Friday, January 19, 2007

Blind Tasting: Bordeaux Varietals Part 2

In a world...where all wine is served blind from paper bags...four friends are about to embark on a journey...that will change their lives forever.

If you re-read the above nonsense in your best movie-preview-guy voice, it sounds better. So maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but we had a lot of fun with the Bordeaux varietal blind tasting. We lost a few people, as it was the first truly cold night of winter in Brooklyn, and things just come up some times. So it was only Deetrane, Mike, BrooklynLady, and I who tasted 6 wines blind, made notes, and ranked them in the order of preference.

We didn't tell each other anything about the wines we brought - no one knew the full lineup of wines until after the bags came off. I had so much fun smelling and tasting the differences in these wines, grouping them by color or by aroma. It's silly to make generalizations because the wines were from all place, and from many vintages. Yet I noticed that many of the wines had an herbal minty-ness in the aromatic profile. In fact, I enjoyed the aromatics very much, more than the flavors in most cases.

We assigned five points for a 1st place vote, three points for 2nd place, and one point for 3rd. Here are the results of the voting:

First Place - 2003 Roxy Ann Winery Claret, Rogue Valley, Oregon $25: two 1st place votes, 1 2nd place vote = 13 points. A blend of 47% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 19% Cabernet Franc. This wine comes from south west Oregon. I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions, yet I was a little surprised that it won the tasting. My notes: Dark garnet color. Interesting nose of candied cherries and mint, some chocolate too. Silky velvet in the mouth, sweet fruit with nice acidity on the finish. Makes me think of chocolate cake. I put this wine in 2nd place.

Second Place - 2001 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley $68: one 1st place vote, one 2nd place vote, one 3rd place vote = 9 points. A blend of about 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot. This is an expensive wine, and I was curious to see how it would compare to the others. My notes: Herbs on the nose, expressive palate of eucalyptus and cassis, a little cedar on the finish. I liked this wine and picked it 3rd.

Third place - 2000 Jason's Vineyard Meritage, North Fork, Long Island, $13: one 1st place vote, one second place vote = 8 points. I really liked this wine when I tasted it a few weeks back, and I knew then that I would enter it into this tasting. My notes: lighter red than the others, more translucent. Huge nose of wild animal fur, some mint. Silky mouthfeel, complex flavors of cassis, cherries, and earth. The more I sipped and smelled, the more I liked it. I had this wine as my top wine of the tasting. And at 13 clams per bottle - you gotta be kidding me! Order it online if you have to (and if you like gamey Bordeaux style wine). I wonder...what would Lenn say about this wine?

Fourth place- 2001 Bodegas Caro (Barons de Rothschild / Catena), Mendoza, Argentina, $33: three 3rd place votes = 3 points. A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Malbec, this wine is made in collaboration with Barons de Rothschild Lafite. My notes: dark purple, reserved nose of olives and dark fruit. Simple palate of dark fruit, with an interesting high toned finish of herbs. I found this to be an interesting wine, but I didn't like it enough to want bottles of my own.

Fifth place - 2004 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux, $7: one 2nd place vote = 3 points. The 3rd wine of Baron Philippe de Rothschild. My notes: Odd nose of candied orange peel, some mint. Reserved palate. Not my favorite, slightly bitter. For 7 bucks it's hard to complain, I guess, and I hear that as recently as 2003, this wine was really quite good.

Sixth place - 2003 Siverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $34: no votes. This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is a 94 pointer in Wine Spadvocator. Mike suggested that the wine might simply need more time in the bottle. It was very reserved, and started to open up more after a while, but it never really took off for me. My notes: Dark purple. Reserved nose of dark fruit. Sweet sap , some black fruit flavor. Simple.


Joe said...

I love blind tastings. Very interesting to see Silverado show so poorly (I am not a big believer in James Laube) and the Mouton Cadet show reasonably well. I was recently gifted a "Reserve" Mouton Cadet - slightly pricier than the basic stuff, but a neat wine for that price (it was a 2000, I believe). BTW - an alternative to brown bag blinding is to buy four to six cheap, identical, decanters - it will save you from swirling sludge. It has worked well for our group. Cheers!

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Joe,

Good to see you again. I'm not sure how well the Mouton showed. It just wasn't last, that's all. How is the reserve compared to the "regular?" I bet the 2000 is better anyway, as was the 03. That's a GREAT idea about the decanters. Kills 2 birds with one stone too - gets air to the wines and keeps them blind. I will look into it. What is "cheap" for a decanter, anyway?

Thanks for your comments.

Joe said...

I have not had the regular in MANY years, so i can't compare, but it was a good vintage of the "Reserve". The decanters have worked EXTREMELY well - it also helps where bottles sizes are different. Cheap is a relative term, I suppose - under $20 bucks each is a good price (Crate & Barrell has one below that), and should be easy to find. If that is a stretch, ask your group to buy one each. Cheers!

Lenn Thompson | said...

Lenn would say that he's not had that wine in quite a while and can't find his notes anywhere!

I don't remember it being that cheap though...I think it was 18 out here.

Jason does great work with his lil vineyard...much better than the wines he makes for Pindar.

Brooklynguy said...

hey lenn - i thought i got a great deal, as i bought it "on sale" for $16/bottle at vintage NY a month or so ago...only to go to Jason's website and see the same wine sold for $13. maybe they lowered the price to sell what's left?

Does he tend the vines for Pindar, or just make the wine?

take it easy, sending you positive baby thoughts.

Marcus said...


I'm desperate to try one of these brown-bag blind tastings with friends. I've seen it happen in Montreal BYOW restaurants but I've never taken part.

Plus, I was recently given Riedel blind tasting glasses, though I guess I might use those for something altogether different.

Question for Joe: doesn't decanting into carafes make the reveal difficult? How do you tell what's what at the end of the tasting? Or does everyone "know" their own decanter?

Brooklynguy said...

I was thinking about that too - how to ID the decanters. Here is my idea. Get a sheet of little round stickers and write the wine on the sticker, put it on the bottom of the decanter. Revealing is then simply looking at the stickers. For $20 each I think I will do this - much easier in the end than paper bags. And you should set this up Marcus - you'd love it. Or join us next time you're in Brooklyn, between espressos.

Dr. Debs said...

Joe told me that he uses a simple black grease pencil to mark the decanters--easy peasey. I found some decanters on sale at a wine super store. It definitely gets you away from the "tell" of a differently shaped bottle. I was thinking, too, that you could harvest some empties and decant from bottle to bottle if you really didn't want to face the storage issues of multiple decanters in your closet. I have mine now, and they're in 1/2 bath!

Brooklynguy said...

ah - the grease pencil of my high school science classes...finally coming to good use. not sure i can store many decanters, true. we'll see what happens next time.

Anonymous said...

Very surprised regarding the Silverado. I have not had that particular bottle but in general I usually enjoy their Cabs. I will however have to try the Janson's Vineyard Meritage. I am ashamed to admit that I have never had a wine from Long Island, NY. Well, better late then never...

Brooklynguy said...

Hi Victoria,
Thanks for stopping by. I think the 2000 Jason's Vineyard Meritage is a good place to begin because you can order it online, and the price is right. It also happens to be interesting and delicious wine.

Take care,

Joe said...

Yes, the "how do you decant with knowing which is which"? question. Solution one - my wife decants and marks the bottles. You can't have my wife (ok, I might trade for a 2001 Masseto). Solution two - for four wines have one person prepare eight pairs of "post its" - two pairs with an "A" (in pencil if you like) on the bottom "post it" (so it remains unseen), two with a "B", etc. The other taster decants, and when he gets the four pairs, sticks one to the bottle and one to the decanter. I am sure this makes no sense - will explain later!