We had another blind tasting here at the "Dwyer Wine Bar" last night. This time, a "horizontal" tasting of 2004 California Cabernets. I chose wines with low, medium and high Wine Spectator ratings to hopefully offer differentiation.
There were some variations within individual taster ratings, but as a group the wines were "correctly" rated- or I should say "consistently" rated in agreement with their Wine Spectator ratings:
1) Turnbull 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (92pts, $45)
2) Robert Mondavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88pts, $27)
3) Charles Shaw 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon California (82 pts, $2)
I asked the tasters to guess the Wine Spectator rating of each wine. As a group, the guesses were remarkably accurate. Maria (pictured below with Sam getting ready to attend a UConn basketball game prior to this tasting) did *stunningly* well. She guessed 92 points for the Turnbull (dead on), 85 for the Mondavi (3 points off) and 82 for the Shaw (dead on again). Incredible performance! She too shall be called "Wine Afficionado" along with her daughter Sarah (for those of you not familiar with the family relationships).
The "shocker" of the night came from a taster who predicted that the Charles Shaw was not only the most expensive of the group, but went so far as to hazard a guess that it was a bottle of Caymus! (arguably the most consistent Napa Cab producer for the past decade)
I also asked the tasters to guess the retail price of each wine. Notable here were the price guesses for the Two Buck Chuck: $20 and $30. WOW.
Personally, I preferred the Mondavi to the Turnbull. I've tried to force myself to like Turnbull since it is a relatively reasonably price Napa Cab for the big numbers they get from Spectator. I visited their winery a while back and bought several bottles- I didn't like them that much. Last night's tasting didn't do much to change that impression.
I thought the side-by-side tasting of California Cabs was interesting because it enabled me to taste the differences between the wines in a way that drinking different wines on different nights does not. Specifically, I smelled the Mondavi after tasting the Charles Shaw. WOW- what a difference. The Shaw was (at best) muted and unoffensive, and one whiff of the Mondavi revealed an amazingly wonderful aroma.
I think I also learned a bit about my preferences. I've been running around trying to pick up wines that have been rated highly by Wine Spectator. There is a huge difference between an 88 point and a 92 point wine in terms of availability (not to mention price). In this case, I preferred the 88 point wine to the 92 point wine. I'd like to understand better what specific characteristic of the 88 point wine I liked. Wine Spectator writes the following about the wine:
"Well-proportioned, rich and intense, with concentrated currant, loamy earth, herb and cedary oak notes. While firmly tannic, this has a seam of elegance and grace and merits short-term cellaring. Drink now."
Was it the currant I liked? I don't even know what currant smells or tastes like!
I'm left thinking about the different purposes you buy wine for. For me there's "daily drinkers", "value wines" that you might serve for a large gathering, and "special occasion" wines. Trying to figure out which wines I prefer at each level is a process I've been enjoying. There's something great about enjoying wine with friends and family.
Yesterday, Sam and I went on an adventure to pick up the wines I ordered from the holiday wine show. We brought my friend Michael along (as he was the one who invited me to the show). On the drive, I recalled the first really good wines Deanna and I ever enjoyed. While we were living in Belmont, Michael came over and brought a couple bottles: a 1997 Cakebread Benchland Select and a 1997 Groth Oakville Cab. They were amazing. As we celebrate the holidays this year, I'm reminded of his generosity. Sharing great wines with *everyone*, not only with your friends who already "appreciate" wine, can sometimes be more impactful than selectively cracking open the big bottles with your wine loving friends.