AMOC at Lime Rock 2018, Part 3
We were blessed this year with perfect weather for the Friday concours - not too hot like it’s been in the past, beautiful skies, and not a drop of rain. I wandered around the field where the cars were on display, slowly recovering from Clare’s wrath unleashed upon me that morning and the wine I’d unleashed upon myself the night before. All I wanted was a cup or seven of coffee and a nap in the grass under a tree. I did find some coffee and managed to keep my bearing enough to socialize with people between snapping off pictures. I need to do better about using my actual camera. I’m just so used to whipping out my iPhone and hoping for the best. I did the same thing at Saturday’s track day.
The concours is always a great opportunity for eye candy, and this year was no different. Astons from eras throughout the company’s history were represented. From a 1938 2-Litre Short Chassis to the New Vantage, which hasn’t even begun delivery to customers, there were cars from the last 80 years parked in that lawn. Seeing them all together like that is something every Aston Martin lover should do at least once, and it alone can make the whole weekend worthwhile for someone that’s never encountered such a collection of these cars. Even the “common” V8 Vantage, typically found in grey-scale, were lined up with blues, greens, and reds being shown in equal numbers to the whites, greys, and blacks.
As much as I love seeing an array of Vantages - those are my bread and butter, after all - the car that really made me stare was the Sierra Blue DB5 owned by a guy named Carl.
There was something about this color on this car that just made me gawk. The detail and contour on the front half was particularly breathtaking, as each curve gave a brilliant blue-green arc that sparkled in the sun. I wanted to float in its paint while staring up at a cloudless sky, adrift on its hood as though on waves approaching - but never quite reaching - a secluded beach.
Another car I was happy to see was a Vanquish with a manual conversion. The previous-generation Vanquish in Die Another Day was the car that first introduced me to Aston Martin, and I’ve been in love with them ever since. Converting the often-problematic automated manual gearbox to a true manual is rare to see, given the cost and hassle of the job.
Among the cluster of DB4s were a pair of cars with interesting dates on their information forms. They had both 1960 and a modern date listed. One was 1960/2017 and the other was 1960/2018. These two cars were DB4 GT Continuation cars - brand new DB4s built by Aston Martin to be exact replicas of the originals.
A red V12 Vantage Zagato sat by itself in front of the row of V8 Vantages. I assumed it was the same car as Matthew had brought last year and the new owner brought it to the concours, but it turned out that it was a completely different car. There aren’t too many of them around - and only a few in the US - and to see two red ones at the same event, one after the other, is pretty amazing. It’s a slightly polarizing car as it’s far more expensive than the V12 Vantage it’s based on, but nothing was done to increase the car’s performance relative to its donor. It’s just cosmetic. Also, it’s a heavy revision of what’s considered one of the most beautiful cars on the road. It isn’t nearly as pretty as the original V12 Vantage, and it isn’t ugly (at least in my opinion). It’s just different.
Lunch was served by the pool, a small but satisfying assortment of meats, salads, and sides. Seating was set out at the tables around the pool, which quickly filled up. Overflow seating was in the converted pole barn behind the pool area that would later be used for that night’s dinner. I took my seat back there with several others and picked at my food until it was time to head inside the main building for the annual meeting.
The meeting this year was very quick. Brewster went over the club’s finances and there was a brief discussion about the North American AMOC branch’s ties with the parent group in England. Much of the challenge AMOC faces is that it has a small pool of potential members and those people are spread across a wide geographic area in the United States and Canada. That poses quite the challenge for planning events that members can attend, and the fewer the options for participation, the more difficult it is to attract and retain members. I was recently drafted as the Florida area representative for the club with the specific goal of revitalizing the club in that state. I haven’t accomplished much in the first month or so, aside from starting a Facebook group to improve communication amongst members, but I’ve received quite a bit of support so far and I think we’ll be able to turn Florida into one of the best areas for the club.
We were ushered out of the room when the meeting concluded so the next event could be set up for us: champagne tasting!
This was the second year we’ve done a champagne tasting during the Lime Rock weekend. The tasting was the idea of a guy named David, a DB9 owner who has been an active member in the club longer than he’s owned an Aston Martin. His wife, Ramie, has a consulting business that focuses on automotive and corporate events. The two of them teamed up with Kobrand, the importer of Taittinger champagne, and put together the tastings we now get to enjoy.
Our presenter’s accolades were a list of words I’d never heard. I felt rather uncultured given the impressed gasps others had as he talked about his career. Much like driving classic cars like a DB4, high-end food culture is a world to which I’ve never been exposed. I had to do some quick googling to understand Bernie’s accomplishments, and it didn’t take long to realize he deserved the attention he’s gotten. For example, he’s won the 2010 James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service as Wine Director at Jean Georges in New York City. If you’re as uninformed as I am, the James Beard Awards are basically the culinary Oscars. So saying Bernie was more than qualified to give a presentation is a rather hilarious understatement.
Despite Bernie's standing in the culinary world, there were a few rowdy people in the audience. Bernie managed them with class and grace, cleverly bringing them in line so the rest of us could hear him continue his presentation. I learned a bit about crowd control so I have to give him a well-deserved golf clap for that.
Last year’s champagne tasting included caviar pairings. Caviar tends to be a love-or-hate delicacy so it was skipped this year. Rather than pairings, our presenter focused on the subtleties of a given champagne. At each place setting were six champagne flutes that would be used to taste three different champagnes. The reason we had two glasses for each champagne was something I’d never considered.
Bernie explained the differences in champagne types, vintages, and blends, each of which can affect the taste of the product. Then he went on to explain - and demonstrate - that the bottle size can affect taste as well. The two glasses for each champagne would be used to taste the difference between a wine stored in small format (the standard 750mL bottle) and large format (1.5L bottles). Bernie suggested that large format bottles have a better flavor, which I found to be generally true. But one of the champagnes tasted better to me in small format, and a couple other people at my table had similar opinions of one or two of them as well. As with anything, I think preference comes down to each person's palette, though there is a general improvement in flavor in large-format wines.
The presentation ended and our Champagneers cleaned up as the audience dispersed. After a bit more socializing, I went to my room to freshen up and change into the evening’s attire.
Dinner would be served in the pole barn where I’d eaten lunch. It was a really lovely spot - two tables stretched across the length of the barn with lights strung above. One side of the barn completely was open. There was a big fire pit just outside of the barn on the unwalled side, surrounded by four benches. The tables in the barn filled up with people closely packed, so I and a few others opted for the fire pit.
I gathered up a plate of roast beef, potatoes, and salad from the buffet tables and sat down on a bench in front of the fire. A waitress asked if anyone wanted some wine, then brought the appropriate number of glasses. She handed out three of them, then apparently decided she was no longer interested in handing them out. She set the remaining two glasses on the end of a bench and walked away. I set my plate down, walked over to the far side of the fire pit to retrieve the glass I wasn’t given, and returned to my spot to finish my meal.
I’d flown up for the event with carry-on bags only, and to make that more manageable I only brought one suit that would serve double duty both Friday and Saturday nights. It dawned on me that sitting in front of the fire wasn’t doing my suit any freshness favors as it soaked up the scent of burnt wood. I was relieved to find out the next day that the scent hadn’t stuck and I was able to reuse the suit with minimal deodorization.
The track day at Lime Rock started early the next morning so most people showed restraint and called it an early evening. But that didn’t save Blade from the lure of the inflatable unicorn.
To his credit, he didn't get a drop of water on his clothes and came out of the pool completely dry.... even after I pushed him back out into the middle of the pool.
Click the button below for Part 4 of this feature.