As I’m still coming back down to Earth two weeks after the legendary NYC Robert Parker Matter of Taste event, I find myself experiencing exhilaration and a sense of validation for pursuing my life dream of winemaking. Make no mistake, people still struggle pronouncing my last name, and in the grand scheme of things I’m still the new kid on the block. However, after participating in the recent Matter of Taste events, I have a renewed excitement for winemaking––and I’d like to share with you how that whole story unfolded.
A month ago, I was invited to participate in Robert Parker’s Matter of Taste event in London, then two weeks later was invited to participate in the same event in NYC (which required a 95 or above rating by The Wine Advocate to attend). I’m not just honored to have participated, but also feel rejuvenated with self-assurance as though returning from a meditation retreat with Gandhi.
I finally got to meet, not just a wine god, but THE wine god: Robert Parker himself. He is someone I’ve admired and idolized over the years, and had fantasized about what I would say if I ever had the chance to meet him. However, once in his presence, I was only able to say about 20% of what I had intended. I was filled with nerves and excitement, and when our conversation was over, it left me wanting more like a well-made wine. I expressed my gratitude for his ratings and reviews over the years (which took up 75% of the time I had with him). My time with him was very limited, and I could tell he wanted to talk to others behind me that he knew well from years’ worth of history. I thought it would be special if he were to sign the last review he ever gave me, so I brought the Wine Advocate Issue #228 with me. Like a nervous teenage boy about to ask a girl on a date, I asked him with a smirk, “Mr. Robert…would you like to sign my yearbook?” He took my pen, and said, “Yes, of course.”
It was such an honor and privilege to meet him and be a part of such an exquisite event. There I was pouring next to Harlan Estates, and also in the company of wine legends like Château Mouton Rothschild, Trotenoy, Sassicaia, Pingus, Tor, Bevan, Chappellet, Realm, Melka, etc. The best wineries in the world were all under one roof (too many to list––the full lineup can be found HERE) and there I was sharing Hertelendy Vineyards. Every wine I tasted was off the charts, and it was a grand opportunity not just to taste wines from top producers, but also to discover new wineries like En Garde (fantastic Napa Valley wines produced by Csaba Szakál, another Hungarian winemaker) and Domaine Sigalas (a Greek winery from Santorini). I told my parents that I finally made it to the major leagues, being in the company of iconic figures in the wine industry.
After the Grand Walkabout Tasting event, I went to an extraordinary BYOB dinner featuring Robert Parker where I was elbow-to-elbow with the winemakers whom I’d respected even before my wine career began. At this dinner, I tasted a 1968 Louis Martini Barbera to a 2010 Hundred Acre to several vintages of Schrader. You can imagine my awe meeting Carol Schrader herself, and then after I congratulated her on the sale of her winery she thanked me and replied, “You’re the future.” What an honor to be recognized by one of Napa’s elite. The rest of the night I kept asking my wife to pinch me…I couldn’t believe it was real!
And I can’t express the sensation of just being there. The cliché “kid in a candy store” didn’t do the experience justice…it was more like an unreal dream scaling Mt. Olympus to converse and hang out with the gods. Perhaps this is what the Academy Awards are like when you’re an aspiring actor who gets nominated for the first time; and it wasn’t just my conversations that I had with the Wine Advocate team, or talking to other winemakers and winery owners with whom I have the utmost respect for, or serendipitously running into Philippe Melka on the NYC subway, or tasting liquid art that blew my mind. It also wasn’t because it was Robert Parker’s last public appearance. No, it was the accumulation of it all, which culminated into a once-in-a-lifetime memorably magical event which I will forever cherish.