At each Blind Tasting League gathering, using the techniques of the masters, you will learn how to identify the grape, country of origin and more and more as we progress through the wide world of wine. You can pick and choose the classes but the more you come, the more you learn!
Andy Hale has worked in the wine industry for over a decade, first as a server and later as a Sommelier for the 5-Star 5-Diamond rated Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island, located outside of Charleston, SC. After a brief stint as a wine rep, he now runs the education department at Metro Wines where he works to take the intimidation out of choosing the right bottle of wine. He is co-founder of the Asheville School of Wine and Asheville’s Blind Tasting League and teaches classes on wine for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through UNC Asheville. He is a Certified Specialist of Wine and first level Sommelier.

His hobbies include eating and drinking (wine, beer, liquor or otherwise), hiking, snowboarding, and cooking with his wife, Christina and daughter Josephine. He is also an amateur bee-keeper and home-brewer. He is a native North Carolinian who attended Appalachian State University, before moving to Charleston to further his wine and food education. He loved the culinary scene in Charleston, but is very glad to be back in the mountains of Western North Carolina!

March Blind Tasting Results

March Blind Tasting Results

The Wine: Thevenet & Fils Mâcon Pierreclos, Burgundy, France, 2019

What we Tasted: Pineapple, Lemongrass, Apple, melon, Cantaloupe, Pears, Citrus, Lemon Peel, Minerals, Vanilla, Chalk

What we Guessed: French Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio

What Andy Guessed: Andy guessed “Cool-climate California Chardonnay.” Well, at least Burgundy is a cool climate and he got the grape right.

What we Thought: This one was a big hit with our tasters! After repeated comments like “I like this a lot!” I finally asked for a show of hands and everyone signaled that they enjoyed this wine!


The Wine: Araucano Reserva Carmenere, Colchagua Valley, Chile, 2019

What we Tasted: Leather, “a rubbery smell,” red currant, “Jalapeño Skin,” black cherry, “very earthy,” Tobacco, Mint, truffle, Oregano, “Taco Bell Hot Sauce,” Bacon, “Under-ripe strawberries,” “Fire-roasted hatch green chiles”

What we Guessed: Northern Italian Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, California Syrah.

What Andy Guessed: Andy accidentally saw the wine listed on a receipt. Bummer!

What we Thought: Most of our tasters enjoyed this wine, one taster not so much

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February Blind Tasting Results

February Blind Tasting Results

The Wine:
Alois Lageder Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy, 2019

What we Tasted: Pineapple, peach, “pink Starburst Candy,” Grapefruit, Lychee, pear, cantaloupe, ginger, Jasmine, Lilly, “Circus Peanut Candy,” “touch of dried apple,” “Wet rocks”

What we Guessed: French Chenin Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio, Australian Riesling

What Andy Guessed: Andy guessed Southern French Viognier. He has never correctly guessed Pinot Grigio though.

What we Thought: Overall, this one was a hit with our crew. “It’s very balanced” was one comment. “I like it for a white wine” was another. One taster said they would “order it again” if they had it in a restaurant. 


The Wine: Chateaux du Trignon Cotes-du-Rhone, France, 2018

What we Tasted: “Bacon,” Cherry, Plum, Smoke, “Rich soil,” “Wild Blackberry,” “Stinky Bacon Fat”

What we Guessed: We did really well on this one! Guesses were French Merlot, Rhone Blend, French Syrah and French Cabernet Franc.

What Andy Guessed: Andy guessed French Syrah. Even though it’s a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, we’ll give this one to him. 

What we Thought: I think we mostly enjoyed this affordable Cotes-du-Rhone. “Pretty nuanced” was one comment. Another said it was “ok.” One taster said it would be “better with food.” Overall not bad $13.99!

Watch the whole tasting here!

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January 20th Blind Tasting League Results

January 20th Blind Tasting League Results

The Wine: Raimbault Vouvray, Loire, France, 2018

What we Tasted: Pineapple, “Apple Pie,” Citrus, Melon/Honeydew, “Underripe Pear,” Peach, “Lemon Balm,” Chalky, “Wet rocks,” “pear lifesaver,” “cotton candy”

What we Guessed: Northern California Riesling, California Chenin Blanc, South African Riesling, California Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier

What Andy Guessed: After a lot of back and forth Andy finally landed on Unoaked California Chardonnay but he thought he was wrong about that. At least he was right about that part!

What we Thought: I think we mostly liked this easy drinking Vouvray. “Soft” was one comment, “a nice Summer wine” said another. One suggested it would be good to “serve to someone who is new to wine.” Definitely an approachable wine that is easy to drink!


The Wine: La Casaccia Barbera, Piedmont, Italy, 2018

What we Tasted: Currants, “Musty,” “buttered popcorn,” Cherries, “Old Fruit,” mint, “old gloves,” pepper, “Painted wall,” “Dried Leaves,” Vanilla/cinnamon, “Damp Compost,” Smoke, “wet.”

What we Guessed: Nebbiolo, French Merlot, Syrah, “something Old World”

What Andy Guessed: Andy was way off, he guessed Rioja. That’s his go-to guess when he has no idea.

What we Thought:  This one left us a little divided, some liked it and some not so much. “Too musty, it smells like a wet basement” said one taster. Another said it was a “good daily drinking wine.” Another said it was just “ok.”

Watch the whole video here!

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December 2020 Blind Tasting League Results

December 2020 Blind Tasting League Results

The Wine: Neboa Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2018

What we Tasted: Peach, apple, pineapple, “buttery,” honey, “chalky,” “woody,” “a little lemony”

What we Guessed: California Sauvignon Blanc, French Pinot Gris, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chilean Sauvignon Blanc

What Andy Guessed: Andy guessed French Viognier. At least they are both Old-World, aromatic whites!

What we Thought: I think we mostly liked this Albarino, although one taster said it was “too heavy” and another said it was “not crisp enough.” I enjoy light bodied, high acid whites as well!

The Wine: “Three” Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California, 2018

What we Tasted: Blackberry, prunes, “plums & sunscreen,” black cherry, “muggy earth,” smoke, “fruit cake spice,” vanilla, coffee, “basement,” chocolate, “a bookstore”

What we Guessed: Argentine Malbec, California Zinfandel, Australian Shiraz

What Andy Guessed: Argentine Malbec. Not Andy’s best blind tasting day.

What we Thought: I think we mostly enjoyed this beefy Zin, although one taster said that the “alcohol content reminds me of college parties.” It was pretty boozy!

Watch the video here:

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November 2020 Blind Tasting League Results

November 2020 Blind Tasting League Results

The Wine: Bauer Gruner Veltliner, Niederoesterreich, Austria, NV

What we Tasted: Peaches, lemon, grapefruit, “Tennis Ball,” honeysuckle, Key Lime Pie.

What we Guessed: German Riesling, Spanish Albarino, Austrian Gruner Veltliner, California Sauvignon Blanc.

What Andy Guessed: Andy got it right, although was he crowdsourcing answers from the other participants? Austrian Gruner Veltliner

What we Thought: I think we liked it well enough although some thought it was a bit on the “simple side.” An “Unfussy picnic wine.”


The Wine: Dante Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 2018

What we Tasted: Plum, black cherry, smoke, “Sunscreen,” wood, bacon, “Campfire,” dark chocolate.

What we Guessed: Argentine Malbec, Australian Syrah

What Andy Guessed: Andy went back and forth but he finally settled on California Cab

What we Thought: Most of us enjoyed this one, especially at $10.99! I was completely surprised to learn that I was drinking such a cheap Cab. One of our tasters said that it tasted like “a highly concentrated and processed with additives- California Cab,” which is fair, but mostly we enjoyed it.

Watch the video here

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September 19th Blind Tasting League Results

September 19th Blind Tasting League Results

Another great and well-attended evening of blind tasting!  Watch the entire video here!

The Wine: Louis Guntrum Dry Riesling, Rhein, Germany, 2018

What we Tasted: Apple, pear, citrus fruit, pineapple, white rocks, mineral, petrol/diesel, oak/coconut

What we Guessed: Northern Italian Sauvignon Blanc, “Not Sauvignon Blanc”

What Andy Guessed: “German Riesling from North of the Mosel Valley”

What we Thought: I think we mostly enjoyed this crisp and refreshing wine, although we all agreed that it would probably be better with food.


The Wine: Terre di Corzano Sangiovese, Chianti, Italy, 2018

What we Tasted: Sour cherry, “fall leaves,” cherry, red berries

What we Guessed: Sangiovese

What Andy Guessed: Barbera from Piedmont

What we Thought: I think we all enjoyed this one, although we thought it could benefit from some pizza or pasta as well.

Join us on October 21st at 5:30 for the next Blind Tasting League on facebook live!

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August 19th Blind Tasting League

August 19th Blind Tasting League

August 19th marked our first "virtual" Blind Tasting League event. We offered the wines that were to be tasted for sale in the previous weeks and they were available for pick up already bagged and numbered so that they could be tasted blind at home. I tasted the wines live on Facebook and led the tasting while people watched and tasted at home.

There was a bit of a learning curve with using Facebook live, all things considered, I think it went rather well for the first time! 

Watch the video of the tasting here!

Anyway, onto the wines we tasted...

The Wine: Stillman Street Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, 2018

What we tasted: citrus, apple, oak, grapefruit, floral, rocks, vanilla

What we Guessed: Viognier, French Chardonnay, "Not Riesling"

What Andy Guessed: Macon area Burgundy Chard. Oh well, I got the grape right...

What we Thought: We enjoyed this one I think. I was impressed by the restrained oak on this California Chard, as well as the bright acidity. It was actually very well balanced for an affordable Chardonnay.


The Wine: Chateau du Petit Thouars "Les Georges" Chinon, 2017

What we Tasted: Leather, cranberry, earth, cinnamon/spice, pepper, "cigar box," Smoke

What we Guessed: Nebbiolo, something Northern Italian

What Andy Guessed: Andy guessed Northern Italian Nebbiolo. It was tannic and earthy without much fruit. At least the Loire Valley and Piedmont are both cool-climate, Old-World locations. I've gotten rusty!

What we Thought: I think we enjoyed this wine but we all agreed it needed some food!

Our next Blind Tasting League will be on September 16th at 5:30. If you want to join in yourself, pick up the wines at Metro Wines and tune in at


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The Blind Tasting League Returns... Virtually

The Blind Tasting League Returns... Virtually

Calling all blind tasters! Our in-house blind tasting class, The Blind Tasting League is all set to make its dramatic return… virtually.

We will be coming to you once a month via Facebook live with two wines, a red and a white. Both wines will be available at Metro Wines for pickup in advance of the tasting, we will have them in bags simply marked with a “1” and a “2” so that you can taste blindly along with me. No peeking! While we are tasting together virtually, you can comment on what you are tasting and guess what we are drinking, and I will be able to read them during the tasting, live. It should be interactive and a lot of fun!

If you have never blind tasted before, don’t worry. This is a very entry-level blind tasting class and meant for beginners, although hopefully even seasoned blind tasters will get some practice and enjoyment out of this virtual class!

If you are interested in joining our live event, watch my video below to learn the basics of blind tasting and download these helpful materials to make the tasting a little easier. It’s the blind tasting grid from the Court of Master Sommeliers as well as a cheat sheet of common tasting descriptions of different wine varietals.

Our first virtual Blind Tasting League will go live at 5:30 on August 19th on Facebook, the link is here. There is no need to RSVP or pay for the class, it is on the house! Pick up the wines at Metro Wines in advance so you can taste with me, or just watch and consider playing along next time.

Cheers and hope to see you on Facebook Live!


Get your cheat sheets for the tasting here!

Metro Wines' Facebook page is here

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COVID 19 and the Blind Tasting League

COVID 19 and the Blind Tasting League

Hi everyone,

You’ve probably noticed that due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the US, we haven’t been having our regular Blind Tasting League meetings. Well, we are finally getting back into blind tasting mode, albeit digitally. We will start hosting our Blind Tasting League events via Facebook live in the near future.

Stay tuned for more details!


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September 19th Blind Tasting Results

Well, maybe the previous post wasn't 100% accurate...

It turns out that Asheville is a really special place and sometimes it's worth giving up a promotion to live where you are happy. After a year in Nashville, we got homesick and came back.

Our first Blind Tasting League after my return was September 19th. We had better wines, new tasting sheets and my jokes have gotten even worse! I wish I could say that I scored as well this time as my last one.

 Trimbach Riesling Asheville

The Wine: Trimbach Riesling, Alsace, France, 2016

What we Tasted: Pear, crisp apple, mango, petite peach, wet-stone, "like smelling the outside of a balloon," lime-zest, "Musty-melon," spicy fruit, mineral.

What we Guessed: "Cheap," Italian Pinot Grigio, French Pinot Blanc, Alsatian Chenin-Blanc

What Andy Guessed: Alsatian Riesling - Nailed it!

What we Thought: Overall this one was a hit with our crowd, especially for a Riesling! “Nice” said one taster, “It’s easy drinking” said another. One taster commented that it would be “perfect for sitting on the deck watching bears.” One tasted mentioned that it’s crisp acidity “needs food,” but otherwise a strong showing.

The Wine: Thevenet & Fils Macon Pierreclos, Burgundy, France, 2017

What we Tasted: Honeysuckle, “Golden delicious apple,” Floral, Orange Blossom, Limestone, Honeydew Melon.

What we Guessed: Oregon Pinot Gris, French Viognier, California Chardonnay

What Andy Guessed: “California Chardonnay made my a French person.” I blame global warming for this richer and fruitier vintage.

What we Thought: We enjoyed this wine as well. “I like it” said one taster, “good with or without food” said another. Overall a strong showing.


The Wine: Brolio Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy, 2015

What we Tasted: Cedar, Tobacco, “Old club leather chair,” Cherry, Chocolate, Forest floor, “Drywall,” Sour Cherry.

What we Guessed: Italian Malbec, Italian Sangiovese, Spanish Tempranillo, Piemontese Barbera.

What Andy Guessed: Barbera from Piedmont. I over-thought this one, but at least I got the country right…

What we Thought: This was a big hit! “Yummy” was one comment, “Something we all want to keep drinking” was another. We enjoyed the mix of ripe red fruit flavor and earth in this one.


The Wine: Jason Stephens Merlot, Santa Clara, California, 2014

What we Tasted: Stewed plums, “Like an Old-Fashioned,” Tobacco/cigar, pepper, jammy fruit, spice, “coconut sunscreen,” blueberry, mushroom, orange zest, cardamom, pomegranate, ginger.

What we Guessed: Red Bordeaux, California Cabernet Sauvignon.

What Andy Guessed: I saw the cap on this one as we were setting up and recognized the wine immediately. It’s one of my favorites. I didn’t guess since I knew what it was. I hate when that happens!

What we Thought: Many of our tasters thought this one was a Cabernet, not the dreaded Merlot that Sideways taught us we weren’t supposed to like. As a result, it was very popular. “Rich and complex” said one taster, “Smooth” said another. One taster didn’t like the nose on it. “Drink it, don’t smell it” he said.

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My final Blind Tasting League

What an amazing way to go out, a sold out Blind Tasting League! We completely filled the space and popped open some really terrific wines. And as an added bonus, I actually got them all right for the first time! My last blind tasting and I'm just now starting to get good at it...

The Wine: Montinore Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2015

What we Tasted: Cantelope, mango, Apricot, Wet Stone, Apple, Petrol, Spice, Lemon and Green Apple

What we Guessed: French Sauvignon Blanc, California Pinot gris, South American Sauvignon BLanc, French Chenin Blanc, French Pinot Gris, Austrian Gewurztraminer, Oregon Pinot Gris

What we thought: This one received a cool reception from our tasting panel. Comments were "ok," "It would do in a pinch," and "needs to be really cold." One taster mentioned that the alcohol was very noticeable, saying that it was "too hot." I enjoyed it, however.

The Wine: Immich-Batterieberg Riesling, Mosel Valley, Germany, 2014

What we Tasted: "Smells like a Perm," Ripe Pear, "Grandparents Basement," Apricot, "Beach Ball," White flowers, "Toasted Marshmallow," Slate, "undergrowth," "banana leaf"

What we Guessed: South African Chenin Blanc, German Riesling

What we Thought: This dry Riesling was also not the favorite of our tasting panel. "gotta be Old-World" said one taster after taking a searingly acidic sip. "No Personality whatsoever" said another taster. I personally found it enjoyable (I adore Riesling) if a little simple and straightforward.

The Wine: Santavenere Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

What we Tasted: Tobacco, Chocolate, Vanilla, Mulling Spices, "Deep dark Cherry," Mushroom, "Spicy nuts," Oregano, Cedar, "Red-Hot Candy," & "Licorice"

What we Guessed: "Strange Barbera," Nero D'Avola, Italian Nebbiolo, Tuscan Sangiovese

What we Thought: We really liked this one! It walked a very nice line between earthy and fruity and was very enjoyable to drink in my opinion. I think all of our panel would agree with me also. "Pleasant wine all around" was one comment. "This wine would go great with pizza" was another. After that, we were all hungry for some pizza!

The Wine: Paul Jaboulet Aine, Crozes Hermitage, Rhone Valley, France, 2015

What we Tasted: "Toasted Marshmallow," Black Cherry, Raspberry, "Lays Potato Chips," Coffee, Dill, Pomegranate, Red currant, Bacon, Vanilla, "Good Stuff"

What we Guessed: California Cabernet Franc, French Syrah, California Barbera, California Merlot

What we Thought: This wine had our panel divided. "Like Obama said about Hillary, it's nice enough" said one taster. "this would be good with some food" said another. Others didn't like it as much. "Thumbs down" said one taster. Another said it had the "worst qualities of the new world and the old world.


Well that's all for me folks. This will likely be my last post for a while. I'm following my wife to Nashville, but my family lives in Asheville, so I may be back from time to time. With any luck, our paths will cross again. Until the next time, keep blind tasting! Andy Hale out.

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Andy's Last Blind Tasting League

I have bad news everybody. It hurts me to say it, it honestly does.

I am moving out of Asheville.

My wife is taking a great job in Nashville and I'm following her there.

The last Blind Tasting League that I will lead will be on November 1st. After that, we will take a break from blind tasting as we re-tool the program. I will continue to blog here from time to time. I hope you all come out to my last Blind Tasting League on November 1st at 6:00.

It has been an honor to blind taste with you all! Keep Tasting everybody!

-Andy Hale

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October 4th Blind Tasting Results

The Wine: Sean Minor Sauvignon Blanc, California, 2015

What we Tasted: Guava, Grapefruit, Gooseberry, "Juicy-Fruit Gum," Green Pepper, Flinty, "Lime-Peel," White Pepper, Tangello, Honeysuckle

What we Guessed: Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chilean Pinot Gris, New Zealand Riesling

What we Thought: Ever a classic at Metro Wines, the Sean Minor Sauvignon Blanc did not disspoint! "I like this a lot" said one taster, "great porch-wine" said another. "Easy drinking, doesn't need food" said another taster. One of our group called it simply "non-offensive," but still a good showing for an affordable California white.


The Wine: Banfi "San Angelo" Pinot Grigio, Tuscany, Italy, 2015

What we Tasted: Bannana, Pear, Citrus, "Magic-marker," "Circus Peanut Candy," "Starfruit," "Slightly-stinky Guava," Honey, Mushroom, "Almost Smoky," Mineral, "Burnt-Sugar"

What we Guessed: We were all fooled by this one. This richer style of Tuscan Pinot Grigio had us all convinced that it was French Chardonnay. Not mineral enough to be from Burgundy, we thought it was from the South of France in Languedoc. I think we were not used to a Pinot Grigio that had that much body!

What we Thought: Although we were impressed by the rich body and flavor of this Pinot Grigio, it wasn't the most popular. I asked our panel if they liked the wine, the answers were less than glowing. "Meh" said one taster, "Not really" said another. One taster suggested that "it might improve with food."  This was the least favorite of the night.


The Wine: Sant Evasio Barbera D'Asti, Piedmont, Italy, 2015

What we tasted: "Cranberry flavored-Marshmallow," Black Cherry, "Goji Berry," Blueberry, Mushroom, Baking spices, "Cherry-Flavored Benadryl,"  "Synthetic flavors"

What we Guessed: French Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Piedmont Barbera

What we Thought: This one was a hit with our tasting panel, especially considering the price! "I like it" said one taster, "interesting smoothness" said another. One taster suggested that it "needs food and time," suggesting that it might benefit from some aging. I saw more than one mouth drop open in shock at the $10.99 price tag once the bottle was revealed though!


The Wine: Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2014

What we Tasted: Smoke, pepper, Mushroom, Lavender, Dried Cherries, Prune, Caramel, "Meaty," Tobacco, "Sweaty Leather," medicine, Dark Chocolate, "Sun Dried Tomato," "Tree Bark"

What we Guessed: Rioja Tempranillo, South American Cabernet, South African Cabernet

What we thought: This crowd favorite was the best in show of the night! "Like it? I love it!" was one comment. This popular wine was enjoyed by virtually all of our tasters, although one taster said it "needs food."


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September 6th Blind Tasting Results

The Wine: North by Northwest Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Oregon, 2014

What we Tasted: Pear, Apple, Orchard Fruit, Melon Rind, Slate, Lime, Pepper, "Under-Ripe Green Apple," Cream

What we Guessed: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Chablis, White Burgundy

What we Thought: Our tasting panel agreed that this was a pretty good wine, but it definitely needed some food! "Not perfect for sipping, but it would be great with food" pretty much summed up our panel's opinion.


The Wine: Valckenberg Gewurztraminer, Pfalz, Germany, 2015

What we Tasted: "Apple Cider," Cinnamon, "Syrupy Apricot," Anise, Honey, Lemon Zest, Apple Pie

What we Guessed: French Viognier, Alsatian Gewurztraminer, German Gewurztraminer

What we Thought: For an off-dry wine, this was a very warmly received wine with our tasting panel! "I like it a lot!" said one taster, "Complex, lots going on" said another. "I want to sip this while I'm sitting around the fire" was one taster's comment, and another said that "it keeps you coming back" while he was sniffing it again and again. Overall, a very good showing for a slightly sweet wine!


The Wine: Altaroses Grenache, Montsant, Spain, 2015

What we Tasted: "Cherries & Leather," Wood, "Sweaty feet," Strawberries, "Black jelly-bean," Sour Cherry, "Gravel Road-dust," "Sandalwood incense," Mushrooms

What we Guessed: Spanish Tempranillo, Rioja Crianza

What we Thought: This was another popular wine with our tasting panel. "It's really complex!" said one taster, "really long finish" said another. Again, our panel thought that it might benefit by pairing with a meal. "Great wine but needs food" said one taster, and another said that it "would go really well with some meat!" A solid showing by one of my favorite wines!


The Wine: Woop Woop Shiraz, Mclaren Vale, Australia, 2016

What we Tasted: Black cherry, "Cigar Smoke," Clove, Under-ripe blueberry, Menthol, "Cherry cola," Tobacco, "Dried Cherries," Root beer

What we Guessed: California Zinfandel, California Cabernet, California Merlot

What we Thought: Our panel was mostly happy with this Aussie Shiraz, but no one guessed that it was Syrah or Australian. It lacked the jammy, over the top fruit of Australia and peppery bacon-fat of Syrah. This is probably why we liked it! This vintage was surprisingly restrained for an Australian Shiraz, and there were some who described it as a food wine. "A bit naked without food" said one taster, "I like it, but it needs food" said another. Still, a surprisingly good showing by a wine that has not been popular with our panel in the past.


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August 2 Blind Tasting Results


The Wine: Bidoli Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli, Italy, 2016

What we Tasted: "Perfumy," Grapefruit, Lemongrass, Flinty, Floral, "Dove Soap," Apricot, Pine, "Under-ripe Banana," "Caramelized Sugar," Saline

What we Guessed: New Zealand Chardonnay, French Viognier, French Chenin Blanc, French Sauvignon Blanc

What we Thought: This wine caused a lot of sour faces in our tasting panel, but most of us warmed up to it.  "Needs food" said one taster, "This would work well with seafood" said another. After several more sips, one taster said "The more I drink it, the more I like it." The crisp acidity and intense minerality made it a wine that would happily keep some shellfish company!

The Wine: Sisters Forever Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, 2015

What we Tasted: "stinky guava," Pineapple, "Circus Peanut Candy," Musky, "Slightly burned marshmallow," Little bit of oak, "Under-ripe bannana," Toast, "Spinach," Malolactic, "male cat-pee"

What we Guessed: Italian Pinot Grigio, South African Chenin Blanc, Italian Sauvignon Blanc, California Chardonnay

What we Thought: This wine divided our tasting panel. While some liked it, it got mixed reviews from some of our tasters. "Not crazy about it, but I like it," said one taster. Another said it "needs the right atmosphere" and said that he could picture drinking it by a roaring fire in the winter. I enjoyed this rich and creamy, but oakless Chardonnay.

The Wine: Sean Minor Pinot Noir, Central Coast, California, 2015

What we Tasted: "Cooked Strawberries," Clove, "raspberry Jam," Cherry, Lemon Peel, Lavender, Cinnamon, "Goji Berry," "Dried figs," "Inside of Cherry Toaster Strudel"

What We Guessed: Bordeaux red, Washington State Pinot Noir, California Pinot Noir

What we Thought: This wine was almost instantly recognized as Pinot Noir by most of our panel. Most of us were big fans of the fruity and floral nose, and enjoyed the soft flavors of this wine. One taster mentioned that it "needs lamb," although most of us were happy to drink it on its own.

The Wine: Bruce Patch Zinfandel, Sonoma County California, 2015

What we Tasted: Cigar, Black cherry, peppermint, Cedar, Clove, Toffee, Eucalyptus, vanilla, pepper, cinnamon, "plywood"

What we Guessed: Chilean Cabernet, Australian Shiraz, California Cabernet

What we Thought: This was the "best in show" of the night. We all enjoyed this well crafted and complex Zinfandel. Comments ranged from "I really like this," to "it's so complex." One taster said it was "beautiful." Pretty high praise indeed!



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July 5th Blind Tasting Results


Another fun night of blind tasting and I actually got all of them right for once! That rarely happens so I have to brag when I can. A high scoring game by all with some really great wines to taste.

The Wine: Vignerons du Mont Ventoux Viognier, Provence, France, 2016

What we Tasted: Pear, Grapefruit, Peach, Guava, "River Rock", Lemongrass, Honey, Melon, Tangerine, Perfume, Mineral, "Soapy"

What we Guessed: Italian Pinot Grigio, French Sauvignon Blanc, Southern French Viognier

What we Thought: This wine was very well received by our tasting panel. Most of us enjoyed the aromatic, perfumed nose and crisp acidity that this wine presented. There were a few that weren't as impressed though. One taster said it was "good, but doesn't blow me away," another said it was "Ok. Nothing special," and one taster said they were "not a fan." 


The Wine: Thomas Henry Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, 2016

What we Tasted: Vanilla, Mushroom, Flowers, Cantaloupe, "buttery," Bananas, "Lemon drop candy," Apricot, "Sandalwood," Green Apple

What we Guessed: German Riesling, Argentinian Sauvignon Blanc, Languedoc Chardonnay, Italian Pinot Grigio, "Cool climate California Chardonnay"

What we Thought: This wine received high marks from our tasting panel! "It's a complex wine" said one taster, "the flavors are fascinating" said another. Some tasters were not fans though. "It's too acidic" one taster said, "I'm not especially fond of this one" said another. Most tasters enjoyed this surprisingly affordable wine.


The Wine: Roco "Gravel Road" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2013

What we Tasted: Red Fruit, Strawberries, Cedar, Vanilla, Sour Cherries, Dill, "Liquid Smoke"

What we Guessed: Spanish Grenache, Tuscan Sangiovese, "Young Chianti", California Zinfandel, California Pinot Noir

What we Thought: While most of our tasting panel enjoyed this wine, many of our tasters thought that it was more of a food wine. "I like it" said one taster, "really complex" said another. Some others were not as impressed. "Not for me" was one taster's opinion, "Not crazy about it" said another. Another taster said that they liked it but it "needs pasta." I loved it, but I do agree that it is a terrific and versatile wine to pair with food.

The Wine: Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, 2015

What we tasted: "Spicy Pepper," "Medicinal Herbs," Blackberry Jam, "Adobo," Black Tea, Smoke, "Stomped on raisin with dirt," Black Olive, Tobacco, "Burnt Toast Finish"

What we Guessed: Australian Shiraz, California merlot, California Zinfandel, Argentinian malbec, Argentine Cabernet

What we Thought: This wine was dubbed the "best in show"of the night by our tasting panel. This Cab was big and slightly smoky, which really worked with our panel's taste buds. "all I want to do is smell this" said one taster as she revealed that she hadn't even gotten herself to taste it yet. "Beautiful" said one taster, "I love it" said another. All around, it was a very popular wine!


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June 7th Blind Tasting Results

The Wine: Bayten Sauvignon Blanc, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, 2016

What we Tasted: Rose petals, Apple, Slate, Apricot, Flint, "Week-old Butter," Orange Blossom, Minerals, Lemongrass, Clay, "Burnt Sugar, Green Apple, "Citronella Candle"

What we Guessed: Nobody guessed that this was Sauvignon Blanc. This South African Wine didn't show the usual floral, grassy, gooseberry flavors that most of us were expecting. Guesses were German Pinot Grigio, Washington State Pinot Gris, French Chardonnay, and Washington State Viognier

What we Thought: Despite no one guessing that this wine was Sauvignon Blanc, most of us enjoyed it. "It's easy drinking," said one taster, "Very smooth" said another and a third just said that she "Likes it." A few tasters were not so pleased though. "Tastes like generic white wine," said one taster and another said it was "not thrilling." If you detest the intense grapefruit flavor of many Sauvignon Blancs, this might be worth a taste!

The Wine: Raats Unwooded Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2016

What we Tasted: "Sulphur Dioxide," "Soapy," "Dried Pineapple," Ginger, "Grassy," "Musky," Dirt, Citrus, "Sandalwood," "Chemical taste"

What we Guessed: One taster nailed this one! The rest of us were searching all over the West Coast of the US for where this one might be from. Guesses were U.S. Pinot Grigio, Washington State Chardonnay, Southern California Chardonnay, and South African Chenin Blanc.

What we Thought: As you can probably tell from the descriptions, this one was controversial wiith our tasting panel, our tasters tended to love it or hate it. One taster commented that it had "lots of flavor" and another exclaimed "I like it!" There were some who didn't like it though. "It doesn't do anything for me" said one taster, and another said it was "flabby" and had "no personality."

The Wine: Raisins Gaulois Gamay, beaujolais, France, 2016

What we Tasted: "Musty, Funky Berries," Fresh Blackberries," Earth, Smoky, "Red raspberry," "Old Feet," "Sour Hi-C Fruit Punch"

What we Guessed: This one fooled a lot of our tasting panel as well but a few of us got it right. Guesses were New Zealand Pinot Noir, Spanish Tempranillo, Australian Syrah, Beaujolais Gamay.

What We Thought: Not a big hit with our tasting panel. "Nope, don't like it," said one taster, "Thumbs down," said another. One taster guessed that it was a "young, inexpensive Pinot Noir." Ouch! I guess Gamay isn't for everybody.

The Wine: Macedon Pinot Noir, Macedonia, 2014

What we Tasted: Coffee, Cinnamon, Tobacco, Raisins, Chocolate, Currants, "Sun Dried Tomato," Tart Cherry, Anise, Almonds, "Sour Strawberry"

What we Guessed: This was the "dirty trick" of the night. Nobody knew what a Macedonian Pinot Noir tasted like and obviously no one guessed it. The win goes to the taster who guessed Oregon Pinot Noir! Other guesses included Tuscan Sangiovese, California Zinfandel, and I was sure that this was an aged Tempranillo from Rioja.

What we Thought: Although no one guessed this Pinot Noir from such an obscure country, it was well received by our tasting panel. One taster said "I could drink this," another said they "liked" it. I really enjoyed the raisiny, spicy flavor of this Pinot, but not everyone was as pleased. One taster said it "needed food," and another said they "didn't like it at all." So maybe not the perfect wine for your next dinner party, but it was a pretty good showing for a $16 Pinot Noir.



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May 5th Blind Tasting Results

Another exciting night at Asheville’s Blind Tasting League, and a high scoring game as well! Our taste buds were tuned in and we were guessing very accurately.

The Wine:  Riff Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy, 2015
What We Tasted: Lemongrass, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Earth, Pear, Green Apple, “Plastic,” “Wet Slate,” Strawberry
What we Guessed: Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, German Riesling, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio
What we Thought: This affordable Pinot Grigio was relatively popular with our group overall. Comments ranged from “So-so,” to “I wouldn’t turn it down,” to “I could drink a lot of this!” Tasters commented on its “smooth finish” and “light body,” but some thought that it “needs food.” Still a good showing for an $11 Pinot Grigio.

The Wine: Frisk “Prickly Riesling,” Victoria, Australia, 2015
What we Tasted: “Petrol,” Unripe Peach, “White Camping Gas,” Passion fruit, “Pool Floaties,” Pear, Spicy, “Diesel fuel,” Round Mouthfeel, “Sparkling Pear Juice from the kid’s table at Thanksgiving,” Apple Cobbler
What we Guessed: We were all pretty sure this was Riesling, but we couldn’t agree on where it was from. Guesses were German Riesling, Alsatian Riesling, “Riesling from somewhere else”, Sauvignon Blanc
What we Thought: Despite having a little residual sugar, this wine was really popular with our tasting panel! “I like it,” said one taster, “I could drink that!” exclaimed another, and one taster said that the flavor was “soothing.” A few tasters didn’t like it as much, one just said “not so much” while another taster who wrinkled up her nose at the diesel smell of the wine admitted that “it tastes better than it smells.” Most of us agreed that it had a “lingering finish,” and would be “good with dessert.”

The Wine: Jason Stephens Merlot, Santa Clara Valley, California, 2012
What we Tasted: “Wet Pavement,” Medicinal, “Freshly Painted Room,” Plum, “Saddle Leather,” Chocolate covered Cherry, Dried Figs, Blackberry, Anise, Cigar, Vanilla
What we Guessed: California Bordeaux-Style Blend, High Altitude Chilean Zinfandel, Argentinian Cabernet, California Merlot, California Pinot Noir
What we Thought: As soon as we got our noses into our glasses, a wave of oohs and aahhs swept through the room. I feel like that is a very good sign! I don’t think there was a single negative comment on this wine. “It’s great,” said one taster, “I’m a fan,” said another, “so smooth!” said another. This is why blind tasting is so great! It’s been hard to get our customers to try merlot in the post-Sideways world we live in now, and our entire panel really enjoyed this one when they didn’t know it was Merlot. Always trust your own taste buds over the opinions of wine experts!

The Wine: Four Vines Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California, 2014
What we Tasted: Red Raspberries, Black Pepper, “Cherry cotton candy,” Vanilla, “Jammy,” Mulberry, “Rust,” “Grape Bubble Gum,” “The inside of a powedered jelly doughnut”
What we Guessed: Northern California Barbera, California Zinfandel, California Cabernet Franc, Italian Nebbiolo, “Atypical Pinot Noir”
What we Thought: This one wasn’t as popular with our tasting panel as the previous Merlot. While some found it “inoffensive,” or “not horrible,” it was downright disliked by some others. “This tastes like a by the glass wine at a restaurant” said one taster, another said it was “the diet coke of wine” and one guessed that it was a “Gallo wine.” Ouch!

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April 5th Blind Tasting Results

At our most recent Blind Tasting League, we had the opportunity to meet with the “Treasure Hunter” himself, Hunter Vogel. Hunter is a modern day negociant, he buys wine from some of the top producers in California, Washington State and Europe, and bottles them under his Treasure Hunter label. He donated two of the wines for our Blind Tasting League that night, and we had a lot of fun speaking with him about how he chooses the wines he buys, and also how he is able to convince the winemakers to sell them to him for pennies on the dollar!

The Wine: Zaca Mesa Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley, California, 2014

What we Tasted: Pineapple, Grapefruit, Apple, “Metal Nail File,” Marshmallow, Honey, “Cavity Filling,” Tropical Fruit, “Bitter Mineral”

What we Guessed: Our tasting group was mostly split between Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, and most of us guessed that we were in France on this one. We were way off! We didn’t pick up much in the way of the usual floral Viognier aromas, and mostly got rich, citrus fruit flavors.

What we Thought: We were split on what we thought of this acid-heavy Viognier. Some tasters thought that it “needs food,” and one specifically said that it “needs Salmon,” while some liked it on its own. “I would just drink it by itself” said one acid-loving taster, and I agreed. We all agreed that it would happily keep a Salmon filet or Grouper company!


The Wine: “Churn” Chardonnay, California, 2014

What we Tasted: Pear, “Golden Delicious Apple,” “Butterscotch,” “Circus Peanut Candy,” Kiwi, “Canned pears,” “Garden with too many flowers,” “Del-Monte Fruit Cocktail,” “Orchard where the fruit is too old”

What we Guessed: German Riesling, California Chardonnay

What we Thought: Most of us really liked this new Chardonnay from the Treasure Hunter series. “A great porch sipper” said one taster, “I like it” said another. Although some tasters found the rich, spiced-apricot flavor unappealing. “I would drink it if I was out of everything else,” quipped one taster. A good reason to keep a well-stocked wine cellar!


The Wine: Decero Cabernet Sauvgnon, Mendoza, Argentina, 2013

What we Tasted: “Sweet berry goodness,” Cigar, Caramel, “Jammy Currants,” “Goji Berry,” “Dried Cherry,” “Alcohol,” “Luden’s Cherry Cough Drop,” Chocolate, Black Fruit, Smoke

What we Guessed: Spanish Temranillo, California Cabernet Franc, Barbera/Petite Syrah Blend, Sangiovese, Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

What we Thought: This one was a big hit! When we dug our noses into this big, spicy red, we all guessed that this was the Treasure Hunter. It just tasted expensive to us. “Love it,” said one taster, “I want to drink this in front of a big fire,” said another. “This would be good with a roast lamb on a spit” commented another taster. The only negative comment was that the nose wasn’t great, although they said that “it tastes better than the nose.” Overall, this was a great cab for the price!


The Wine: Treasure Hunter “Side Piece” Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla, Washington, 2015

What we Tasted: “Berry fruit,” Licorice, Tobacco, Spicy, “Itchy,” “Alcohol,” Lavender, “Grape Popsicle,” Blueberry, Vanilla, “Unripe Persimmon,” “Peach Yoghurt”

What we Guessed: Argentine Malbec, California Zinfandel, California Pinot Noir, Syrah

What we Thought: When we finally tasted the Treasure Hunter wine, our group of tasters was definitely impressed, although we were thrown by the lighter style of this Washington State Cab. Comments were very good though; “I like it,” said one, “this would be awesome with a steak,” said another. “This has a nice long finish,” commented another, a former wine judge. Overall a good showing for this Treasure Hunter Cabernet.

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The Grapevine: Learning About Wine

The Grapevine: Learning About Wine

In case you missed it, there was a great article on blind tasting in the Laurel of Asheville magazine!  The author, our own Gina Trippi, sites blind tasting as the best way to learn to taste wine like a pro.

I agree. To me, learning to describe the complex flavors in our favorite wines is the main reason to blind taste, learning to guess the grape and place is secondary.

Check out the whole article here!

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