I went to Mr. Tasaki's Party, celebrating his championship of winning at the World Sommelier 20 years ago. It was one of those super hot summer days at the end of July,
I felt a bit nervous and lonely, and held a bit of guiltiness for going to a party, any party, but especially this one when my score on the final wine school test wasn't something I could be proud of.
用意していたドレスはこのところのストレスによる暴飲暴食で着れなくなり…。おフランス製の可愛いピンクワンピ (T . T)
And another downer was that because I gained a bit of weight these days (using my brain makes me hungry!), my body didn't fit in to the fancy French dress I was planning to wear.
Since the dress code was casual, I wore something decent.
I arrived to the party early and saw my wine school teacher talking to someone. Wow! Isn't that Mr.Tasaki!
I was sure this would be my only chance to ever get a picture with him. Gathering all the courage I had, I went to talk with them and I got a picture of the two of us. Can you guess who took the picture?
Mr.Tasaki was such a nice person. He kept smiling while I hurriedly introducing myself, trying to explain what a student of his school was doing at his twenty year celebration.
When I finished explaining, he said yes it's better to take a picture now because there won't be any time to do it once the party starts.
The banquet hall was at the Hotel New Otani. My grampa was the first grand chef at this hotel over 50 years ago,so I felt like he was watching over me, that he helped me to get that picture taken with Mr. Tasaki. In my life, that sort of thing counts as a miracle.
Now that I'd completed my mission of getting a picture with Mr.Tasaki, I needed something to toast with! And what did I find, a French draft beer counter in the corner. Kronenbourg Blanc is an aromatic beer, floral but smooth on the throat. Perfect!
開場すると入り口でフルートグラスに入ったJosephe Perrier Cuvée Royal Brutが配られました。会場の壁際にお料理、中央にロの字型にテーブルがセットされ、錚々たるワインが並んでおります。
When the hall doors opened, Josephe Perrier Cuvée Royal Champagne was served to everyone present. From the sides of the room I began to smell the yummy looking foods that had been set out on long tables near the walls. At the center, tables were set up in a square shape and OMG! The tables were full of wines, all neatly lined up.
The black suited sommeliers standing in front of those wines were all celebrity sommeliers that you see on television or in magazines. They lined up straight in their sommelier uniforms and their aura together with all those wines took the ambience of the room to a completely different level, as if the center tables had the spot light and they were the real stars of the night's show. The presentation made the room look glamorous and sparkly.
Of course, there were a number of celebrities in attendance to celebrate the event. Most participants at the party seemed more intrigued with the wines than trying to get their pictures taken with the super famous people. I don't want to name drop, but there were some pretty fancy people there. It made me realize how much we love wine in Japan and how many people really enjoy and respect wine and the growing tradition of wine and viticulture in our country today.
As each of us had entered the banquet hall a little earlier that evening, we had each been given the list of the wine that would be presented for the event. Now we all began to focus on these lists, and each one of us began weighing in on our own alcohol limits, with respect to how we might get the best and most out of the list. There were 19 champagnes, 2 sparking wines, 13 whites, 18 reds, 1 rose and 2 sweet wines. Hummmmmm....
いただいたワインリストの何がよろしいのかも正直わかりません。でもどれをいただいても素晴らしいにちがいないので、とりあえず、白をもう一杯、Bouzeron Domanie Gageyを頂きました。
To be honest, I couldn't make out which was better from the lists. I noticed a few famous brands and chateaus but my knowledge is still very limited. Since I was sure that they must be all great or they wouldn't even be in the room, I decided to get a white wine, the Bouzeron Domanie Gagey.
At this point I'm thinking that maybe I should have brought a notepad or something to write with and take this perfect opportunity as a day to study wine, but that would have made me look like a dork. And I was already tipsy from a glass of beer, a glass of champagne plus being nervous and hungry. Well I guess that left me no choice but to enjoy the moment!
Once everyone was filled with food and excellent wine, we were shown a video of the world sommelier contest from 20 years ago. Wow yes I was there!
The video clip began at the stage in the competition where the top sommeliers were taking their final test of servicing wine. In the scene, Mr.Tasaki was being challenged by a female examination committee member who role-played a very snobbish and mean guest. His mission was to satisfy this guest. Twenty years ago, when I was looking at this scene from down stage, I didn't understand much of the conversation in French, so I had just guessed that the lady was a very angry guest and she was giving our Japanese sommelier a very hard time. Today the video had Japanese subtitles and I was finally able to understand what was going on.
When the video was over, the announcer told us that although the Japan Sommelier Association sends their best Sommelier of the Year to the annual World Sommelier Contest, no other Japanese person has taken the title of World Sommelier since Mr.Tasak did in 1995. I couldn't help thinking how lucky I am to be in his school and to be a witness to all of this both then and now.
The top sommeliers in Japan were then invited onto a stage that had been set up in the center of the room and surrounded by wine serving tables. These are the rock stars of the sommelier world in Japan.
Usually, I make sure to eat everything at a buffet, but today I wanted to taste as much wine as possible. I ended up enjoying 9 glasses of wine and was definitely...pretty much drunk.
Near that back of the stage was a corner table that I began hovering around and pretty soon I was comfortably chatting with the people around me. Most of them were also going to the Tasaki wine school, some had passed the exam a few years ago and two of them would be taking the same exam with me. I felt relieved knowing that I was not the only one at the party who had ditched their studies to enjoy the celebration and have a good time chatting.
Our conversation got pretty heated and I almost missed Mr.Tasaki's performance of the opening of a 12L Jacquart Brut Mosaïque on the stage. Whew!
Our wine school teacher later joined our table. He was really nice and kept cheering the three of us on who will be taking the exam next month. His was being so positive, really encouraging and comforting. I'm so glad I can share this with all of you.