WineInk: Mark Oldman brings Beaulieu to the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
Ask wine people about their wine epiphanies and you’ll likely get tales of Champagne sipped in the cellars of Dom Perignon or having a magnum of Cab for breakfast in a balloon floating high above the vineyards of the Napa Valley.
But wine educator Mark Oldman’s wine epiphany was, well, a bit different.
“I was the president of my high school’s National Honor Society and I had to give a speech in front of everybody — students, parents, teachers, everybody. I was really nervous, and I was also a bit of a rascal, so to calm myself down I had a couple of raspberry wine coolers,” he relayed in a recent phone conversation before his stint at the Food & Wine Classic. “I got up and, off the cuff but inspired by the coolers, began with: ‘They say that if a wine has a good character, then it distinguishes itself.’ Everybody loved it and even though I knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about wine I had found my calling. All at once I knew that wine, public speaking and even more so, public speaking with a little buzz on, was something I really wanted to do.”
Four decades on, Oldman is one of the most popular presenters at the Classic. In addition, he has carved out an ever-evolving career as an author of three wine books and as a facilitator and speaker who makes wine approachable and fun for audiences on a plethora of platforms, both in-person and in the digital realm.
This week Oldman returns to Aspen to present three seminars in his 15th appearance at the Food & Wine Classic. The topics include his ever popular – and always standing-room-only – “Wine for Quintillionaires” on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11. Then at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12, he will take people on a trip through some of the most beautiful wine regions that border the azure seas with “Getaway in a Glass: Wines of the Mediterranean.”
Oldman, like the rest of us, missed out on the 2020 Classic that was canceled due to COVID.
“It literally left a hole in my life last summer,” he said about the lost event and his annual sojourn to the Rockies. But he has plans to make up for that loss with an over-the-top presentation this year. “The return of the Classic is so incredibly joyous, it deserves something great, something really special.”
Not that “special” has ever been a problem at Oldman’s past “Wines for Millionaires/Billionaires/Gazillionaires” seminars, but this year he has partnered with Napa Valley icon Beaulieu Vineyard to create and bottle a “Goliath,” a giant 27-liter bottle of the 2016 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that will be poured in the “Wine for Quintillionaires” seminar. Get ready to get your ya-yas out.
The bottle has been custom-made specifically for Oldman’s seminars, and it contains the equivalent of 36 traditionally sized 750-milliliter bottles, each of which would regularly sell for $140 a bottle. But in this configuration, it would literally be priceless, a one-of-a-kind offering that will never be found anyplace else. It stands 31 inches tall, about knee high on Oldman, and weighs in at 83 pounds. It may well be the most impressive wine bottle you have ever seen.
But beyond the sheer size of the bottle, what really makes this presentation so spectacular is the wine inside. In 1938, the legendary Beaulieu Vineyard winemaker André Tchelistcheff insisted that they should bottle a flagship Cabernet Sauvignon. This bottling of the 2016 vintage is the 80th anniversary of the first vintage of that endeavor. The Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon has an unmatched legacy as a “cult” wine from the Napa Valley and the extraordinary concentration, depth, elegance and history of this vintage make it a ripe candidate for, well, a wine epiphany.
Here is the lineup of wines that Mark Oldman will be pouring at the 2021 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
WINE FOR QUINTILLIONAIRES: The World’s Best Special Occasion Wine
Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m.
1) 2009 Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Champagne 2009
2) 2018 Domaine de la Vougeraie, Vougeot 1er Cru “Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot” (in 1.5L magnum)
3) 2018 Guigal La Doriane Condrieu
4) 2015 GAJA Barbaresco
5) 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Schrader (in 6L Imperial)
6) 2016 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (in 27L Goliath aka “Primat”)
GETAWAY IN A GLASS: Incredible Mediterranean Wines,
Sunday, 10 a.m.
1) FRANCE: Champagne Fleur de Miraval NV
2) GREECE: Argyros Cuvée Monsignori 2018 (Assitryko)
3) FRANCE: 2020 Domaines Ott Chateau de Selle
4) ITALY/SICILY: Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG 2019
5) SPAIN: Creencia Con Juventud Monastrell (Jumilla) 2018
6) CROATIA: Zlatan Otok Plavac Mali Hvar 2015
“The goal at Aspen is to create moments and memories around once-in-a-lifetime events,” Oldman said about pouring the wine. “I love the town, the people and the Classic, and so I pull out all of the stops and try and over deliver as I want to express my appreciation.”
This year, he surely has.
Oh, and if you are only planning on attending the “Getaway in a Glass: Wines of the Mediterranean” seminar, you can leave your fear of missing out behind. There, Oldman will be pouring a recent release that will be widely heralded: the Champagne Fleur de Miraval NV.
“This is Brad Pitt’s brand new, $400 Champagne that he has produced in partnership with top ‘indie’ Champagne grower Pierre Péters Champagnes. It was only released to the world eight months ago, so this is a first taste for the audience,” Oldman explained. “While Champagne isn’t technically a Mediterranean region, the consumption of Champagne (and the involvement of a celebrity) is a Mediterranean/South of France tradition!”
A NEW VENTURE
Of course, for the founder of the Stanford Wine Circle (Oldman went to both undergraduate and law school in Palo Alto), there is life beyond Aspen.
This year, after producing a number of pandemic-necessitated Zoom wine classes for clients and fans, he launched a digital wine education and events company called Bevinars: “I think people still want to learn virtually,” he said about continuing the practice of holding online gatherings with wines.
Those who want to spend some Zoom time with a glass of wine can sign on to take the classes for $55 each or, for $176, purchase a package of four seminars. Bevinars works closely with Wine.com to allow people to buy the wines that are poured in the seminars that can be delivered directly to their doors in time to decant them (or not) for the Zoom events. The next class — an exploration of the “Secrets of Napa Valley” — takes place Sept. 28, and you can register now at http://www.bevinars.com.
BACK TO MARTINSVILLE
Oh, and there is one other thing that you may not know about Mark Oldman: he is obsessed with tomatoes.
“I grew up in a sleepy town in New Jersey called Martinsville, which is in the country and I love tomato sandwiches,” he revealed in our call. He lives not far from the Union Square outdoor market in New York City, which, at this time of year, is lousy with tomatoes from the farms of central and northern Jersey.
“This has been a deeply satisfying tomato season,” Oldman said with obvious joy about the state of the market, which begged the question, “What goes best with the acidic red fruit?” He paused before offering up the idea that a Meleto Chianti Classico can be a prime pair. “What grows together goes together,” he noted. Then he suggested a glass of bubbles.
But finally, he just became that high school kid from Martinsville once again and replied, “Of course you can always just have a nice glass of milk.”
Good character distinguishes itself.