You Be The Expert

You Be The Expert was the theme of this weeks Thursday tasting. I’m not sure that is the right title but I didn’t choose it. Anyway, the deal was we would taste three pairs of wine. Each pair would be the same varietal but there would be a good spread between the price points. Our challenge was to choose the wine in each pair we liked the best and determine if price was an indication of quality, blind of course.

The first pair were white wines, Chenin Blanc, one from France (Vouvray) and one from South Africa. This competition ended up in a tie.

2009 Laurent Kraft Vouvray Sec ($20) – Pale straw yellow, almost clear. What little nose there was had fruit and mineral. The flavor had a citrussy, meyer lemon component along with a little sweetness, maybe a little residual sugar. There was good acid, however and the finish was pleasant with a moderate length.

2010 HMS Victorious Chenin Blanc ($12) – Almost clear like the previous wine. Fruit and mineral nose. A lot of flavor, fruit, mineral and some oak. There is less perceived acid, feels like it went through malolactic fermentation. Nice medium length finish.

The second pair were a couple of Merlot. One was from eastern Washington and the second was from the Napa Valley. There was no disagreement on which wine was liked the best, it was a unanimous decision.

2008 Waterbrook Columbia Valley Merlot ($14.50) – Medium ruby color. Dark cherry nose and flavor with a touch of vanilla.Moderate chalky tannins with a long somewhat bitter finish. This wine needs food. I did not care for this wine, too fruity. Surprising because I usually like Waterbrook. They did change hands a few years ago, however, so maybe their focus has changed. Nobody else particularly cared for the Waterbrook either.

2006 Grgich Hills Napa Valley Estate Merlot ($42) – A medium garnet color with a sweet red fruit nose with a little smokiness. Flavor was red, slightly smoky fruit with smooth medium tannins and good acidity. It had a nice roundness in the mouth and a medium length finish. This was the unanimous choice in this pair for the group.

Note: I tasted the same bottle of the Waterbrook Merlot two days later, the bottle had just been corked after the Thursday tasting, not vacuumed or any other preservation used. It was actually better. A lot of the real ripe fruit had dropped out.

The final pair were Cabernet Sauvignon, one from the Napa Valley and one from Chile. I don’t know if that is a fair comparison but let’s see how it turns out.

2006 Round Pond Estate Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) –
A nice dark garnet color. Ripe dark fruit nose. Big grippy tannins, good acidity. Flavors of dark ripe fruit, coffee, vanilla. Also, a little vegetal hint in the flavor. To sum this wine up, big flavor, big tannins. I think this wine needs to cellar a while longer.

2009 Santa Ema Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($10) – Dark ruby color showing this is a young wine. Dark ripe fruit in the nose and the flavor. Medium smooth tannins with a little heat on the finish (13.5 alc.). This was the favorite of the pair by a slight margin. I did not care for this much. This is the fourth time I have tasted this wine in a month and I consistently have not liked it.


  1. George, the owner of the wine shop chooses the wines. Of course he chooses what is in the store and wants to sell. There is always a discount on the wines featured in the wine tastings.

    Actually, with the Cabs., the Santa Ema at $10 won by a slight margin. You are right about the vintages. A true test would be to have the same vintage and both wines from the same area. That’s why I noted in the beginning that the name “Be The Expert” was probably not the best name. Maybe it should have been “Can You Tell The Difference”.

  2. Who gets to choose the wines? And what were your overall conclusions? It appears from your description the more expensive wines were the best choices for each category. The vintage seems to have played a role as well. I would have liked to see all the same vintages for each wine category as I would think it would be a more fair assessment for each of them. I know the CT whites for 2010 were twice as good as the previous year due to the climate we had. That alone could skew the results. I do like the Grgich Hills Merlot though.