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.
A couple of weeks ago, I, along with a few other Houston area writers, conducted a blind tasting of 33 American sparkling wines. If you missed the first two parts of the write-up, you can find them HERE and HERE. In this last installment, I have my thoughts on the ten rosés we tasted (there were actually eleven, but the last one we tasted was unfortunately corked), followed by my overall impressions:
NV Sweet Cheeks , Willamette Valley OR: Retail $45. 50% Pinot Noir, 50% Chardonnay. Medium color. Candied red fruit (strawberry), with a nice intensity of flavor, but a hint of astringency on the finish, a solid sparkler. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Mumm Napa , Napa County CA: Retail $24. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. An orange tint to this wine with strawberry and melon swimming in some freshly baked bread. On the palate? Lovely with subtly intense (is that a thing?) fruit, great balance, delightful. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs, Yamhill-Carlton OR: Retail $65. 91% Pinot Noir, 9% Pinot Meunier. A beautiful pink with a slight orange tint. A perfumed nose of sweet strawberry and dried rose petals. Initially rather muted on the palate, but improved remarkably as it warmed with tart strawberry and a delicate sparkle, leading to a lengthy finish. I would suggest only a slight chill here. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2017 Grochau Cellars Joyride, OR: Retail $20. 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Blanc. Slightly dark in color, at least by comparison. A candied nose of strawberry rhubarb with a hint of smoke. Much the same on the palate. Big, fruity, likely a crowd pleaser. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2015 Elk Cove Vineyards La Bohème, Yamhill-Carlton OR: Retail $50. 100% Pinot Noir. Cotton candy pink. Yeasty and fruity (red berry) on the nose, this is big and fruity on the palate—a big wine, but a tasty wine, with a lengthy finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
NV A to Z Wineworks Bubbles, Oregon OR: Retail $18. 90% Pinot Noir, 10% Chardonnay. Sweet, ripe red fruit and even pineapple on the nose; tart, fruity, and lively on the palate. This is another crowd-pleaser wine with big flavors and a fun bottle. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2014 Ponzi Vineyards , Willamette Valley OR: Retail $50. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Pale pink nutty and a hint of fruit. Balanced and tasty. The fruit sets in, followed by a shot of tartness. Lengthy finish with an herbal quality. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2017 Underwood Rosé Bubbles, OR: Retail $15. As with the non-rosé, this is an infused wine (carbonation is added), and I was not able to determine the varietal breakdown. A pale pink in the glass with sweet cherry and rhubarb. Yum. Subtle and fun with wonderful balance and an above average finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Argyle Winery , Willamette Valley OR: Retail $50. 45% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Meunier, 25% Chardonnay. Pale pink with a yeasty fruity goodness on the nose. Oddly smoky on the palate, but otherwise clean and precise with good acidity. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
NV Korbel Rosé, CA: Retail $13. Pinot Blanc, Sangiovese, Gamay, Zinfandel, Chenin Blanc. Pale pink with slightly candied red berry fruit on the nose. Flinty, fruity, and fun with fairly good balance and a bit of sweetness. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
Over the course of the few months that I spent gathering the wines for the tasting, there were many exciting (at least for me) moments. One that certainly stood out was when Korbel agreed to send me some wines (they sent six!). Although I do not drink Korbel on a regular basis, when I do have the opportunity to try them, I have always been impressed. Curiously, most wine writers and critics that I know dismiss the brand summarily as if thee wines are not worthy of serious consideration. I am not entirely sure why that is, but I have a feeling that it is due, at least in part, to the brand continuing to call its wines “American Champagne” despite the now widely accepted fact that “champagne” can only come from the Champagne region in France. Regardless, the wines showed well, as I thought they would, and continue to represent one of the better values in bubbly.
I was also quite happy that the kind folks at Gloria Ferrer sent some wines for the tasting. Until recently (when I tried several of the wines at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla), I had not included Gloria Ferrer among the top sparkling wines in California. I had a bias against them: they are owned by Freixenet, one of the largest producers of wine in the world. The company is based in Spain and, frankly, I am not a huge fan of their Cavas (what the Spanish call their sparkling wines). I know. Stupid. When I tasted the Gloria Ferrer at the WBC, I was blown away, and was ecstatic that they agreed to send me some wines (despite my stupidity).
Last, I was thrilled that so many producers from Oregon sent me their wines, particularly the kind people at Argyle (where I had a memorable sparkling wine tasting a couple years ago) and Underwood (I was worried that their “carbonated wine” would stick out in a bad way, but both wines fared well).
After the tasting, I conducted a few simple correlations and while there was not relationship between rating and the order in which they were tasted (I am always worried about my palate becoming tired and thus affecting my judgment, but that has yet to happen, so I guess I should stop worrying), there was a correlation, albeit “weak” (r = 0.3) between price and rating. At first, I was a bit alarmed by this, but after reflection, I realized that this was not only acceptable, but expected. One of the qualities in a “good” sparkling wine is its creaminess, the flavors of yeast or baked bread, which come from exposure to the dead yeast cells from the second fermentation (I know that may sound disgusting, but trust me, it is a good thing). Generally speaking, the longer the better. Also, again generally speaking, the longer the more expensive.
So that makes sense, at least to me.
As for my top wines? Here they are:
- 2010 Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Cuvée
- 2012 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs
- 2007 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvée
- NV Mumm Napa Rosé
- 2015 Roco Winery RMS
As for the biggest surprises? I was delighted that Korbel proved me right, but without a doubt, the Mumm Napa Rosé was the biggest surprise. It’s a wine that we always have around the house as an everyday kind of wine, and it really stood out. The suggested retail is $24, but we usually can find it for $15 (or less). What a bargain. I was also pleased with both wines from Underwood, particularly the rosé (both wines are widely available in cans which is incredibly cool, in my book). Last, the Soter rosé was two completely different wines: very closed when it was cold and delightful when it came closer to cellar temperature. Just a reminder not to chill your bubbles too much!
Well, there you have it, my last blind tasting of the year. Hopefully this will be of assistance when Monday rolls around.