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 afterwards for general impressions and preferences.
Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the second half of the non-rosés (the first half an be found HERE in case you missed it on Monday). Unfortunately, one of the wines was corked and another, while not “corked” per se, was “strange” enough for us to collectively pull it from the line-up.
2016 Korbel Brut, CA: Retail $16. Colombard, Sangiovese, and Chardonnay. A vintage wine from the Sonoma stalwart, that starts with a bit of petrol, surprisingly, on the nose. A tad sweet on the palate with a short nutty finish. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
NV Gloria Ferrer, Sonoma CA: Retail $22. 92% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay. The “standard” GF which can be found through the country. Really light in color with a wonderful nose of brioche and delicate lemon curd. Great fruit which comes off as a tad sweet, but this is another fabulous wine. Lengthy finish and depth all the way through. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
NV Korbel, CA: Retail $13. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Noir. I could not confirm through the website, but I believe this is the largest production wine in the Korbel line. A tad golden with a fruity, almost Jolly Rancher peach kind of nose. Nice on the palate with good fruit (peach again), but just a bit short on the finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 Left Coast Cellars Blanc de Noir, OR: Retail $55. 100% Pinot Noir. Pale with a bit of nuttiness. Solid, with plenty of tartness. Everything is there. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV Korbel Chardonnay, CA: Retail $14. 100% Chardonnay. Fruity and sweet nose with lemon lime. Really fruity on the palate, perhaps a bit too fruity? Still, Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2012 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, Carneros CA: Retail $115. 100% Chardonnay. Delicious nose of sweet tree fruit and yeastiness. Lovely on the palate as well with that peach, a touch of pear, a nuttiness on the mid-palate, and a lengthy, chalky finish. Yum. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2008 Argyle Winery Extended Tirage, Willamette Valley OR: Retail $80. 63% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay. Solid pear with a shot of yeast on the nose. This is another solid wine with great fruit and ample acidity, this is a solid effort, but stopping just short of spectacular. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
NV Korbel Blanc de Noirs, CA: Retail $13. 75% Pinot Noir, and 25% “Something Else.” Despite my efforts online, I could not find the remaining 25% varietal make-up. Slightly pink. Fresh strawberry and rhubarb. A tad sweet, but otherwise fairly yummy with rich fruit and a healthy core leading to a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
NV Mumm Napa Brut Reserve, Napa County CA: Retail $44. 60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay. A bit on the golden side with a bit of a smoky, bacon-y nose with slightly stewed fruit(?) It is almost as if it were oxidized. The palate is much more inviting with pleasant, rich flavors. The fruit is held in check as the palate is dominated with more yeasty components. I like it. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Korbel Natural, Russian River Valley CA: Retail $16. 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. Fruity on the nose—almost candied. Another solid wine with good flavors through out. Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.