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A little tottery after TOTT


Just a short post today because I am WIPED after yesterday’s Toast of the Town. That’s Wine Enthusiast’s big event, held in 4 cities each year (San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and New York). These are fantastic affairs, and they require a huge effort on the part of all the magazine’s staff, plus consultants and helpers of all stripes. As with all such gigantic undertakings, there are stresses and strains aplenty behind the scenes, but there’s only one thing that ultimately counts: that the guests have the time of their lives.

I helped out in any way I could, from checking wineries in at the entrance to the Opera House, to setting up signs on the restaurant tables, to making sure that various people’s needs were taken care of. For example, Chris Carpenter, Cardinale’s winemaker, who presided over no less than 5 seminars in a row. Some people who saw me at the registration table later poked fun at me for having such a humble task when I am supposedly the Big Critic, but working in a team means you do whatever has to be done at the moment, and you do it thoroughly and joyfully. The registration table sees its share of total chaos and confusion, but I like chaos and confusion, and besides, it’s in my nature to want to help people who show up, expecting to get in without a fuss. I, myself, hate to be unnoticed and uncared for when I’m in a line, so I want to assist people in avoiding that particular unpleasantness.

There was, needless to say, too much to eat. I am pretty disciplined when it comes to not over-indulging in wine under such circumstances. That would be easy to do, of course, with so many wineries pouring so much great wine; and to be honest, Toast of the Town sees its fair share of (what shall we call it?) gentle inebriation. But I refrain. Partly it’s because I’m working, and it would be unprofessional to get sloshed. Partly it’s because I know myself well enough to know that, if I did get sloshed, I’d be unable to work, and might even commit an indiscretion. That’s fine, in private life; not when you’re a representative of Wine Enthusiast. But for all my resistance to drink, I just cannot keep myself from the restaurant tables. Anything with smoked salmon makes me insane; crab and lobster too, and while I’m not big on pulled pork or roast beef, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have plenty of both. As a result, this morning the old digestive tract is making some little gurgling noises.

Another thing I like about TOTT is seeing so many old friends. There are literally dozens, perhaps scores, too many to name. Ran into Wilfred Wong at one point, his big camera stapped across his chest, and, before he saw me, I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him where BevMo was. Wilfred and I go back further than either of us likes to admit, but with the years has come a seasoned affection. If there’s one thing about running into people that distresses me, it’s not remembering their names — which isn’t so much about TOTT and similar events, it’s about me. I’m hopeless with names. Don’t know why. I feel guilty and embarrassed about it. I spent 20 minutes having a wonderful conversation with a beautiful young woman, whom I even kissed when we parted. I should have remembered her name but just couldn’t, and I think she knew it, but was too polite to call it to my attention. Speaking for myself, when I greet someone I haven’t seen for a while, I’ll say, “Hi, it’s Steve,” just in case they don’t remember my name, because I don’t want them to squirm like I squirm when names desert me.

I watched all my colleagues at Wine Enthusiast working way harder than I did to pull this intricate thing off. I have such admiration for my co-workers at the magazine, from top management on down. At some point, somebody — a guest — told me that Wine Enthusiast must be a very happy place to work, because everyone she’d met that night from the magazine seemed so happy. I guess that’s true. We have our, ahem, moments…but good always triumphs.

Towards the end of the night, a security guard whom I’d gotten to know (because I was working one of the VIP lounges where he was stationed) mentioned that he was hungry but couldn’t leave his post. I made the rounds with a shopping bag, filling it with little dainties (smoked salmon, puff pastries, cake) and was happy to make his job easier. Then it was time to go. After 8 hours running around on those marble floors, my feet were killing me. The last person I saw before leaving was the inimitable, fabulous Jean-Charles Boisset, who handed me a glass of Grand Cru Chablis. It had been the first glass of wine I was able to savor all night, and I’ll tell you, it was really, really good.

  1. You making it to any of the East Coast TotT events?

  2. Nope.

  3. Lisa Mattson says:

    I’m not young (halfway to 70 is old by today’s standards, right?), so that couldn’t have been me. 🙂
    Great catching up with you. TOTT was indeed a fabulous event. I’m really looking forward to being involved in more cities in 2011.

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