Blind Tasting Series Report Part 1: Viognier

After a several year hiatus, a successful season of reincarnation has passed for the blind tasting series and wine enthusiast group that I am pleased to regale monthly at my home.  Each tasting requires hours of preparation including wine acquisition, printed line ups, tasting agendas, room set, food and bread supply, wine prep, glassware provisioning, and a very massive clean up.  As I catch my breath and we pause for a few months while the welcome warmth of the New England summer season draws our core group of 30 tasters to their traditional family sea, mountain, and lakeside havens I am able to look back on our final tasting of Viognier and 2000 Bordeaux with a smile and appreciation for our reignited groove.

In this final tasting of the season, I organized two flights of six wines.  Our first half of the evening line-up consisted of Viognier from Condrieu, Languedoc, California (San Luis Obispo and Mendocino/Lake County), Washington State, and Australia from vintages 2006-08.  The following wines were tasted and acquisition prices are included:

Domaine Massiac, 08, Languedoc $14

Yalumba, 08, Eden Valley, Australia $13

Shannon Ridge, 08, Mendocino/Lake $19

Alban Vineyards, 08, San Luis Obispo $24

Mark Ryan, 07, Columbia Vly., WA $28

Cuilleron, la Petite Cote, 06, Condrieu $70

Blind tastings like this are highly productive exercises in developing language around sensual distinctions and experiences within wine peer groups, and it provides knowledge and confidence whose manifestations arise out of contextual insight.  While these wines are often misunderstood and not everyone’s favorite varietal, they provided good style distinctions considering the broad geographic sourcing, and made it fairly easy to talk about characteristics and differences among the wines.  You can read about Robert Dwyer’s ( Wellesely Wine Press) unfavorable experience with these wine during this tasting here at Cork’d.

My favorite wine was the Shannon Ridge, of very pale color with a touch of sweetness on the nose, kiwi and papaya fruits, a most lovely mouthfeel, followed by a rich long finish.  My second favorite was the Mark Ryan, with a nose of sweet flowers and summer white fruits, medium weight core, good brightness from excellent acidity, and a really long lasting and pleasing finish.  I identified the Mark Ryan blind, never having tasted it before, but sensing its northwest roots.  I was pretty pleased with myself.  I also identified the Cuilleron.  It was not too hard since it had a much darker color, possibly due to some age or oxidation, and it had the most distinct flavor profile that included fruitcake and candy.   I did not like the wine and wonder whether there was something wrong with it, since it was two years older than most and I acquired it off the rack of a local wine shop very recently.   The group voted the Mark Ryan their favorite, Shannon Ridge second, and John Alban’s wine third.  I was expecting the Alban to perform a little better than that,on this evening displaying a medium dark yellow color, sweet flowers on the nose, a little light on middle fruit, and decent but not great supporting acidity.

The second flight of the evening proved to be a very impressive group of 2000 Bordeaux, the kind of wines that make collectors like me turn giddy and glad that we had the foresight to stash away a bunch.  This flight provided different challenges for our tasting group since all the wines were of very high quality and a tighter geographic and vintage peer group.  The next WineZag post will share the results of this monumental group of wines.

Until then, I will continue to have bittersweet thoughts about the temporary finality of our group’s blind tasting season.  These tastings and groups have created a wonderful support group for expanding everyone’s wine expertise and appreciation.  I was really taken by a thought shared over at Brooklynguy’s Wine and Food blog in a recent post where a good friend served him a bottle of 1998 Beaucastel blind and Neil guessed the approximate vintage and region.  He shared a great insight in this post that rang true with me:

Peter brought a red wine that he wanted me to taste, and he decanted it and poured it blind. I love blind tasting. If you feel that you have something to prove, or if your companion is challenging you, it isn’t fun at all. But if you feel that you have something to learn, and if your companion is participating in that with you, it’s really fun.

That is why I whistle as I invest half my Saturday’s hours, once a month, organizing a safe and fun place for a group of like minded wine enthusiasts to learn.  Stay tuned for Part 2:  2000 Bordeaux Revisited

  • http://wellesleywinepress.com Robert Dwyer

    Great write-up Adam. I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and appreciate the work you put into it. Especially the way you ran the evening- not too formal not too informal. Pitch perfect. Well done.

  • http://www.ninetypluscellars.com Brett Vankoski

    Hey Adam. How do I become a part of this illustrious little group of yours? If it means starting a wine blog, I think I can swing that. ;)
    We are also constantly getting samples from wineries around the world. It might be fun for the group to taste and see what’s floating around in the market before it reaches the shelves.

  • http://winezag.com adamjapko

    Brett…you’re in! We will resume in Sept. Great idea on pre release tasting too. Thanks

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  • Judy Bellack

    Love the write up on viognier, Adam . . . having become a fan in recent years, I’m excited about trying some of the wines in your tasting!