Saturday, May 14, 2011


On May 9, 2011 the Kevin Zraly received the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. After 40 years of being the world’s best and most widely known wine educator, and author of the world’s best selling wine book, The Windows on the World Wine Course, it was incredibly well deserved. After the ceremony, a party was held at the Marriott Marquis to celebrate this achievement.

Many, many wine personalities were there, Josh Wesson, Eric Miller, Michael Skurnick, Philippe Newlin, Charles Scicalone, and many, many more. And of course the wine at the event were from mild to superior. Among the more memorable wines were a Clos de Tart, Chambertain, two stunning Amarone’s (1961 and 1967), vintage champagnes, and many others. I myself had brought a Barboursville Barbera 2006. I had to be true, and bring an east coast wine.

In all 252 people popped a cork in Kevin’s honor to establish a new Guinness World’s Record for simultaneously opening a bottle. People drank their own wines and each other’s into the wee hours of the morning.

Late in the evening, after the band had finished packing up, and after most of the guests were gone, Dominique and I looked through the wines on that were left on the tables. There were many among the 200-plus bottles.

But there was one label that shouted out to Dominique. She came over excited and pointed it out. It was the classic Bartlett Estate label from Maine. Someone had brought his classic dry wild blueberry winemaker’s reserve! It was a bottle signed by the winemaker himself Robert Bartlett in 1994! To many at the event, it was obvious, that this bottle seemed more like the servant girl who’d somehow had gotten into the ball. But to Dominique and me, it was Cinderella.

Someone had brought a 17-year old bottle of Rob’s classic wine. I’d had one at three or five years old. But 17 years old? We were both intrigued. Someone had only taken a glass full, and had replaced the cork. The bottle stood there, practically full. Dominique insisted we should bring it home. We are big fans of this wine.

I had originally bought my first bottle of this wine, intending to play a practical joke on my brother-in-law, a massive Italofile. I had bought a lovely bottle of Italian wine to accompany the osso bucco he was serving, but bought the dry blueberry to pour first as a joke. I showed the Italian bottle, but poured the local wine when no one was looking. I assumed we’d taste the wine, have a god laugh, and then move on to the Italian wine. The joke was on me, when the table loved the wine. I grabbed my glass, and was instantly surprised! The wine tasted much like a lovely light Chianti or a nice light Dolcetto D’Alba. We let the bottle of Italian wine stand and drained the Bartlett bottle dry. Years later, I was lucky enough to meet Rob Bartlett, who luckily, turned out to be a really great guy.

We picked up the bottle and spirited it away. The next day we were traveling, and the bottle jumbled and jiggled, the cork remaining tight, as we went about our business. But last night, Thursday evening, I found myself home alone with the bottle sitting on the counter.

I pulled out a Reidel glass and poured myself a glass full of the garnet colored wine. The nose was all dried cherries, a hint of tomato, with hints of vanilla, saddle leather, and forest floor. The taste was true to the nose. Big cherry still came through on the palate, as well as the tomato. The acids were still solid and the tannins still solid, giving the wine an excellent backbone. It begged for food, but I was a bachelor, home alone while my wife and kids were out. I pulled out some local cheeses and nibbled on them as I sipped the wine and savored the flavors. It was an incredible experience. The wine had aged better than many wines I had ever kept in my various collections and cellars over the years. It showed the quality that Rob Bartlett puts into his product and the excellence that is being practiced at Bartlett Estates.

Recently, I’d been treated to an Italian wine tasting dinner, and an industry wine tasting of Italian Chiantis. Those were fantastic experiences. This 17-year old oak dry wild blueberry wine tasted as good as any of the Italian wines I had recently tried, even the old ones. This was an fantastic wine, and another incredible achievement by Rob Bartlett!

I said it before and I’ll say it again, if Bartlett were in Belgium or France, he’d be considered a national treasure. I guess, he is here too, weather people know it or not.