Wine Talk

Snooth User: lingprof

Tasting Party - would love to hear your recommendations

Posted by lingprof, May 3, 2011.

My neighbors and I have a mutual love of wine, and have had several tasting parties which we've enjoyed a lot.  We did a blind one, and a non-blind one of very different world varieties.  We usually get bottles in about the 20-30 range, although that's flexible, especially going lower for the blind tasting.

For this next one, I was thinking of doing US vs the World.  Picking the same grape or blend as done in the US and in some other country that features it.  E.g. Rhone from CA vs France, Merlot from Washington vs Chile, Shiraz from CA vs. Aus., etc.

1) Any ideas for pairs of this type?  Where would be a good place for Cab outside the US, or should I just put Cab up with cab-based Bordeaux?

2) Any specific wines you would recommend, for example for the Rhone Blends?

Mille grazie in advance!

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Reply by dmcker, May 4, 2011.

How many bottles are you looking for?

I'd do CA & Washington vs. Bordeaux, Chile and Australia for the cabernet sauvignon. Would be entertaining, and we can make suggestions once you suggest the no. of bottles.

How about sauvignon blanc with CA vs. New Zealand vs. France (both the Loire and Bordeaux) vs. South Africa?

Could also do riesling with CA & Washington vs. Germany and Alsace and Canada and Australia. Both these whites would be good in the summer, obviously.

Do you want to focus on syrah for the Rhone tasteoff, or also go with the grenache blends from the south?

Waiting to hear your response... ;-)

Reply by Lucha Vino, May 4, 2011.

I like this idea.  I have been doing these types of comparisons on my own for the past year or so.  I got motivated and started a blog to post my comparisons of Washington state wines to the rest of the world.  I select the competitors based on where the pro cyclists are racing.  You can check it out here

I also started a forum topic on Spanish wines in September by following the route of the Vuelta Espana.  This was a great way to learn about Spanish wines from a multitude of Spanish wine regions.

Looking forward to hearing more about your party.  Have fun!

Reply by GregT, May 4, 2011.

Riesling.  Good wine made many places and you don't need to include CA.

Reply by lingprof, May 4, 2011.

Thanks!  I have to confess that the group of us are pretty red-biased.  We have room for maybe one white, and after that it will be all reds. I believe at last count there were going to be eight or nine of us, so I'm thinking maybe 3 red pairs and one white pair. 

Actually focusing just on Cabs and taking a bunch of them from around the world would be a great idea too, thanks, @dmcker!

I think my neighbor and I both prefer the Syrah-focused Rhones.

Just due to personal interest, would love to include South Africa.

Don't make us blow our budget, lol!  I'm looking for good value here, along with maybe... 'typicity'?  Thank you!!

Reply by lingprof, May 4, 2011.

ps: oh my god, @vellovino!  I love your blog!  It is hilarious.  And the suspense when Canoe Ridge finished off Kendall Jackson with a body slam, lol!

Reply by JonDerry, May 4, 2011.

Good suggestions D, even if on the elaborate side.  The Rhone should be great fun in the $20-$30 range, the Cabernet more challenging but doable. 

Sauv blanc would be nice if a white must be included.  Have had some pretty good SB's, though for all i've tried, i've come to be resigned of their low ceiling.  I guess i'll just keep trying them anyway.

Reply by dmcker, May 4, 2011.

Greg, I purposely included California in the riesling list. Three guesses where they might rank in the tasting... ;-)

Vello, I agree with Lingprof that your blog is hilarious! Are you that competitive in your cycling? ;-)

Jon, try some SB and semillon blends from the Pessac Leognan part of the Graves in Bordeaux. Will change your view of what SB can be. That's where I started (Domaine de Chevalier Blanc, specifically, back when it wasn't so pricey, then Pape Clement and several others with a lesser SB content), even before Sancerre and Pouilly Fume in the Loire, so I've always had a softspot for that varietal. So much so that that nasty cat piss from New Zealand won't even put me off it... ;-)


So Lingprof, you could do a lot of cabs and some northern Rhones and some SBs and that would be a lot (too much?!)  for one tasting. I was thinking you were going to be doing more than one for some reason. Frankly I'd want to do only Cabs and one white (SB?) this time and maybe Rhones and the other white (riesling?) next time. Then zins vs. primitivos could be another US vs. the world (or Italy, anyway), though those could be included with the Rhones if you wanted.

With 8 or 9 of my friends I'd do more than a bottle per, but we do tend to drink a bit (any leftovers, which don't always appear,  tend to be used up within the next day or two at home, either drunk or used for cooking). So I'd do at least two flights of three (and probably three flights) of the cab and one of the SB (and I'd make it a four bottle flight, probably).

OK, flight one of the cabs: one CA, one Oz and one Bordeaux, any candidates?

Flight two of the cabs: one WA, one Bordeaux and one Chile, any candidates?

Flight three of the cabs: one CA, one Bordeaux, one Oz and one Chile, any candidates?

Alternatively, I'd probably do three Bordeaux in one flight, two CA and one or two WA in another, and two each Chile and Oz in a third, though that doesn't make the comparison as easy for some.

The SB flight would be one CA, one NZ (Cloudy Bay is the easiest target, though Dog Point is a little better), one Graves or Loire, and one South Africa. Any candidates from others here?

I can make my suggestions for specific bottles, but would be curious to hear how you want to go.

You could probably do the Zins and Rhones together another time, with the Riesling. Three flights of three reds (three CAs, three Rhones and three from Oz), one of four whites (CA or WA, Germany, Alsace, Oz).

Reply by outthere, May 4, 2011.

Maybvewe should stick to her initial interest for her sake. 3 syrahs and 3 rhones.

If CA vs France I would say get one from the Mendocino area, one from Sonoma Coast and another from Santa Rita. Thaty way you can compare CA to itself at the same time.

There are plenty of Rhones available in all price ranges.

I want to show you some examples to pick from but I have to get back to work.

Reply by lingprof, May 4, 2011.

@outthere: heh heh, we have some time, I don't want you to get fired on my account.

@dmcker: you rock as usual. :-)

The truth is that if I ask my friend and co-host she'd probably say we should just skip the whites.  Is there any compelling reason not to do that?

I'm happy to add more bottles.  How about 5 or 6 assorted cabs (maybe your first two flights?), and then 2 syrahs and/or 2 northern rhones?  A cab/syrah theme, in other words.

One other detail is that if possible, I'd like to stick with bottles that are fairly easily available.  I have a ton of wonderful wine stores around, so I'd prefer to just go out and get things rather than pay shipping.   Three of my favorite places here are Napacabs, K and L Wines, and The Wine Exchange.  Anyway, I can do the checks on wine searcher or whatever, but if you could kind of keep that in mind, I'd be very appreciative.

Again, thank you, thank you!!!!

Reply by outthere, May 4, 2011.

Haha lingprof, I won't get fired. I'm the boss and I can't afford another employee!

This is just abouve your price range but K&L has the 2009 Copain "Les Voisins" Yorkville Highlands Syrah in stock and it really rocks @ $34.99

They also have a 2006 Scherrer RRV Syrah for $27.99. Fred does wonderful things with grape juice. A nice contrast to the meatier Copain.

Speaking of meat, if you have yet to try Cabot Syrahs from Humboldt County then you are doing yourself a disservice. Either the 06 Aria's $32 or the 07 Humboldt County $24 are killer cold climate syrahs. just did an article on Hospice du Rhône and Cabot was #6 in their top 10 of the event!

Reply by dmcker, May 4, 2011.
Edited May 5, 2011

I'd throw in a Neyers syrah for a totally different take. Have never been dissatisfied by them over decades. Maybe a GSM mix from down south for a wildcard (see end of paragraph). A syrah from Napa, a syrah from Sonoma and a syrah from up near Walla Walla would be an interesting flight. Then three from the Rhone. Maybe one from Cornas, one from St. Joseph and even something like a Guigal Cotes du Rhone to keep things within budget. Then one from down south in CA (maybe the Perrins operation) and two from Oz, something like that.

Frankly, I think mixing syrahs and cabs is just too busy, a form of sensory and informational overload. Hard to stay as focused as you might want. As indicated above I'd do them in two different tastings, which IMHO is more conducive to learning. And maybe you need to educate your friends on whites, too? I've never understood the questionable (IMHO) prejudice against whites amongst people who want to present themselves as 'serious' wine drinkers. Start the tasting with the white flight then segue to the reds? Or not....

Reply by GregT, May 4, 2011.


Both about the whites and about the Syrahs and Cabs.

But what the hell. No reason everyone has to like everything.

So if you like Rhone wines, stick to those.  You can narrow it further to Syrah alone, or Syrah-based blends.  But if you want to do something a lot more fun, do blends of Grenache, Syrah, etc.  In CA, you can get Cline Cashmere for example, which is around $15 and stands up to wines many times more expensive.  From Australia, you can find Rosemount GSM, which is one of their best wines and is around $20 or so.  Or Yangarra does several bottlings. 

Go to Spain too - it's where the most important "Rhone" grapes came from anyway.  Get something like Tres Picos - a great Garnacha that's one of the best values in the world IMHO. Under $15.  Or Finca Sandoval - a good Syrah-based wine for about twice that. And get something from Priorat - some of them have Syrah, like Ardiles for example, and many or most have Garnacha. 

And then all over the south of France there is Grenache and Syrah. Way too many to recommend one or two.

Reply by napagirl68, May 5, 2011.

I know you love reds.. and you should prolly stick with what you and your friends like... but you mentioned South Africa.  I was on vacation in the Santa Barbara, CA area a few weeks ago, and the bartender at a pretty well known wine-based restaurant poured me a glass of chenin blanc (which I usually HATE), after I asked for sauv blanc.  He said to trust him, and I gave it a shot.  LOVED IT. This was sans food as we were waiting for our table, and it was busy.  I didn't get the winery name, but he told me it was from South Africa.  I tried an internet search to find it, but may have to give them a call...

Just a story to show how I actually found a chenin blanc I liked!  (maybe there is a white varietal that would surprise you?)

Reply by lingprof, May 5, 2011.

thanks all!

@dmcker: ah, a little bit of representin' for the whites, eh?  I can do that.  some of the people coming are new to me, so for all I know they'll prefer whites.  maybe I'll end up going with one white pair and then a bunch of cabs.  and save syrah and rhone blends for another occasion (which I'm sure there will be....)  Or vice versa.  I could do everything *but* the cabs, since @outthere and @gregt had lots of rhone recs....

@napagrl: there are definitely whites I have enjoyed, and that was a great story!  My particular palate just seems to see whites and reds as two different categories, almost like wine and beer.

Thanks to all of you for your patience with my questions as a novice.  Actually I think I could accurately be described as in the "A Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing" category.  ;-)

Happy to receive more recs for (value) cabs, syrahs, rhones.....


Reply by Lucha Vino, May 5, 2011.

Here are a few Washington Cab suggestions.  I checked the K&L website and all are available.

  • Owen Roe Sharecropper's Columbia Valley Cab 16.99
  • Wines of Substance WA Cab 18.99
  • Ch. Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Horse Heaven Hills 24.99
  • L'Ecole No. 41 Columbia Valley Cab 29.99

Also look for Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon recently featured in this article from Greg Dal Piaz

I hear that 2007 was a good vintage for WA.  You might try to compare vintages across regions too.

Here are some AVAs to look for

  • Red Mountain
  • Horse Heaven Hills
  • Walla Walla
  • Wahluke Slope

D - I am competitive enough in my racing to be able to finish Top 20 in my category pretty consistently.  But, my category is toward the lower end of the food chain! 


Reply by dmcker, May 5, 2011.

I think I was talking about 'fighting spirit', vello, even more than results.  ;-)

Very good chenin blanc from South Africa, NG. Now you just need to drink more from the Loire, which is even better... ;-) As for making that a worldwide tasteoff grape, I don't think I've had any from most anywhere else in the world that were good, except one or two in CA back in the day and I don't know who'd be good there now. All those CB plots got ploughed up and converted to chardonnay and reds....

If you can stretch just a little past $30, lingprof, Woodward Canyon has some cabs that have stood the test of time (I've been drinking them and finding them good since the early '90s, not something you can say about many other wines at all from Wash. State) from out near Walla Walla. They and Leonetti (pricier) are the old guard and don't get a lot of new press, like certain names in Napa. You definitely sound like you're on the right track. Cabs or syrahs. Saving one's a nice excuse for another event.

Reply by GregT, May 5, 2011.

D - as far as Chenin goes, there's a pretty good one made right here in New York, on Long Island by Paumanok Vineyards.  I tried it once and asked th owner why everybody didn't plant it.  He's the only guy who has it as far as I know and was going to rip it out but his winemaker, a German guy at the time, told him that the vines looked happy. So he agreed to let him vinify that year and said if it was no good, the vines come out.  He tasted the result and has been making it ever since. 

It's a good example of a grape that doesn't get planted enough, consequently doesn't get written about enough, and consequently doesn't get planted enough.  Then it gets identified with a single area or two and when people try it from somewhere else, they sniff that it's not proper.  Just like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, etc.  Instead, everybody wants to grow more Chardonnay.  Westerly and Beringer used to do decent, if not exceptional Chenin in Napa but to me the east coast is a more logical place.

BTW, had a Woodward Canyon 1995 the other night.  Turning into a pretty good wine.  And still a relative bargain compared to many farther south.

Ling - I assume you're serving food of some sort?  Snacks?  Not that I care all that much about pairing, but if your friends aren't wine geeks, and it seems that they aren't, don't drink one right after another and especially don't go from whites to reds directly.  The whole idea of white before red comes from the fact that in multi-course meals in classic dining, people would have lighter courses like fish before heavier courses like boar.  But for tasting purposes, it's a very bad way to go.  So make sure you have food for people to nibble on. Different kinds of cheese or sausage or meat or mushrooms like grilled portobellos or olives.  Avoid stuff that's got a lot of vinegar - salt and brine is better.  Hard salty cheeses like aged Gouda and aged Provolone and Manchego all work!

If you're going to taste a pair of whites, an interesting thing to do would be get an oaked and an unoaked Chardonnay.  That means one spent time in barrels and one didn't.  Kim Crawford from NZ makes both, and a few places in CA do as well - I think St. Supery should also be widely available.  Chamisal too, but not as widely available. Should be under $20. Let people taste them side by side and ask which they prefer and what they'd serve it with. It gets people thinking about the wine and it's kind of interesting too.  Plus if you get the same producer, you remove some other variables and focus only on the dif in the winemaking.


Reply by lingprof, May 5, 2011.

Fabulous ideas, everyone!

@gregt: yep, I think we're good on the food/snax.  the previous one we did worked out great: baguette, cheese, fig jam, these funky little meatballs from trader joe's that were somehow perfect, some mild flatbread 'pizzas'.  no vinagrette or anything.

@vello and @dmcker: you clearly took different stances on my budget, lol!  These truly aren't 'wine peole', at least not yet, so I'm torn between thinking a bigger expenditure is 'wasted', and wanting stuff that will be interesting and out of the ordinary for me....

stay tuned for results...  I just wish I had the blog talents of 'lucha vino', lol!

Reply by Pedro Ximenez, May 6, 2011.

Since you wanna do a US vs. the World there are many possibilities.  Try a California Meritage verses a Bordeaux since I believe the Meritage is a model of the Bordeaux blend.  A California Viognier vs. a Viognier from northern Rhone region in France.  Or a California Cabernet vs. a Spanish Cabernet; a good example would be any good, not-too-expensive, California Cabernet (think Mondavi, Buehler, Honig, etc.) vs. Torres Mas la Plana Black Label.

Reply by GregT, May 6, 2011.

I don't know PX - she has lots of recommendations and Mas la Plana is around $40, so should be matched with an equivalent - Buehler is much cheaper and not as good, Mondavi has a huge line at varying price ranges, although it may be the best Napa comparison, but Cab isn't really a signature grape for Spain.  Other than the Torres, which may be the best Cab out of Spain and which holds up against aged Bordeaux very well, there's not a lot imported into the US that is widely available and would be a great representation of the grape. Some from Navarra, Penedes, and farther south, from Jumilla and Valencia.  A few of those are really good, most are not.

If she were in NYC, I'd give her a bottle that would be worth including, but seems like she'd be better off doing Rhone type grapes, as Spain has excellent representations of those - even Syrah these days.


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