This past weekend, 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, I conduct a tasting of American True Rosés 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.
This is our second tasting of American Sparkling Wine and while last year we had 33 corks to pop, this year was a much more manageable 32 wines. Once again, I invited several local Houston wine writers over for a December tasting—leading up to Sparkling Wine’s big night on December 31st.
The wines ranged from $12 up to $50, 8 of the 32 were rosé (and one was red), and all were produced using the “traditional method” (the same method used in Champagne where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle).
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. 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 second third of the wines. On Tuesday, I published the first third, with the final third to be published tomorrow along with the group’s selections for the top wines.
NV Gruet Winery Brut, New Mexico: Retail $15. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. Intense yellow/straw. Fresh and concise on the nose. Perfectly fine, everyday kind of sparkler. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2015 Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir Blossom Ridge, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $45. 100% Pinot Noir. Pink with a slight orange tint. Red fruit and yeast. Tart and a bit funky on the palate, but I like the funk. Good acid, lengthy finish, nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Sokol Blosser Bluebird Cuvée, OR: Retail $28. A proprietary assemblage of multiple white varietals. Really light in color, quite candied on the nose. A bit sweet, but I would be perfectly happy with this at my wife’s niece’s wedding. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Gruet Winery Blanc de Blancs, New Mexico: Retail $17. 100% Chardonnay. Golden color citrus, even pineapple, and a bit nutty. Lacking fruit on the palate with considerable nuttiness. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
NV Montinore Estate Vivace Montinore Vineyard, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling. Light straw with oodles of grapefruit. Sweet. Really sweet. I would hazard to say this is a demi-sec. Lacking a bit of tartness. Good to Very Good. 85-87 Points.
NV Bricoleur Vineyards Flying By The Seat Of Our Pants, North Coast, CA: Retail $45. 63% Chardonnay, 34% Pinot Noir, 2% Reserve Wines, 1% Pinot Meunier. Light in color, perhaps the yeastiest thus far. A bit of citrus. Really fruity, tart, well-balanced. Not a world-beater, but perfectly delicious. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
NV Cast Wines Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $34. 45% Pinot Noir, 42% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Meunier. Either this is a really light rosé or a bit dark brut. Flinty and a bit of red fruit. Really nice on the palate with delicate green apple and yeast. Whoa. Yum yum yum. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
NV Sokol Blosser Evolution Sparkling Wine, OR: Retail $20. Semillon, Muller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Early Muscat, & Chardonnay. Really pale in the glass with red delicious apple and a bit of funk. Tart and grapefruity on the palate. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 Left Coast Cellars Blanc de Noir Sparkling, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $55. 100% Pinot Noir. A bit oxidized on the nose, almost sherried. Sherried on the palate as well—has a real old champagne feel to it without the yeastiness. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
NV Cast Wines Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, North Coast, CA: Retail $40. 100% Chardonnay. Golden straw, yummy tree fruit on the nose. Fruity and a tad sweet on the palate, this is a bit sweet for me, but still particularly good. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rosé, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $13. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Cotton candy pink. Red fruit and a bit yeasty, and some funk. A bit mineral, but also quite sweet. Not off-putting in any way, even quite good, but certainly sweet. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.