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PINOT NOIR: Double Blind Tastings
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DOUBLE BLIND TASTING on 06/22/97 -- 4 pinot noirs and one cheap domestic burgundy
1. Robert Mondavi (Napa Valley) 25th Anniversary Pinot Noir (unfiltered), 1992. Price: $19. Alcohol: 13%
2. G. Graham (Carneros, California) Pinot Noir, 1992. Price: $20. Alcohol: 13%
- AK: Only one that does not make my colon clench! Clovey undertones, smokey bouquet not unlike aftermath of a mall fire. Puddingy frission in this critic. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Pepperwood.
- SB: Bland. Green as hell. 3 bombs. RANK: 4. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- BW: Good dark color; sharp, closed-up; could be too young. Has potential. RANK: 2. GUESS: G. Graham.
- MK: Dry, slightly syruping or viscous, nice afterglow. Color is faded, a little murky. Oakey, smokey, nice. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Mondavi.
- DG: Spicy, peppery with a smooth afterglow. Cherry scent. Doesn't improve on sitting. Would go well with an agressive meat. RANK: 2. GUESS: G. Graham.
- JK: A cloudy color. The flavor is pseudo full-bodied. There but not really. Airy aftertaste. Peppery. After time it holds up better than the others. Smooths out. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Mondavi.
- SD: Slightly hazy in appearance. Legs. Nose: wood alcohol, mushrooms, acetic. Light berries but with structure and backbone. A little earthy underneath some woody structure. OVERALL: Good. RANK: 2. GUESS: Mondavi.
- RB: Slick - oily - slippery - fruity - lightly haughty - young - smirking. RANK: 3. GUESS: G. Graham.
3. Thomas Family Winery Pinot Noir, 1995. Price: $14. Alcohol: 12%
- AK: Bland, yet dishonest; virginal, yet tarty; more alcohol than grape; vacuous, non-triggering, grudging; evolves into gingerbread. RANK: 2. GUESS: Mondavi.
- SB: Quite a bite at first. Almost like a retsina. Aftertaste like a melon rind. Not much body or subtlety. No noticeable sweetness. Richer on second try. 3 bombs. RANK: 3. GUESS: Pepperwood.
- BW: Good dark color. Similar to first wine, but with less depth. Penurious. RANK: 4. GUESS: Mondavi.
- MK: Each taste is initially insipid; bursts with flavor once swallowed. Nutty. Thin and disappointing. RANK: 3. GUESS: Pepperwood.
- DG: A bit of dirty-sock overtone and sharp aftertaste. Improves on sitting, but still bites. RANK: 4. GUESS: Mondavi.
- JK: The flavor envelopes the olfactory passages. The taste is a rich experience that lingers a long time after. Would not go well with bland foods. Slightly bitter flavor and mildly stings. RANK: 2. GUESS: G. Graham.
- SD: Not as leggy. Nose: cool, earthy. Has a brown taste. Young? Young brown? Confusing terms suggest complexity. Soft musky character, a little too soft. Later, I taste more mushrooms then #1. The wine evolves with time. Close in rank to the first wine but I tentatively rank it my fave. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: G. Graham.
- RB: Watery - slightky oakey tasting, unpretentious, secretive, innocent, perfume-y, hasish-ish. Evokes a mysterious night in Bakif. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Pepperwood.
4. Pepperwood Grove (California) Pinot Noir, 1993. Price: $10. Alcohol: 12.5%
- AK: Quelle complexity of putrid body odors! At first no smell, then metamorphoses into wet Huggies, then armpits of ideologically opposed deodorant, then Empress O' China! Taste is styptic, alum-like, a brew with its own tartar control system! Kids tell mom! RANK: 3. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- SB: Sharp. Very green. Very dry. Bitterness. Campari. Weird. Sweet aftertaste. Insect repellant. 4 bombs. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- BW: Very pale appearance. Putrid, smells of stale cigarette smoke. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- MK: Astringent. Kool-aid colored. Acidic aftertaste. Surprisingly bland (young?) Little life or vitality. Unpersuasive. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Thomas Family.
- DG: What is the flavor that assaults you on first tatse? Some kind of weird chemical, asks Steve? Very acidic, recycled crank-case oil highlights. Gets more astringent as it goes down. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- JK: Bad, sad. Thin color, thin flavor, thin bouquet. It does not belong in the class of full-bodied wine. Nothing. Unfortunate. Ghastly. Not on the scale. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Pepperwood.
- SD: Light, watered down red grape juice. Bouquet: delicate essence of Kool-Aid, key word "delicate" (read "wimpy"). Taste... I know this flavor! When I finish a quart bottle of grape juice and wash it out, this is the first rinse! (Later I was told not to drink dishwater. But ah, sweet memories.) OVERALL: Poor. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- RB: Kool-Aid mixed with a touch of lighter fluid. Brash - rude - adolescent - resiny - punk rock lite. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Thomas Family.
5. Livingstone Cellars Gallo Premium Select Burgundy (no year on label, bought 6/97). Price: $2.34. Alcohol: 12.5%
- AK: Sketch-o-rama! Amateur may at first think of Wal-Mart purple generic nail polish remover, but upon closer scrutiny, serious overtones of sauerkraut, and I will not enjoy it. Despite its bludgeoning, it later developed into nutmeg. RANK: 4. GUESS: G. Graham.
- SB: Dry. Less green but still not very robust not complex. 2 bombs. RANK: 2. GUESS: G. Graham.
- BW: Somewhat dark color, equivalent to #2. Nice pepperiness. RANK: 3. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- MK: Little to say -- dull? Strong grape flavor. Rich deep color. A little tart, even sour. RANK: 2. GUESS: G. Graham.
- DG: Fruity, coy, playful; like a cheerleader in a poodle skirt. But I mean that in the best possible sense. Bouquet is like walking into the back entrance of a Vietnamese restaurant - a bit of fish sauce and garbage in the air. Not a lot of body, but give it time. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Pepperwood.
- JK: Fruity, slightly sour flavor, bitter overtones. But a thin flavor. It does not fill taste buds and nasal passages as others. I'd bet it's young, based on nothing but a need to sound like I know something. Well below my second choice. RANK: 3. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- SD: Sharp nose, some vinegar. Weaker than #1 and #2 but more body than #3. Some cherry, Lacking subltety. Will never been an assertive wine but may develop some interesting innuendo with time. OVERALL: Fair. RANK: 4. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- RB: Darker - older - burnt wood - full - grapey. Mostly comprised of low and mid-range notes - lacks a spicy treble/soprano component. Meaty. RANK: 2. GUESS: Mondavi.
- AK: Rancid butter! At last I have found you! Sweet and cloying! You're never too old for Koolaid (or Girl Scout trefoil cookies). Memories of puking in the back of Billy Bob's Uncle Gheezer's cousin Verlene Faynelle's pickup at the Starlite Drive In. Hated it! RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- SB: Like this one. very aromatic. Complex. Spicey. On second try - kind of Kool-aid. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Mondavi.
- BW: Somewhat dark color. Very fruity and flavorful. Good family wine. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Pepperwood.
- MK: Sweet, fruity. Strongly grapey bouquet. Unsubstantial, immature -- needs a babysitter. RANK: 4. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- DG: Inviting bouquet. Very fruity -- tending to Bazooka Joe's vintage. Would make a good slushy - but I like it. RANK: 3. GUESS: Thomas Family.
- JK: Grape juice, not wine. No bite. More like a dessert wine than a pinot. Like a mix straight out of a plastic bag. Well below my third choice. RANK: 4. GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
- SD: Bright nose, spicy. Not sure what spice, so I'll just say allspice. Back to the Kool-Aid theme, but at least is has flavor. Perhaps too young? My first thought was Thomas Family, but then went with Pepperwood on account of the spice. But it still tastes of young strawberries. OVERALL: Fair. RANK: 3. GUESS: Pepperwood.
- RB: Fruity - wet - full - burgundy? For a cheap date - not bad, but one night stand only. RANK: 4. GUESS: Livingstone Gallo.
Overall Comments: Although none of the wines were judged as top of the line, the winner in this tasting was the Robert Mondavi, followed by the G. Graham and the Pepperwood. The Livingstone Cellars Gallo was a clear fourth, though it was picked as favorite by two of the judges. Some of the judges did note a mass-produced, artificial feel to the cheap supermarket burgundy. The lowest ranking wine was the Thomas Family pinot, which was the least favorite of 7 out of the 8 judges and extremely disappointing. In all fairness, however, the judges who brought that contestant had been warned the wine was too young for drinking.
JK correctly identified 3 of the 5 wines; the other judges could not match more than two of the contestants to the correct label.
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