Friday, January 11, 2008

Offline planning or 'Why I should have my head examined'

Most of you know me from my CLONYC activities. I love putting these types of events together. They are hard work but well worth the outcome.

I would like to believe I have learned a thing of two about what is acceptable and not acceptable activity when attending these dinners. The people who become part of them are from all walks of life and many have become great friends of mine. When putting an offline together I strive to be fair to everyone involved. I have even kept my brother out of one because he was a bit late in responding back to me. I usually make a goal and try to work with the individuals in reaching it, on occasion offering wines at cost from my 'not very deep' cellar. If the theme is a vertical, (where the same wine from different vintages) I try and secure as many good vintages as possible. I have been known to shy away from off vintages in the past. I think some may have the wrong idea of my motives when doing so, but the reality is such: if I am going to go to the trouble and expense of a great dinner, I want the best possible examples of said wine present. There is usually a guest or two who has to 'source' the bottle. I especially avoid off vintages from these guests as the fairness is lost when they pay 50-60% less than others have paid for the better vintages. Not fair. One rule I have not really implemented is backups. I can see the importance of having backups, but reality usually kicks in and makes it tricky. I have thought long and hard about some ways to equally balance costs from guests. I have even thought of pairing two guests up to achieve some goals. Maybe I think too much.

One thing that has really stuck in my craw lately is large pours. Not fair. If there is 12 guests in attendance, and a bottle (750ml) has roughtly 26 ounces, it amounts to just slightly over 2 ounces per pour! More than once did the bottle run dry before the 12th guest got it. If I ever do a vertical again I will keep it 10 guests and share the cost of the last two bottles. I always prefer when the staff does all the pouring. An interesting wine pouring format evolved at the last CLONYC (credit must be given to Stephen and his staff at ZOE Soho); The staff poured 2 ounces per glass (even though we had 9 guests), leaving almost a third in the bottle. Initially I was curious to why, but after the second wine was poured I realised the benefit and knew I liked this format, as it gave the guests a chance to 're-visit' wines they liked, between flights while having the ability to actually taste wine #11, 12 &13 and still be being able to make conclusions and form lucid opinions on these wonderful wines. I myself have been to offlines where the last wine was WOTN, and I never even remember tasting it!

Many wines throw off sediment, even when young. When guest pour I specifically ask them to start each bottle (with the guest that had brought it), and pass it right. This ensures no one ever gets the sediment 'dregs' twice. If the staff is pouring I ask them to start at a different guest with each bottle.

As I already stated, these tastings/dinners are tremendous work, but well worth it. I do it because I love to do it. I always ask my guests for thoughts and comments and this time will no different. What say you?