4am comes way to early most of the time, and this day was no different. I had to be up and ready by 4:30am to meet my executive sedan which was scheduled to pick me up and then head up to Huntington Beach to pick up Raz. True to form for the rest of the weekend, what actually arrived was not an executive sedan, but rather a full stretched Lincoln Town car limousine suitable for parties of 8; total overkill for our party of two just going to the airport.
The checkin and flight out of John Wayne airport was nice and stress free. Our plane was only about at half capacity, which made for a very comfortable flight. Once we landed in Oakland, we met up with Fergus on the Bart from Dublin into San Francisco. We then hiked it on foot from the Powell station to our hotel on 8th and checked in even though it was only 10am.
On checkin into the hotel, we realized the room we got was a 2 queen with no roll away. Well, once settled we asked the desk clerk if we could get a roll away. Instead, the clerk simply upgraded our room to a 2 queen and sofa bed combo, which ended up working out even better for us. Again, true to form for the weekend and done for us at no extra cost. So it was back up to our old room to move our things to the new one, and then to catch a cab to the Hotel Monaco where the seminars were to be held…
We arrived at the Monaco a bit early and ended up chatting with Rhiannon, the host of the tasting, at the registration table a bit until we realized that we needed to get lunch before checkin. So we decided that the Grand Café next door/attached to the Hotel was suitable, especially in that we were under a time constraint now. As it turns out, the Grand Café has a -very- French style menu, to the point where Fergus and Raz seemed a bit leery of what they were ordering even though it all sounded spectacular (Fergus had the oven roasted chicken, while Raz had the Andouille panini. I, however, chose the braised lamb sandwich knowing full well what I was in store for). Let me tell you, the food did not disappoint. Again, true to form, our first meal in the city proved to set the tone for the rest of our dining excursions.
After lunch we got in line to register for the seated tasting seminars.
Fergus and I selected Ian Millar’s presentation on two of the distilleries he managed (he is now the Chief Brand Ambassador): The Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie. Raz selected Jim Murray’s presentation, which was my close second choice because as a writer, I wanted to hear what Jim had to say.
We milled about for a bit after registering and waited for the rest of the line to complete the process so they could open the doors for the seminars. We took note of the demographics in the lobby and realized that we were actually the younger ones in the crowd. We also took note that there were very few women in the area, attributing the lack to the fact that Whiskey is generally considered a “man’s” drink. The women that were there for the seminars, however, appeared to really know their stuff. (The grand tasting the next day was a different matter.)
The doors opened finally, and people began filtering into the seminar rooms. Fergus and I herded our way in and sat up at the front, since everyone else seemed to be entering and sitting the furthest back as they could. Our mistake. Apparently people weren’t sitting up front because those seat were marked with a “Reserved” sign on the table, which neither Fergus nor I saw. So, of course, we got booted from the tasting. And that got my ire up. This was the single seminar that I booked the trip for. I expected the grand tasting to be nice, but my entire purpose for going was to sit in the Balvenie seated tasting, and now I was being booted from it…
…to be continued…
Next up… Seamus wins, Fergus gets stiffed, and we all take one for the team…..
As always, pictures can be found at: http://www.waywardcelt.com/postnuke-phoenix-0.7.2.3/html/coppermine/thumbnails.php?album=29