Monday, April 23, 2007


Each year, I look forward to the tri-state area's top wine events. For me, those include Wine Spectator's Grand Tour or Wine Experience, The Benefit for City Harvest, and Lauber's Grand Annual Tasting, which is a trade event, but top-notch and a personal favorite. However, I realized that there was another large scale event, Toast of the Town, that I had never attended.

Now in its sixth year and having expanded to three cities, Wine Enthusiast has done a marvelous job marketing and positioning Toast of the Town as one of the can't miss wine experiences of the year.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been skeptical about this event. Their list of participating wine distributors tend to be a little lackluster, with no presence from top tier heavy hitters that one might expect from a high profile tasting sponsored by a major wine publication. This has been the number one reason I have not attended Toast of the Town in the past, but last night I put my preconceived notions aside. I decided to give the show the benefit of the doubt, especially since, in addition to wine, it also featured a fairly impressive list of participating restaurants.


Gorgeous setting at the Lincoln center featuring over 500 wines and spirits and 30 restaurants. Lively, party atmosphere with more coquettes and cleavage than swirlers and spitters. If you are an inexperienced or casual wine drinker looking to try different varietals, sample some NY restaurant creations, or flirt and hobnob, then this is the social event for you! However, if you are looking for some serious wine tasting, you will be disappointed. Most of the wines featured were 84 - 88 point wines and fell into the $10 - $25 a bottle range. Concha Y Toro was there but without any Don Melchor. Clarendon Hills was there but there wasn't any Brookman Syrah to be found. Penfolds was there but no Grange. You get the picture. And for every wine that exceeded the overall quality in the room, there were three or four that fell significantly short.

My top wine honors of the night go to:

Banfi Rosa Regale 2006 - A red sparkling wine with rose petals and raspberries on the nose. A crisp, dry and refreshing palate cleanser.

Dios Baco Pedro Ximenez Sherry - Wonderful stewed fruit nose with enormous concentration of raisins and hints of figs, prunes and honey.

Chateau Reynella Old Cave Port - Spicy nuts on the nose with an impressive hazelnut finish that goes on forever.

My top food honors of the night go to:

Roosevelt Grill's Coulibiac of Smoked Salmon, Cilantro Lime Emulsion, Micro Herb Salad

Blue Fin's Rhubarb Parfait with Almond Streusel and Raspberry Pate de Fruit

MarieBelle's signature chocolates

Woo Lae Oak's KeSelmari Dungeness Crab, Leek & Spinach Crepes in Light Mustard Sauce


85 PTS
If you are a true wine enthusiast, you are better off spending twice the ticket price for the Wine Spectator events. At those events you are guaranteed that 90 point wines or better are poured at every table and you're likely to taste all the First Growth Bordeaux, California Cult Cab Stunners, Super Tuscan Sensations, Oregon Pinot Noir Elegance, Australian Shiraz Fruit Bombs and Spanish Toro Dazzlers you can imagine.
However, if you are simply looking to have a good time, this light-hearted affair won't disappoint. The mood is jazzy and fun. It is not a serious or snobby event and it provides a good introduction to the wine world and tasting events.

The Lincoln Center location may no longer be ideal for Toast of the Town. Although it is beautiful, it was hot and overcrowded. There was not enough space between aisles creating major traffic jams which made it difficult to get to tasting tables. Again, the event planner could learn a lot from Spectator's events which are more spacious and tend to spread out top wine attractions like an amusement park would roller coasters to avoid congestion in any one area. It is entirely possible that this event has grown too big for this setting (a sign of its success and growing popularity) and might be better served by expanding to a different venue.

Toast of the Town would definitely benefit heavily by including more top tier wines. While the VIP Tasting Admission for $185 grants entrance two-hours early and the ability to taste an extra higher echelon wine, it still left something to be desired. The $95 ticket price for the Grand Tasting would be much more appealing with a few marquee wineries pouring expensive and highly sought after wines.

Kudos to Spiegelau who sponsored the event and provided it with glassware. Every ticket holder took home a beautiful piece of stemware. It was also very classy of them to allow guests to exchange their used tasting glass at the end of the night for a new clean one. Other shows rarely grant this courtesy leaving guests with the hassle of trying to get the dirty glass home without staining bags or clothing.

The next stop of the show is in Chicago on May 3, 2007. For tickets or more info go to
Toast of the Town.


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