Flight 1: Light- to Medium-Bodied Whites

1997 Bollini Pinot Grigio ($8.99): light, clean Italian white with almond and citrus flavors

1997 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99): perky, tropical, and exotic New Zealand S.B.; RINGER

1998 Chateau Haut Rian Bodeaux Sec ($9.99): fragrant, herbal and floral blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc; brightly acidic

1997 Mont Clair Cuvée Vielle Reserve Chardonnay ($9.99): light, fruity, and easy-to-drink Chardonnay from the South of France

1998 Domaine Saint Peyre Picpoul de Pinet ($7.59): tart and fruity "patio quaffer" made in the France's Languedoc from the Picpoul de Pinet grape

1998 Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc ($7.99): grassy, melon and pear-flavored Chilean "crowd-pleaser"

Bollini Wairau (R) Haut Rian Mont Clair Saint Peyre Lapostolle
Zinni 78 81 82 78 84 87 R
Roenigk 78 75 80 78 77 85 R
Moshein 78 80 83 79 85 88 R
Loëb 80 80 82 79 80 84 R
Cubberley 78 86 R 85 74 86 86
Graham 78 65 83 84 82 87
Gilhousen 85 70 75 74 76 82
Steiner 65 77 R 84 77 82 55
Lowe 78 80 82 75 76 80
Outon 86 85R 80 75 76 80
Hansen 80 86 82 89 R 85 85
Vilim 86 78 84 80 83 84 R
Total 79.2 77.8 81.8 79.1 81.8 82.6

Flight 1 Highlights

The Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc received greater praise than others, voted as the Ringer by half of the participants. The actual Ringer received the fewest points of the flight. Graham, giving the Wairau River a rating of 65, lists its only merits as "wet [and] has more color than the others," and describes both palate and nose as asparagus-like. Roenigk's notes indicate his curiosity about the potential of this wine, asking "would this be better cold?" Perhaps a good question; Wairau River received a rating of 89 in the July 30, 1998 edition of Wine Spectator. Both Outon and Steiner rated the Wairau as the Ringer and correctly identified it as a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Outon, in fact, made correct, or very close, guesses as to the varietal and regional background of several of the wines tasted during the evening.


Flight 2: Full-Bodied Whites

1997 Estancia Pinnacles Chardonnay ($9.99): butterscotch, oak, and pear aromas; full-bodied with buttery flavors

1997 Shelter Ridge Chardonnay ($9.99): oak and hazelnut balanced with fruit; "intriguing" toasty aromas

1997 MacRostie Chardonnay ($17.99): "corked" (this particular bottle underwent heating, oxidation, and/or had faulty bottling) -- removed from the tasting; RINGER

1997 Belvedere Chardonnay ($9.99): fruity, balanced, and elegant for the money

1997 Rabbit Ridge Barrel Cuvée Chardonnay ($9.99): restrained fruit with heavy oak and good texture

1997 Louis M. Martini Chardonnay ($9.99): "lemony pie crust" aromas with decent balance and mouthfeel

Estancia

Shelter Ridge

Belvedere

Rabbit Ridge

L. Martini

Zinni 85 75 84 80 79
Roenigk 80 80 82 80 81
Moshein 76 85 79 76 87
Loëb 83 80 82 82 86
Cubberley 82 84 72 78 84
Graham 82 78 85 81 78
Gilhousen 80 82 82 86 80
Steiner 88 82 86 89 82
Lowe 86 84 88 86 87
Outon 83 79 86 84 82
Hansen 85 88 82 85 90
Vilim 80 83 85 82 84
Total 82.5 81.9 82.8 82.4 83.3

Flight 2 Highlights

Taster's were not pleased with the Chardonnay selections overall. Vilim explained that it's difficult to find varietally correct wines in the $10 and under category. Along these same lines, he at one point commented to Roenigk something to the effect of "They're 10 and under, daddio!", implying his deep understanding of the price-to-quality ratio of these wines.

If it hadn't been corked, the MacRostie would have most likely shown well, having received a 90 rating in Wine Spectator. The flight favorite, L. Martini, was given the highest rating by Hansen, who described the wine as full, rich, and complex. Other wines in the flight had average points not much below the leader. The lowest score given by an individual was a 72 by Cubberley. The Belvedere Chardonnay, he says, "lacks desirable fruit," and follows by asking, "Isn't that what wine is about anyways?" Lowe, on the other hand, gave the Belvedere a rating of 88, commenting that it is "lacking at the end but quite nice for the money." The Estancia, Belvedere, and Martini were all rated as "Best Buys" by Wine Spectator, receiving scores of 88, 85, and 86, respectively.


Flight 3: Light- to Medium-Bodied Reds

1997 Jindalee Shiraz ($9.99): smoky, earthy aromas; pleasant and light with cherry flavors

1997 Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir ($6.99): fragrant, easy-drinking, and moderately tannic with "lovely" cherry fruitiness

1996 Jaffurs Matilija Cuvée ($19.99): blend of Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc; woody, floral, and cherry-like; thought by many tasters to be Pinot Noir; RINGER

1998 Di Majo Norante Sangiovese ($7.99): smoky, lightly fruity nose; silky but not showing much fruit on the palate

1997 Marquis de Pennautier Merlot ($9.29): earthy, dusty aromas; lightly sweet fruit on the finish; possibly corked

1998 Tyrrell's Long Flat Shiraz ($6.99): spicy, tar-like aromas with good structure and flavors of raspberries and cocoa; "good quaffer with character"

Jindalee

Lindemans

Jaffurs (R)

Norante

Pennautier

Tyrrell's

Zinni 90 80 82 84 81 89R
Roenigk 85 83 85R 79 76 76
Moshein 86 86 78 82 80 91R
Loëb 86 84 82 83 80 89R
Cubberley 84 86 88R 80 70 78
Graham 80 81 83 corked 87R
Gilhousen 84 82 84 89R 85 84
Steiner 85 85 88R 79 85 87
Lowe 84 89R 88 78 74 84
Outon 87 85 86R 84 83 87
Hansen 85 89 88 89 88R 86
Vilim 86 83 87R 84 corked 86
Total 85.6 84.3 84.8 82.6 80.2 85.3

Flight 3 Highlights

Average scores increased significantly for the reds, as compared to the whites. Carrying average scores above 85, both the Tyrrell's and Jindalee would qualify for Wine Spectator "Best Buy" status, especially the Tyrrell's at a retail price of $6.99. The Jindalee received the highest average score, with Zinni giving it the highest individual score. Zinni describes the wine as having good structure and a slightly funky berry nose. In later notes, he comments that he in fact "likes weird." Both Roenigk and Vilim guessed the identity of the Jindalee incorrectly; however, both saw this wine as similar to another great Australian bargain: Tyrrell's Long Flat Red.

The Long Flat Red (not tasted here) is to be distinguished from the Long Flat Shiraz, wine 6 of this flight.Moshein gave the Long Flat Shiraz a score of 91--the highest individual score given to a wine in the tasting. He describes the wine as inky with cassis, smoke, tar, marshmallow, and vanilla aromas, balanced with spice. Moshein continues, saying the wine has "wonderful layers of flavor" and no flaws. Roenigk's notes disagreed, citing that the wine was medicinal and thick.

The actual Ringer (Jaffurs Matilija Cuvée) fared moderately well with Moshein finding the wine to have "funky green flavors." Wine number four (Pennautier Merlot) may in fact have been slightly damaged, but was cited by many as having earthy French aromas and a pleasant finish. However, many agreed that there were some difficult, odd flavors at mid-palate.


Flight 4: Full-Bodied Reds

1996 Carmen Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99): black currant and green pepper aromas

1997 Bogle Old Vine Cuvée Zinfandel ($9.99): juicy, briary, blackberry flavors with black pepper on the finish

1997 Chateau Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone ($9.99): Grenache/Syrah blend; black pepper and dark fruit aromas and flavors; most guessed correctly that this is a Rhone wine

1996 Alamos Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.39): overripe cherry and chocolate flavors with some weedy characteristics and moderate tannins

1998 Don Miguel Gascon Malbec ($9.99): easy-drinking with raspberry and tea-like character; "beauty for grilled foods"

1997 Cline Ancient Vines Mourvedre ($16.99): spicy vanilla, sweet wood, and dried dark fruit aromas; smooth and balanced with chocolate and cherry flavors; RINGER

Carmen

Bogle

St. Cosme

Alamos R

M. Gascon

Cline (R)

Zinni 89R 85 86 84 82 87
Roenigk 85 84 85 80 82 87
Moshein 68 82 88R 72 86 82
Loëb 60 83 85R 70 83 83
Cubberley 72 87 87 87 86 88R
Graham 75 82 84 78 86R 84
Gilhousen 87 84 85 86 84 82
Steiner 78 82 84 89 89R 86
Lowe 80 86 85 81 84 86R
Outon 82 86R 88 87 83 85
Hansen 88 85 84 87 85 90R
Vilim 84 82 87 84 84 88R
Total 79 84 85.6 82.1 84.5 85.7

Flight 4 Highlights

Finally a Ringer wins it, but only by a hair over the Saint Cosme Cotes-du-Rhone. Evidently, there are a great number of Rhone lovers in this group. (Mourvedre, the grape used to make the Cline wine, is also a varietal indigenous to the Rhone region.) Hansen gave the Cline highest scoring, guessing that the grape variety was in fact Mourvedre.

A score of 60 was given by Loëb for the lowest-scoring wine in this flight -- the Carmen Reserve Cab; this wine, he noted is "funky and un-nice," asking how to spell "eww." Lowe's notes echoed these comments, but went on to say that the wine "tastes better than it stinks." Zinni, however, described the wine as being deep, heavy, inky, minty, and tar-like. Admitting the wine is freaky, he still gives the wine an 89. Wine Spectator gives a nearby score of 88 to the Carmen Res. Cab. Incidentally, the Bogle Zinfandel is another of Wine Spectator's "Best Buys," receiving a rating of 88. Outon chose the Bogle as the Ringer, theorizing that the wine is "too big to be $10."

As an aside, Steiner incorrectly guessed that the Gascon Malbec was the Ringer, calling the wine a "raspberry bomb." It's a good thing he liked it, though; he and his partners at GrapeVine Market have a huge stack of this wine on display in their South American section.


Flight 5: Off-Dry to Sweet Whites

This category was cut after tasting and scoring was complete. Wines chosen for this category ranged greatly in style and sweetness, making comparison and individual assessment extremely difficult. Scores averaged in the high 70s, with the Ringer, a 1998 Lava Cap Muscat Canelli ($14.99), receiving the highest average score (84.4). The lowest score of the tasting -- a rating of 50 -- given by Bill Loëb, was rendered in this category. His tasting notes on that wine have been withheld to prevent the Chronicle from suffering punitive action by the TABC.

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