Flight 1: Light- to Medium-Bodied Whites
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|
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
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"
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
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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