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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Spanish Wine Festival in NYC, Not Much to Party About
This will be a tad difficult for me to write, considering I adore PJ Wine's retail outfit and laud them every chance I get, but I found their Spanish Wine Festival tasting brutally disappointing. I will get to the wines (vaguely, it was difficult to focus & put together my normally meticulous analysis) later on in this thread, but initially I must mention that the design, venue selection and over-booking of the event caused such disarray that the only lingering impression my palate was left w/ was that of sour grapes.

Peter Yi, owner of PJ Wine, and the entire PJ's team personify a fundamental passion for Spain. Traditional Monte Real Reservas, tapas, Spanish music and culture are part of the pulse that brings the retail team its unique character. On top of their respect and admiration for Spanish viticulture, these events (including their annual Grand Tasting events) are benevolent, selfless fundraisers for City Harvest, their official charity partner. That's why it is somewhat painful for me to say that I found the event lacked the class, organization and respect that it certainly commands.

The venue, Landmark on the Park, a Universalist Church, while certainly an aesthetic and ambitious setting, was blatantly too small to accommodate the relatively enormous volume of tasters stumbling through the evening. There were less than a handful of side tables to gather around (perhaps due to spatial constraints) and nowhere to hide amidst the crowds of thirsty patrons, lining up like pigs surrounding a trough at chow time. And please, dear readers, tell everyone that you know that it’s NOT acceptable to stand and eat directly off of the buffet. Fill your plate and move along (personal pet peeve of the wife)! Pourers were treated like absentee bartenders, and nary a word could be heard through the raucous crowds and stumbling acoustics. The sensation was of hurried anxiety; the atmosphere was stuffed to the gills like a mall food court at high noon. Not the type of environment one can contemplate fine wine in, unless one would consider long lines at Great Adventure theme parks to be 'cozy.' Organization is nearly impossible when the venue is booked 3 times its acceptable capacity.

Now there are plenty of 'yeah but' comments I can splice into this critique:
-The minimal 90 dollar tariff goes to charity
-New York City's middle name is 'tight fit'
-These guys are great people and fabulously selfless (especially w/ their prices)

But I still can't come to find this acceptable. These are FINE wines, not gallons of jugs fit for thirsty, swill guzzling cliques in need of a more liberal barkeep. In order for any consumer to make a deliberate impression of a Vega Sicilia, or a Pesquera Janus...they can't worry about climbing through a mosh-pit of unruly New Yorkers in line for a 15 minute late G-train. The outfit at PJ's, their wines and their class deserves to be represented in an appropriate venue, w/ MUCH less patrons (perhaps doubling the charitable donation would suffice)...or simply spreading out the pouring tables, in a warehouse-esque environment could satiate a bit more of a professional, calm event setup.

The evening was punctuated w/ the barely audible micro phoned comments of owner Peter Yi falling on deaf, distracted ears. I made my most concerted effort to discern his words, as they were of Spain's cultural diversity, passion and charity. I genuinely had remorse as I heard the few handfuls of applause waltz him off the stage.

These wines were too good, this retailer is too good, and the charitable beneficiary is too good for this type of hap-hazard, fast food experience.


Anonymous Bob Fyke said...

You hit it right on the head Brad. Yes, the price was low, but maybe that was the problem. I was there from open to close and never noticed Peter's comments. Too much noise and hub bub around the tables I guess. There also seemed to be an awful lot of people just standing in front of the tables making it very difficult to access the wines. And they advertised that they had LIMITED crowd size by reducing the number of available tickets. Hard to believe.

Monday, June 25, 2007  
Blogger Brad Coelho said...

It was very unfortunate, as their Grand Tasting events are certainly not the most intimate, but formidable for the wines they offer, modest price and relative accesibility to pourers & wines (sans the table w/ Cheval Blanc). The venue certainly couldn't accomodate the over-booked, lusting crowds. Definitely not our cup of tea, guess we need to read between the lines when we select our next tasting!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007  

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