In search of Excitement

Blind tasting. It’s the great equalizer, and while many people doth protest too much about the results, and often their results when undergoing such an exercise, the results tend to be irrefutable.

Yes it’s easy to argue that less expensive wines may win because they are more approachable, ready on release while the big boys always need time but that is frankly not always the case. Sometimes the big boys just aren’t very good. Over oaked and over ripe are their two big sins. With their labels revealed it’s amazing how quickly we make accommodations. With the labels hidden they remain simply flawed.
And so I look forward to my blind tastings. I love the mental challenge one has with each tasting. A recent discussion on the relative merits of blind tasting left me scratching my head when one participant commented that in blind tastings it’s always about finding the winner as opposed to tasting the wines. A comment that says far more about the commenter than the technique. 


I guess it’s much easier to taste the wines knowing before the corks are pulled which wine is the winner. Definitely makes the rest of the evening easier to handle. If you think blind tastings are all about picking a winner it’s time to hang up your waiter’s friend and find a new hobby. For blind tastings are about typicity and terroir. They are about deductive reasoning. They are about everything that makes this hobby so much fun. They are about humility, and this might very well be the problem our commenter is dealing with.


We all like to think we know much more than we do about wine. We all have a tremendous amount invested, both literally and figuratively, in our favorite wines. To go to a tasting and have your favorite wines perform poorly, or worse, have your palate perform poorly is a sin worthy of seppuku in the histrionic world of Manhattan’s wine tasters. As I age, and become smoother and more complex I’m sure, I find I have increasingly less patience for those who treat this hobby as a competition of sorts. It’s not. It is a game. Blind tasting is a game. It’s done for fun and to have an unbiased experience with a wine. The results are often surprising, except of course when they’re not. 


Such was the case with my recent foray into California Cabernet of recent vintages. While I may not have been able to predict the specific order in which I would have rated the wines, it was easy to pick those wines that would finish towards the top of the heap Less so for those on the bottom. iI’s impossible to drink without bias, but at least you can do what you can to minimize bias. And then have your biases confirmed! If you’re looking for great California Cabernet to enjoy now and over the mid-term it will be hard to find better wines that the 2010 Ridge Estate Cabernet or the 2009 Domaine Eden Cabernet. Vintage charts and blind tastings be damned. 




My #1 the group’s #5(tie)


Just gorgeous on the nose, sharp and savory with coffee and green herb accents to the core of meaty dark berry fruit. The oak impact is modest here adding an attractive burnt sugar and spice note but not becoming intrusive. Absolutely fresh, precise and transparent on the palate with a tense mouthfeel supporting simple if pure and vibrant fruit that never seems overwrought. There’s some mineral notes as well, adding a little complexity. Absolutely gorgeous and drinking at peak. 93pts



My #2 the group’s #3


Perhaps a little under-ripe on the nose but at the same time this is quite focused with floral framed, fleshy red fruits that are tart and candied smelling with coconut accents. Bright and precise in the mouth with a touch of oak early on the palate followed by an austere and fresh feel.  Smaller scaled with crisp black and red fruits supported by bright acids and fresh little tannins that add energy and length to the finish  Just lovely 92pts



My #3 the group’s #1


earthy and refined on the nose with plenty of nicely integrated oak framing candied black cherry and black raspberry fruit. Nutty nuances and a fine green olive note add attractive complexity. Smells like old school cabernet. Hard in the mouth and tannic, though well balanced with earthy black cherry and blackcurrant fruit. This is powerful and a bit tight today, with tannins lending an earthy edge to the fruit. This should continue to improve. 92pts



My #4 the group’s #4


Spicy and oaky on the nose with graphite and dried herbs layered over hard, fresh black currant fruit. Dry, hard and austere in the mouth. There’s some nuanced blackberry fruit on the palate and this feels a little extracted but it’s well balanced with great length. Tannic and hard, this is too lean to be from california. I bet it’s Bordeaux. Not a great vintage but a very well made wine for the cellar. A vin de garde. 90pts



My #5 the group’s #7


Low key on the nose  and slightly herbal with minty overtones to the mild black currant fruit. A touch of old cellar and old aromas add  a rustic edge along which along with mineral and blueberry notes add fine complexity. Rather rich in the mouth with plenty of currant and cherry fruit that is supported by soft tannins. A little shallow on the palate and a touch short, this shows a little heat on the finish as well. 88pts



My #6 the group’s #2


Chalky and earthy on the nose with subtle vanilla oak shadings framing focused, spicy cabernet fruit all curranty and blueberry toned. This smells like old school Napa cabernet. Light and a bit austere on entry with crisp, earth red fruits on the palate and a smooth integrated mouthfeel that’s built as much on acid as it is on tannins. The fruit comes off as nicely candied though tart with a zesty edge that drives the modest finish. A lovely wine though it comes off as bit simple. 88pts



My #7 the group’s #5(tie)


Sweet and gingery on the nose with aromas of coffee grinds and ginger layered over black fruit that shows some hints of weediness. This is fairly dominated by the oak though. Round and bright with acid on the palate, this is broad in the mouth and front loaded with fruit then turning compact and earthy and hollowed out by dry wood tannins on the mid-palate. the finish is mostly drying oak. Not much to like here. 82pts



My #8 the group’s #8


Sweet on the nose with tea scents and a hint of mint over pruny, over-ripe blueberry jammy and cinnamon spiced fruit. rather red fruited in the mouth with a candied quality to the plum and cherry fruit.Soft tannins offer some support but this clumsy, short and hot in the mouth with a sticky finish. 80pts


Source: Snooth – Articles


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