A little over a week ago, I conducted another Blind Tasting at our humble little abode here in Houston for some of the area’s wine writers. As you may recall, the first such tasting was of American True Rosés back in the Spring, and the second was this Fall when we tasted through American Pinot Noirs.
Both tastings produced some surprises, which is, quite frankly, why tasting blind from time to time is healthy. It is often too easy to be influenced by price, producer, or PR firm when tasting non-blind, and it is also good to “re-center” one’s palate in a way—to focus only on what is in the glass.
Buoyed by the success of the first two tastings (if one were to be “technical” there were actually three tastings as I also conducted the rosé tasting in 2017, but who wants to be technical on Christmas Eve?), I decided to delve into the world of American Sparkling Wine for a December tasting—leading up to Sparkling Wine’s big night on December 31st.
So, I sent out a call for samples and received 33 wines from California and Oregon (roughly a 50/50 split). There were a few wines that I contemplated leaving out of the tasting since I am fairly greedy and they were no doubt going to be stellar. Since the tasting took place just ten days before Christmas, though, I decided against the Grinch route and included all the wines I received.
The wines ranged from $15 up to $115, 11 of the 33 were rosé, and all but three were produced using the “traditional method” (the same method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle—the other three were made by adding carbonation into the wine, which I talk about a bit more in the notes below).
With the help of the other writers, we first removed all the foil and opened the wines. Then, half the “team” bagged the wines while the other half had left the room (keeping the rosés separate). Once bagged, the baggers then left the room, and those that had just returned numbered the bags.
This way, while we knew what wines were in the tasting, there was no way to identify the wines.
We tasted four wines at a time, discussing each flight afterward for general impressions and preferences.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the first half of the non-rosés. On Wednesday, I will publish the other half, with the tasting notes for the rosés to be published this Thursday.
NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa County CA: Retail $24. 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Good tree fruit of peach with hazelnut. Sweet on the palate but good acidity and fruit. A tad too sweet. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2015 Kramer Vineyards , Yamhill-Carlton OR: Retail $36. 44% Chardonnay 34% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier. Pale straw. A bit of a sweet nose with candied apricot. Dry with not much fruit, but a lengthy finish. This might be a little cold, but a lot of depth here. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée, Carneros CA: Retail $80. 55% Pinot Noir, 45% Chardonnay. Simply lovely nose of baked bread and green apple. Whoa on the nose. Big rich flavors , nice acidity. Whoa. Really long finish. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Stoller Family Estate Larue’s Brut Rosé, Dundee Hills OR: Retail $55. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Fruitiest nose of the flight with strawberry and cherry. Lots of Pinot? A lot of fruit but a little low in acidity. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs, Carneros CA: Retail $22. 92% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay. A bit of pink in color (Blanc de Noirs?) with a ton of fruit on the nose and a bit of funk. The palate has a ton of fruit as well and while I was expecting sweetness, it does not stand out (although there is a tad). Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Roco Winery RMS, Willamette Valley OR: Retail $65. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. A bit golden with a classic nose of citrus and yeast. Solid from start to finish with fruit, acidity, depth, and a lengthy finish. Yum. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2012 Domaine Carneros Jardin d’Hiver Cuvée, Carneros CA: Retail $60. 58% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay. Paler in color with that same classic nose of citrus and yeast. A bit lacking in fruit, but perfectly dry and tart. Delicious. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
NV Kramer Vineyards , Yamhill-Carlton OR: Retail $28. 52% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier. A bit more golden in color with a nuttier, meatier nose mingling with darker fruit. Very nice tartness and depth. Relatively short finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Argyle Winery Vintage Brut, Willamette Valley OR: Retail $28. 70% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier. Pale with a bit of funk on the nose, which obscures the lemon and yeast. A bit sweet and quite nutty and a stale aftertaste. Seems to be well-made, but there are some odd flavors here. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Underwood Bubbles, OR: Retail $15. As far as I have been able to tell, this is a sparkler made by adding carbonation (and I was not able to find the blend). Two or three years ago, I would have been alarmed at the prospect of trying such a wine. Not any more, particularly if this is any indication of the style. More citrus and peach here, a real fruity nose with some hazelnut. Fruity on the palate as well with the nuttiness coming through on the mid-palate. Nice. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2010 Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Cuvée, Carneros CA: Retail $40. 67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay. Yeasty and touches of peach and citrus on the nose. Whoa. This is fabulous. Great fruit, baked bread, really lengthy finish. This is spectacular. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
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Jeff, just curious, are the notes the composite opinion (average of your panel thoughts), or yours alone? Thanks!
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Good question: notes are just mine. At the end of the tasting the others gave me their top wines which I will publish at the end.
Thanks! I’ll be curious. Your numberical rankings are (so far) very concentrated (or perhaps I am not familiar with the numerical system), and seem to pretty much line up by price. And you are clearly drawn to Ferrer! Interesting results…
In the previous blind tastings I have done, there has been no correlation between “score” and price, but this time there was (r = 0.30 which is a weak correlation, but nonetheless). I guess that makes sense since I tend to prefer wines with longer time on the lees, which tend to be more expensive.
Do you write notes on the tastes you taste as well…great pictures…especially the one with them all in the half circle.
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I try to include tastes, but most of our sense of taste is actually smell. People far smarter than I claim that we cannily taste five thing (sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami).