Blindly Tasting Bubbles for your Benefit-Year Two (Part Three)

Last 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 is in the Fall when we taste 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 annual 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.

A few of the crew.

The wines ranged from $12 up to $65, 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).

Here, in the order that they were tasted, are the final third of the wines followed by the group’s selections for the top wines. On Tuesday, I published the first third, with the second third published this past Thursday.

The reveal always produces some surprises.

2016 Domaine Carneros Brut, Carneros, CA: Retail $36. 50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir. Pale yellow. Mineral and slight green apple. A bit lacking in fruit on the palate but good acidity and a bit of yeast. Yum. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

NV Domaine Chandon Rosé, CA: Retail $26. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. Bright pink. Cotton candy on the nose. But surprisingly dry, slight fruit, and solid wine on the palate. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $24. 45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris & Pinot Meunier. Yeasty and delightful nose from a pale yellow sparkler. A tad sweet, but perfectly fine. Nice, even. A bit lacking in intrigue, but would not be disappointed with this. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.

NV Korbel Brut California Champagne, CA: Retail $13. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French  Colombard, Pinot Noir. Flinty and a bit of citrus on the nose. Quite pale. Fruity, though on the palate, on the sweet side. A bit flabby, could use a shot of acid. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.

2014 Kokomo Chardonnay Blanc de Blanc Peters Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $58. 100% Chardonnay. Flinty and yeasty. Stinky a bit on the nose, but fruity and tasty on the palate. A bit disjointed on the finish. Still, this is a solid wine. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

Plenty of corks to add to our collection.

NV Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $24. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay. Good pink color with a bit of orange. A bit closed on the nose, but fruity on the palate and a tad sweet. Very Good. 87-89 Points.

2016 Korbel Natural Méthode Champenoise, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $16. 65% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay. Golden with caramel, apricot and yeastiness. Yum. Close to a whoa on the palate: good fruit, tartness, finish. Lovely. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic, CA: Retail $24. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. Pale straw. Mineral and citrus. Fruity and lovely as well here. Yowza. Very nice. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

NV Gruet Winery Brut Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico: Retail $17. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. More golden here. With minerality and flint. Yum. Another winner. Close to a whoa. Tart and lovely. Excellent. 92-94 Points.

2015 Stoller Pinot Noir Legacy LaRue’s Brut Rose, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $65. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. A bit oxidized and golden. Caramel and oxidized on the palate. An older champagne style. Excellent. 92-94 Points.

Here were the top wines as determined by the seven tasters. There were three wines that appeared on five of the seven ballots (in no particular order).

  1. NV Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, Carneros, CA: Retail $42.
  2. NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, North Coast, CA: Retail $35.
  3. NV Cast Wines Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $34.

And three that appeared on four of the lists of top wines:

  1. 2016 Korbel Natural Méthode Champenoise, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $16.
  2. NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic, CA: Retail $24.
  3. NV Gruet Winery Brut Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico: Retail $17.

As for my own personal lists, here were the wines that I rated the highest:

  1. NV Cast Wines Blanc de Noirs, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $34. (My top wine of the tasting.)
  2. NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, North Coast, CA: Retail $35.
  3. NV Gruet Winery Brut Blanc de Noirs, New Mexico: Retail $17.
  4. 2015 Stoller Pinot Noir Legacy LaRue’s Brut Rose, Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $65.

And four more that were just a slight step below, but still top tier kind of wines:

  1. 2016 Korbel Natural Méthode Champenoise, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $16.
  2. NV Domaine Chandon Brut Classic, CA: Retail $24.
  3. 2015 Argyle Vintage Brut, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $28.
  4. NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley, North Coast, CA: Retail $28.

Surprises? This is the second year that at least one wine from Korbel was one of the top wines. While many wine “professionals” look down their noses at the brand (mostly, in my opinion, due to the fact that they still call it “Champagne” on the label). This was the first time that we included Gruet in the tasting and those wines were scored very well, too. We drink a ton of Gruet mostly due to the fact that the wines are good, but also because they are some of the most affordable bubbles on the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Wine. Bookmark the permalink.

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