Category Archives: Blindtastings

Why I am Dubious of Wine Competitions: Medals for Everybody

I am intensely dubious about wine competitions. They are very common–it seems like almost every county fair in this country, and lots of newspapers, like the San Francisco Chronicle and Dallas Morning News, sponsor one. They do seem to be very important in Australia, where judges receive some training for them and I gather they have higher generally accepted standards for them than there are elsewhere. Almost universally, however, the wines that most of us in the fine wine world acknowledge as truly great never enter such competitions. Such wines are already well known, the wineries that produce them already experience more demand for those wines than they can satisfy, and such producers certainly don’t need to risk coming in second to some unknown producer in a blindtasting at the Fresno County Fair. That leaves a lot of unknown wines that are looking for any kind of recognition, or producers that feel the need for regular validation in the form of a bronze or silver medal at some local fair, as the usual participants for these kinds of things. Continue reading

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Great Burgundy Blindtasted: Domaine Leflaive Bâtard, Leroy, Groffier

David Niederauer has a reputation amongst his wine buddies for doing fun blindtasting dinners, but also for setting up diabolically tricky blind flights, aimed at making us guess wrong and/or extremely wrong. Blindtastings are always a humbling and grounding experience, but many of David’s have been particularly memorable in this respect. For example, he once did a “double-reverse” blinding of four Pinots: when they were unveiled, and we were saying “Oh, I thought it was that” or “Now I can see, I should have guessed that,” he then revealed that he’d decanted the wines back into different bottles, and then gave us a list of what the real wines were. So he’s a great and generous host, but also a tricky guy, and one can count on being fooled at least a couple times when David is behind the brown bags. Continue reading

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Cork vs. Screw Cap at 14 years: PlumpJack Reserve Cabernet

So what’s my takeaway from this tasting? Well, it’s just one more data point: a sample of a wine meant for aging, nearly 14 years from the vintage, where the Stelvin closed bottle resulted in a tastier, plusher sample, with more fruit and some development of the tannins and oak than the identical wine sealed under cork. I must admit I’m surprised, as it’s not what I expected. Continue reading

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“Liquid Sex”? Retrospective blindtasting of Parker Aussie favorite Oliverhill

It is generally accepted at this point that Robert Parker went overboard in his enthusiasm and high scores for Aussie wines in the last decade. Lots of us fine wine people bought these wines based on Parker’s high scores, and too often found the wines overly concentrated, jammy and alcoholic. Despite Parker’s specific claims with respect to many of these wines that they would last and evolve for 15 or more years, that has not proven to be the case. The disappointment in the fine wine market over many of Parker’s highly rated wines was a major contributing factor to the wholesale collapse of the Australian wine export market over the last few years. This tasting was an opportunity to review the ageworthiness of one of those Parker favorites, Oliverhill’s Jimmy Section Shiraz, which he praised in one vintage by quoting approvingly another taster’s description of the wine as “liquid sex.” Continue reading

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Domaine La Tour Vieille Collioure and Banyuls

How often does one get to enjoy an evening devoted to the wines of Collioure and Banyuls? All I know is, this was my first. The venue was the semiweekly blindtasting group in this area that has been going for over 30 years. The organizer of these tastings, who normally provides all the wines, had collected wines for several years for this tasting, which is very cool, as Collioure is such a tannic, powerful red that it requires some bottle age to reveal its depth and complexity. Continue reading

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2000 Petite Sirahs Blindtasted

I thought the lineup reflected both the best and worst of California Petite Sirah. Not counting the JC Cellars, which was corked, our worst were the Girard and Rosenblum, which were big and concentrated, and somewhat alcoholic, but lacking in charm or real dimension. I’ve had a number of Petites like that, where producers seem to be going for ripeness and extraction rather than balance and structure. On the other hand, a couple of these were among the best Petites I’ve tasted. The 2000 Turley Hayne Vineyard we had was nearly as wonderful as the last time I had it–with great depth, complexity and a very long finish–and it was easily the group’s and my favorite. Another very good one was the Lava Cap Granite Hill, which also showed good complexity, with some menthol lift, as well as a long finish. Continue reading

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Harry Karis visit part I: Top ’89 & ’90 Châteauneuf-du-Papes Blindtasted

This tasting (along with similar ones I’ve done in the past) indicated that I’m a bigger fan of ’89 wines, at least in the case of bottles that are relatively brett free, but both vintages produced some pretty fabulous wines from this appellation I regularly go to for sheer pleasure and deliciousness. Continue reading

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