert de Villaine will bring some Romanee-Conti, Christopher Kostow will create a gourmet meal you will not soon forget, Graham Gaspard from Black River Caviar will spread caviar all over your wrist, and Toby Rowland-Jones will pour an impeccable glass for you. All you have to do is show up and indulge in the opulence!
Expensive? Yes, to some extent, but it’s also an enormous value. You may be lucky enough to be born with a shirt on, so enjoy life while you can because that shirt has no pockets! Experiment. Emote. Embrace life while you can. Join us in Carmel in 2015. I guarantee that David Fink, will once again outdo himself!


Special Thanks to some amazing individuals who greatly assisted in making Gourmet Fest 2014 the huge success that it was. Toby Rowland Jones was one of the volunteer Sommeliers. Nathaniel Munoz, who is the Manager of Aubergine, was the Wine and Sommelier Director for GourmetFest. Nathaniel was in charge of the implementing and perfectly executing the whole wine program throughout the weekend. 
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