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.
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!
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."
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
Many of you that frequent Metro Wines have tried the wines from Hunter Vogel, the "hunter" from "Treasure Hunter" wines. They are a favorite of ours, and if you ask us for a $20 wine that drinks like a $60 one, odds are very good that we would suggest one of his.
There is a reason that Hunter's wines are so good. He buys leftover wine from some of the top producers in the world. Producers that are so famous that they can actually make more money by selling less wine because the increased demand drives the price of the wines up. Basically, Hunter is able to buy leftover wine from producers like Caymus and Silver Oak and sell them for pennies on the dollar. The only catch is, he can't tell us who he bought them from. But it is a lot of fun to guess!
If you want to meet Hunter, you will get a chance at the next Blind Tasting League. We will feature two wines from Hunter's collection, but of course, we won't know which ones are his until after we taste them. Hunter will also be on hand to talk about his wines.
Come out on April the 5th at 6:00 for a chance to taste some really great wines and to meet the producer himself!
Another sold out Blind Tasting League, and a high-scoring one at that!
The Wine: Woodlands Chardonnay, Wilyabrup Valley, Australia, 2014
What we Tasted: Tart Apple, banana, Tropical Fruit, Pear, lemongrass, Steel, “Stale Water,” Vanilla, “Lemon Curd,” Ginger, Chalk, “Funky Smell,” Lemon/Citrus, Floral
What we Guessed: US Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Argentine Pinot Grigio
What we Thought: For the most part, our panel enjoyed this wine. Comments ranged from “Strong, but not complex,” and “relatively simple” to “Enjoyable.” Although one taster said it was “too tart,” most agreed that this Australian Chardonnay was a nice alternative to the more common California Chardonnays.
The Wine: Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2016
What We Tasted: “Starburst Candy,” Smoky Apricot, “Bouquet of Flowers,” “Gooseberry,” banana, “Passion Fruit,” Grapefruit, “Fruity Minerals,” Mango, “Dragon Fruit,”
What we Guessed: While everyone guessed Sauvignon Blanc, we were divided about whether it was from New Zealand, Chile or California.
What we Thought: New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs can be a love it or hate it kind of thing, and our tasting panel was divided on this one. One taster shouted “Awesome!” after tasting it, while another scrunched up his nose and said “I don’t like it.” “Different” quipped another taster while another said it “needed food.” Regardless of whether they loved it or hated it, it was definitely a classic New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc.
The Wine: Pietralta Sangiovese, Chianti, Italy, 2015
What we Tasted: Black Cherry, “Truffles,” Cedar, “Sandalwood,” Black Pepper, Sour Cherry, “Wet Pavement,” Chalky, “Raspberry Taffy,” Spicy
What we Guessed: While one taster guessed Pinot Noir for this lighter than average Chianti, most of us were firmly in Italy. Nebbiolo was a common guess along with Barbera, while a few correctly guessed Sangiovese. I was sure this was Barbera.
What we Thought: Mostly we liked this lean and spicy Sangiovese. “I would like it with food,” said one taster, “So dry” said another at the high levels of acidity in the wine. Another mentioned that while she didn’t like the nose, it “smelled better than it tasted.” All in all, most of us agreed that it would happily keep pizza or bruschetta company!
The Wine: Sean Minor Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California, 2014
What We Tasted: “Rubbing Alcohol,” Cherries, Honey, Nutmeg, “Pickle Juice,” Licorice, “Dried Fruit”, Molasses, “Minty,” “Dr. Pepper”
What we Guessed: While almost all of us guessed new world and most of us guessed California specifically, we couldn’t agree on the varietal. Zinfandel was a popular guess, along with Merlot. There were a few guesses for Australian Shiraz and even a Grenache from Spain. No one actually guessed Cabernet on this soft, fruity wine.
What we Thought: Despite no one recognizing it as Cabernet, it was very popular with our group! “I would drink it while watching a movie” said one taster, “Likeable enough” said another and another said they liked it “better than the other one.” Although we had a few grumbles about the wine being overly soft and “like drinking felt” most enjoyed the wine. One taster said that it “tastes better the more of it you drink.” Don’t they all!
Another great night of Blind Tasting, and I was on fire! I got 2 completely right and even though I was technically wrong on the last one, I'm still giving myself credit for it anyway. More on that later...
The Wine: Perles de Sauvignon Blanc, South of France, 2015
What we Tasted: Pear, Grapefruit, Pineapple, “Gunflint,” “Grassy,” Pepper, Stone, “Butter,” “Lemon Drop Candy,” Hay
What we Guessed: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc, Italian Pinot Grigio, French or German Sauvignon Blanc
What we Thought: A rather lukewarm reaction to this wine. No one had a very strong reaction to this one, good or bad. “ I kinda like it” said one taster, “It’s drinkable” said another. One taster mentioned that “It grows on you”. Don’t they all?
The Wine: Moutard-Diligent Chardonnay, Burgundy, France, 2013
What we Tasted: Flowers, Green-Apple, “Musty-funky,” Grapefruit, “Socks,” Lemon Zest, “Box of Mushrooms,” “Curdled Cream,” “Cleaning Product,” Mineral, “Used Athletic Shoes”
What we Guessed: Italian or French Pinot Grigio, White Burgundy
What we Thought: Despite the less than favorable sounding tasting notes, we actually liked this one! “I like it better than the last one” said one taster, “Me too” said another. “It needs food” mentioned one, and another said it was “different.” Different can be good, right? Anyway, it was a great example of a Northern Burgundy Chardonnay which most definitely needs food!
The Wine: Cune Crianza Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain, 2013
What we Tasted: Pepper, “Fennel,” Strawberry, Cherry, Chocolate, Smoke, Cinnamon
What we Guessed: Sardinian Grenache, California Merlot, Italian Sangiovese, Syrah, Italian Cab, Modern Styled Rioja. In full honesty, whenever I find myself completely unable to guess the grape or even whether it is Old World or New World, it is always Spanish Tempranillo. I guessed Rioja here because I was totally clueless.
What we Thought: This was probably the most popular wine of the night! Everybody had something nice to say about this superbly balanced red. “good with food or on its own” said one taster, “Crowd pleaser” said another. Although one of our group said it was “not for me,” it was a pretty big hit with our panel.
The Wine: Meiomi Pinot Noir, Monterey, Sonoma, Santa Barbara Counties, California, 2015
What we Tasted: Pepper, “Diesel Fuel,” Black Cherry, “Lawnmower Tire,” “Cedar Cigar Box,” “Jam,” “Gun Oil,” “Tree Bark,” Tobacco, “Anchovy Paste,” Violets, “Teriyaki flavored Beef Jerky”
What we Guessed: Australian Shiraz, California Zinfandel, Sangiovese, California Cabernet, South African Shiraz
What we Thought: Another very popular wine with our tasters, although nobody guessed that it was Pinot Noir. In truth, I didn’t think it tasted much like Pinot Noir at all, big and rich, with a smoky, jammy, meaty flavor. Rumor has it that Meiomi is blending in as much Syrah as they legally can without having to call it a red blend. In California, that’s 25%! That’s why I gave every one who guessed Syrah credit for this one!
It was another busy night at the Blind Tasting League, with a huge turnout! Wine was flowing, opinions and guesses were flying, and not a blindfold in sight. Read on to see what we guessed.
The WIne: Reserve des Vignerons Chenin Blanc, Saumur, France, 2015
What we tasted: Grapefruit, Kiwi, bell pepper, "Musk", Slate, Pineapple, Jalapeno, Asparagus, Pineapple
What we Guessed: Dry German Riesling, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. Most everyone guessed Sauvignon Blanc, although we were divided between New Zealand and Loire Valley.
What we thought: This wine got a cool response from our tasting panel. "Ok" said one taster, "Needs food" said another. Another taster said she "would drink it, but wouldn't reorder it". Still not a bad showing for a very affordable wine that definitely does need food with it!
The Wine: Rock Wall Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County, California, 2014
What we tasted: melon, Pear, "chalky", "Sweet Cream", "grapefruit Peel", Wet Stone, "Granny Smith Apple", Almond, "Fennel" Peach, Pineapple, "Febreezey", "over-ripe canteloupe"
What we Guessed: West Coast Chardonnay, oregon Pinot Gris, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
What we Thought: This one was a hit with our crowd. It had a great nose that we enjoyed. "Nice" said one taster, "Good with or without food" said another. Overall a good showing.
The Wine: Famille Amirault grosbois Cabernet Franc, Saint Nicholas de Bourgueil, France, 2013
What we tasted: "Basement", "Paint", "Ether", Cranberry, Pepper, Tar, Leather, barnyard, "Rose Petals", Olives, "Undergrowth", French Oak, Goji berry.
What we Guessed: French Gamay, Sangiovese, US cabernet Franc, Nebbiolo, barbera
What we Thought: We were really divided on this one, our tasters either loved it or hated it. "Awful" said one taster, "Vinegary" said another. One conceded that "it would taste better with food" and another eventually mentioned that "it grows on you". I really enjoyed this wine, although it definitely needs food and you need to like acidic, earthy wines to appreciate this one.
the Wine: Woop Woop Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 2014
What we Tasted: "Asian Food", Butter, Tobacco, "nutty", Pepper, "Cornichon Pickles", Dark Berries, "New leather in a car", "Lit Cigar", Black Cherry
What we Guessed: Washington State Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah/Shiraz, Merlot, "Low quality Tempranillo"
What we Thought: We mostly liked this one. "Smells good" said one taster, another said they "like it a lot". A few others were on the fence about it. One said that it was just "ok" and another said that it "starts smooth, but finishes harsh". It definitely didn't remind me of the typical jammy, Aussie Shiraz.
Another great night with some very enjoyable wines that really stumped our panel!
The Wine: La Viarte Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy, 2015
What we tasted: Grapefruit, Lemongrass, Slate, "Circus Peanuts Candy," Petunias, Green Bell Pepper, Pineapple, Celery, Pear and Asparagus
What we Guessed: Washington State Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
What we Thought: This one stumped us all. I usually think of Pinot Grigio as the "lightbeer of the wine world" and this one threw everyone off with its crisp minerality and intense acidity. Most of us really enjoyed it. "I like it but not a long finish" said one, "this would be a great wine to begin with" said another. One taster suggested serving it with oysters. We were all very impressed with this wine although no one guessed that it was Pinot Grigio.
The Wine: Bacchus Chardonnay, California, 2014
What we Tasted: "Fruity-floral", apricots, "Dryer Sheet", Passion Fruit, "Marshmallows", "Vick's Vapo-Rub", Roses, "Orange blossom-Honey"
What we Guessed: Alsatian Gewurztraminer, Southern French Viognier, California Chardonnay
What we Thought: We were stumped by this one as well. Only one taster guessed Chardonnay. This wine has an impressive, if somewhat un-Chardonnay like nose to it. As one taster commented, "Profoundly aromatic". While we loved the nose, quality wise we were divided on this one. While some said they "Liked it" and one said "it would pair with Shrimp Scampi", others liked it less. One said it wasn't her "fave", and another said it "would give her a headache" if she drank too much of it. Overall, not a bad showing for an affordable Chardonnay.
The Wine: Flor de Montgo Tempranillo, Tierra de la Castilla, Spain, 2013
What we Tasted: Paint Thinner, Black Currant, Black Cherry, Twizzlers, "Good Spicy oak", Dark plum, Prunes, "Horse Blanket", Portobello Mushroom, "Clay", "Wet Brick"
What we Guessed: Paso Robles Zinfandel, Lodi Zinfandel, California Cabernet Sauvignon, California Pinot Noir, Spanish Tempranillo.
What we Thought: We really enjoyed this one, but we only had one person guess this as Tempranillo. We mostly thought this was a new world wine. This wine had a really great nose for such an affordable bottle, but it was much bigger and fruitier than what we expected from Spanish Tempranillo. One taster commented that it would work well with a big steak.
The Wine: Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina, 2011
What we Tasted: "Tanned Leather", "Cigar Smoke", Black Cherry, Wood Dust, Tobacco, Vanilla, Sour Cherry
What we Guessed: Italian Sangiovese, California Pinot Noir, Piemontese Barbera
What we Thought: While we enjoyed this one, most of us were on the wrong continent on this one. Almost everyone thought this was Italian, I'm blaming the age of the wine and the famously cool and damp 2011 Vintage for that. While we were surprised to see that it was an Argentine Cabernet, we generally enjoyed it. "Good stuff" was one comment, "I like it" said another taster. One taster commented that it needed "a hunk of prime rib." Definitely not the flavors I typically associate with New World Cabernet, but an enjoyable wine nonetheless!
Another great round of Blind Tasting fun! Almost all of us got the first two right and almost all of us missed the last two. In case you missed it, here are our guesses and tasting notes.
The Wine: Le Grand St. Vincent Sauvignon Blanc, Touraine, Loire Valley, France, 2015
What we Tasted: "Big, huge grapefruit", "Green Peas", Lychee, Tropical Fruits, Grassy, "steeliness", Stone, "Sour Patch Kids Candy", "Smells like and old washcloth" (He had a cold).
What we Guessed: Everyone guessed Sauvignon Blanc on this one. We disagreed on where it was from though. Most thought it was from New Zealand due to the grapefruity nose it showed, although a few guessed France correctly.
What we Thought: Most everyone enjoyed this wine, although some said that it "needs food" or needed a "Piece of fish" to go with it. While it certainly would go well with seafood, one said that it would be "good on a hot day" and would be good all on its own.
The Wine: Thomas Henry Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California, 2015
What we Tasted: Pear, "Very ripe apple", "Butterscotch", "more loamy than red Georgia clay earth", "Cinnamon/clove", "Funky fungal", "apple pie/baked apple", "Bamboo rocks", "Rome or winesap apples"
What we Guessed: Everybody guessed Chardonnay as soon as we smelled the oak but we differed on where it was from. Most of us thought it was from California, but a few didn't think it was oakey enough. They thought it was from South America.
What we Thought: Our tasting crowd mostly liked this one, although one confessed to not being "into oaked wines". One taster said they "like it", another said it was "ok" and another still said it was just "drinkable".
The Wine: Domaine Dupeuble Gamay, Beaujolais, FRance, 2015
What we Tasted: Cherry, Cranberry, "off brand Twizzler", "Blackberry Tart", "Sour Cherry Pie", roses, "Pink Peppercorns", "Cherry Cough Syrup", "Wax Lips", "Assorted Nerds Candy"
What we Guessed: Syrah, South African Pinot Noir, Tuscan Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, "Cheap pinot Noir", Nebbiolo
What we Thought: Our tasters were split on this one. "I don't like it" said one taster, "It would be better with food" said another, "I really like it" said another. A few said it was "ok" and "meh" said another. After some tasting, most of us agreed that it was a pretty good Pinot Noir Substitute.
The Wine: Santa Carolina Pinot Noir Reserva, Chile, 2015
What we Tasted: "a little stinky," "Oysters", "Seaweed", "Beet Juice", "Smoky bacon fat", "Hoisin/Soy Sauce", "Mucky soil", "Black Tea", "Wet Tree Bark", Leather & Dust.
What we Guessed: Tempranillo, "Something Spanish", South African Cabernet Franc.
What we Thought: Most of us enjoyed this one as well, although a few of us thought it tasted a little "strange". This smoky, Chilean Pinot had some very interesting flavors that didn't make anyone immediately guess Pinot Noir. "I like it" said one taster. "It would be perfect with dark chocolate" said another. We all agreed that it was a pretty solid wine for the price, although one commented that they "wouldn't buy a case" of it.
It was another fun, high-energy tasting and our panel really brought their taste buds! It was a high scoring game with a lot of correct guesses throughout the evening. It was also a personal best for me, getting 3 out of 4 right! Sorry for the bragging, I'm usually proud of myself if I get 1 or 2 right.
Here are the notes from our October session.
The Wine: Pierre Sparr Riesling, Alsace, France, 2014
What we tasted: Pear, Melon, Pineapple, "Elderflower", Concrete, "Beach-Ball", Honeysuckle, "Hint of lemon and stale water", Honeydew melon, Apple and "Way Citrus"
What We Guessed: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, Alsatian Riesling
What we Thought: One of my favorite wines, but not as popular with our tasting panel. "Not my fav" said one taster, "A little sour" said another. One mentioned that it might taste better "with some food". Despite all of the mediocre reviews, there were several tasters who later said that this was their favorite of the night!
The Wine: Indaba Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, 2015
What we tasted: "Looks like City-Water", Floral, Pear, Meyer Lemon, Faint Honey, "Gin", Juniper, Metallic, Ash, Pepper
What we Guessed: Italian Pinot Grigio, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Calufornia Viognier, Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc
What we Thought: The jury was split on this little South African gem. "I like that" one taster said, another mentioned that she liked it "the more I taste it." Another commented that they didn't "love it." Overall most agreed that it was pretty good for a bargain priced Sauvignon Blanc.
The Wine: Mud House Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, 2013
What we Tasted: "Peppery, sour-cherry," Mineral, Fig, "Stewed Cherry," Chalky, "Maple Syrup," "Something warm and sweet," Leather
What we Guessed: Young Bordeaux, "Old, poor-quality gamay", German Pinot Noir, Italian Barbera, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, California Pinot Noir
What we Thought: This one wasn't as big of a hit with our crew as the others. One taster said it tasted "watered down." "Too short in the finish" complained another. Another said "I liked it at first but it offends me the more I taste it." There were a few who said that they "Liked it ok," but most of the comments on this one were negative. It's hard to make good Pinot Noir under $15.
The Wine: Artadi Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain, 2014
What we Tasted: Cassis, Violets, Star Anise, "Grape Bubble-Gum," "Welch's Grape Juice," "Somthing Burned," Mint, "Nerds Candy"
What we Guessed: Grenache, Tempranillo, Australian Shiraz, Argentine Malbec.
What we Thought: Our Tasting Panel was divided on this one as well. Some tasters really liked it, while others hated it. "I"m gonna drink it, but I don't care for it" was one comment, while another said that it "tastes better the more I drink of it." Don't they all! While some tasters dumped this one out, others said it was one of their favorites in the lineup. This is a great example of how different all of our taste buds are. value your own opinion and never let wine experts tell you what you should be drinking!
Another high-energy tasting with home high scores and some low ones. I only got one right, but I got it exactly right! That should count at least double, right?
The Wine: Romanin Macon Villages CHardonnay, Burgundy, France, 2013
What we Tasted: Grapefruit, Green apple, Toasted Marshmallow, "Rotten Pineapple", Asparagus, Almond, "Sulfury-Honeysuckle", Pear, Granite, "Funky-Fungal", Tart Lemon.
What we Guessed: Italian Pinot Grigio, South African Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Loire Valley Chenin Blanc.
What we Thought: I was surprised by the earthiness of this wine. The Burgundian minerality was apparent in retrospect, but when I was tasting it I was thinking Spanish Grenache Blanc. Not an incredibly popular wine with our tasters, but some did like it. Everyone agreed that it might perform better with some food, but it really wasn't a porch sipper.
The Wine: Valckenburg Gewurztraminer, Pfalz, Germany, 2014
What we Tasted: Floral, Spicy, Sandy, Eucalyptus, Lychee, "Dial Soap", Perfume, Gardenia, "Musky Melon-y Honey".
What we Guessed: French Viognier, German Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, German Riesling.
What we Thought: This one was more popular with our tasting crowd, although some said it was "too sweet". Most thought this aromatic wine would be "good with fruit and cheese" although another suggested it "would have to be paired with food". I personally enjoyed the perfumey nose on this wine and thought it would be great with Asian cuisine.
The Wine: Rickshaw Pinot Noir, California, 2014
What we Tasted: Cherry, Smoke, "Toasted Oak", Coffee, Blackberry, Mushrooms, Black Pepper, Tobacco, Cigar-Box, Wet Leaves, "Birch Bark", and "Figgy".
What we Guessed: California Pinot Noir, Piedmont Barbera, Syrah, Zinfandel, French Pinot Noir, and Oregon Pinot Noir.
What we Thought: This wine was very much enjoyed by our tasting panel! "It's easy to drink" said one taster, "We like it" said another group. One taster suggested it would be enjoyable "with or without food". In a time when it is getting challenging to find a good Pinot Noir under $20, we all agreed that this was an enjoyable Pinot Noir for $14.99.
The Wine: Shooting Star Zinfandel, mendocino County, California, 2012
What we Tasted: Minty, "Toothpaste", Eucalyptus, Hay, "Vicks VapoRub", Black Olives, "Strawberry Jelly", Violet, Clay, "Pine-Oil", and "Wet Cardboard".
What we Guessed: California Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz, Red Meritage, nebbiolo.
What we Thought: This one was a little more controversial. Some of our tasters enjoyed the fruity, minty flavor, while others complained about the aftertaste. One taster complained that the wine "finished like peanut Butter", another said that it was "not a sipping wine" and suggested that it would need food to go along with it. One taster said she enjoyed it, but that it would have to be the "third bottle" consumed in a night. Like it or not, everyone agreed that it had a very "distinctive aroma", with an enjoyable minty smell to go along with the fruit.
That's right blind tasters, your Asheville Blind Tasting League was mentioned on AVL Food Fans Podcast with food critic Stu Helm and Chef Joe Scully!
You see, the Blind Tasting League will be at the Asheville Wine & Food Festival again this year, and AWFF director Kris Kraft was telling Stu and Joe all about the fun things that will be happening.
Our shout out happens around the 36 minute mark for those of you that like to fast forward, but the whole episode is worth a listen if you love local food and wine like I do.
If you are planning on attending the Festival's Grand tasting on August 20th, we will begin blind tasting at 2:30 in the upper mezzanine. just follow the signs.
If you can't make it to the Festival, our next Blind Tasting League will be September 7th at 6:00pm.
Until next time, happy blind tasting!