Friday, November 23, 2007

Blind Tasting Results

Yesterday, before Thanksgiving dinner, we conducted our aforementioned blind wine tasting (notice the cloaked bottles in the first picture below). The intent of this tasting was to determine which varietal we prefer without being biased by preconceived notions. I wanted our guests to feel as enthused about this as I was, so I "sold" the event hard. I appreciate the enthusiasm they all showed for the tasting- everyone took it very seriously and appeared to be enjoying themselves.

I chose each of the wines because I felt they were highly representative of each varietal. They were all rated (by Wine Spectator) between 88 and 90 points, so they were all similar in quality. The wines included in the tasting were (in the order they were randomly presented):
  1. 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88 points, $27)
  2. 2004 Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (89 points, $28)
  3. 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estates (90 points, $11)
  4. 2005 Yellow Tail South Eastern Australia The Reserve (90 points, $11)
In the image below is the order of finish from "favorite" to "least favorite":
  1. 2005 Yellow Tail South Eastern Australia The Reserve (90 points, $11)
  2. 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estates (90 points, $11)
  3. 2004 Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (89 points, $28)
  4. 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88 points, $27)

Interesting notes from the tasting:
  • Every single taster selected the Yellow Tail Shiraz as their favorite; it was unanimous.
  • One taster stated that Cabernet was their favorite varietal coming into the tasting because of its "big" taste. That rater gave low marks to the Robert Mondavi Cabernet and was (I think) surprised by the big taste of the Shiraz.
  • One taster stated that "Sanford Pinot" was their absolute favorite wine (and then proceeded to give it the lowest marks of the bunch *by far*).

I'm left wondering whether the favorite wine of the bunch won because it was the boldest, or because it was the best? When tasting these wines head to head some of the wines seemed "unremarkable". Perhaps these wines would be appreciated more on their own -or- when served with a meal? At any rate, it was interesting to see that the more affordable wines were preferred to the more expensive ones.

The next tasting we do will be low, medium and high quality Cabernets where the price aligns to the Wine Spectator rating.

There was a "quiz" where each taster guessed the varietals, elements of the aroma/taste, the Wine Spectator score, and the retail price. I'm pleased to announce that Sarah won that competition and should be referred to as "wine afficionado" upon entering a room.

Sam took the tasting very seriously, and continues to insist that Chateauneuf du Pape is his favorite:

Note to Child Protective Services: This is a gag photo.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Value Wine Recommendations

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a value-minded consumer. In this edition of the blog, I thought I'd share with you some recommendations for value-minded wines. I got these recommendations from Wine Spectator. I've had a subscription to Wine Spectator for a couple of years, but just recently did I really start digging into their ratings, buying the wines they recommend, and comparing the quality of those wines.

This "research" was prompted by a blind tasting at a friend's holiday party a few years ago. He bought 2 wines: 1 was a $8.99 bottle of Rosemount Shiraz, the other a $50 bottle of Shafer Merlot. Based on blind tasting- half of the group picked the $8.99 bottle as their preferred wine. The conclusion of that exercise was that half of the tasters were buffoons. But looking back at that experiment, both of the wines in that test were rated exactly the same by Wine Spectator: 87 points. So, if you believe the pros at Wine Spectator the wines were equal in quality although one cost 5x as much as the other.

Fast forward 5 years later. Based on recommendations from Wine Spectator over the past 2 years, I've discovered the following 4 wines. I present them for you for their Quality/Price ratio:

Columbia Crest
Grand Estates Merlot 2003/2004
90 points/$11 (bought a case @ $9.59/bottle)

Yellow Tail Shiraz Southeastern Australia The Reserve 2005
90 points/$11 (bought for $9.99)

Wolf Blass Cabernet/Shiraz South Australia Yellow Label 2005
88 points/$12 retail (bought for $7.99)

Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon California 2003
82 points/$2.99 (Trader Joe's only- $2.99)

If you like red wine, I hope you give these a try. If you do, please post back and let me know what you think. I'm planning on having some blind tastings here for Thanksgiving. I'll post back with the results of that experiment.
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