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Syrahs, Sirahs and Shiraz: Double Blind Tastings
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DOUBLE BLIND TASTING on 03/97 -- A mix of 5 syrahs, shiraz, shiraz blend and petite sirah.
1. Pin d'Alep (France) cepage pur Syrah, 1994 Alcohol: 12%. Price: ~ $6. SEE ALSO tasting on 11/95
2. Queen Adelaide (Southeastern Australia) 50% Shiraz, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1994 Alcohol: 13%. Price: ~ $5.
- TED: Very dark. Lemony, smooth finish. Fairly unfatty, sweet, plums, not a lot of pepper. Smoky, RANK: 2. GUESS: Guenoc.
- MED: Pretty thick, no structure. Spicy pine plank with polyurethane finish that's been left in the sun for too long. Tastes closer to juice, minus the sugar, minus the grape. Bland finish. Seems to need to age more. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Rosemount.
- BW: Dark, dry, not much nose. Dark red. Flavorless, just dry and boring. RANK: 4. GUESS: McDowell.
- SD: Dark purple. Cab-like nose (the sauvignon, not the taxi). Medium bodied, simple, young. Fruity, but a generic berry-like fruit with a hint of cola. Yes, definitely a Pepsi overtone to this. But what does this mean? The first wine, and already I'm lost. Overall, the most watery of the bunch, along with #5. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- SB: Earthy, oakey, bland, neither sweet nor dry. RANK: 3. GUESS: Pin d'Alep.
- AK: Ok, but a bit shallow in taste and smell. Worse than #2,3,4. RANK: 4. GUESS: --.
- MK: Starts smoothly, but quickly tingles with life in the palate. Lacks structure or vivacity on second taste. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: McDowell.
- JK: Thin. Smooth and flavor and surprisingly thin wine that seemed to evaporate into a puff, leaving an insubstantial finish. RANK: 4. GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
3. Guenoc (California North Coast) Petite Sirah, 1991 Alcohol: 12.5%. Price: $15 ($7 -- yes $7! -- at End-O-Bin in Louisville. But I bought the last bottles they had.) SEE ALSO tasting on 11/95
- TED: Almost as dark as #1. Better legs. More oak. Tannic finish. More fruit. peppery. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- MED: Darker. Better legs. Oakier smell. Spicy - pepper. Bit like Pez -- a little boof! RANK: 2. GUESS: Pin d'Alep.
- BW: Q.A.? Cabby, dark, aromatic. Color - red, slightly brown. Good middle of the road wine. Not exciting, not bad. RANK: 2. GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- SD: Dark, tannic. Rumored to have nice gams. Hint of oak. Maybe this is the one with the cab. Barb says it's different, but to me it's rather similar to #1, just without the PepsiCo influence. Later tastings bring out black pepper... or maybe it's the Cajun 3 pepper bread Barbara made? RANK: 3. GUESS: Rosemount.
- SB: Sharp, tannic, young, medium dry. Highest boof. Pez. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- AK: Darker, more legs, no smell, more tannic, oaky, acidic than 1. Pez boof. RANK: 4. GUESS: --.
- MK: Woody oak taste, bites with tartness. Round, but definitely sour. Confident. RANK: 3. GUESS: Guenoc.
- JK: In this wine the smoke is more robust, carrying the fruity flavor away. RANK: 2. GUESS: McDowell.
4. Rosemount Estate (South Australia) Shiraz, 1995 Alcohol: 13%. Price: $14.
- TED: Still lighter, but still dark. More alcohol in the bouquet. Strong legs. Very tannic, especially the finish. Cheapo. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: McDowell.
- MED: Darker. Good legs. Spicy but smoother. Spicy finish. Oakiest -- aged more? RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- BW: Color - purpley red. Flavor - bright, fruity, happy-go-lucky; take this wine on a picnic to the beach. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- SD: Peppery nose! This is the first wine that truly belongs in this tasting! Full-bodied, spicy, zingy! This, is, like, so big, so UN-petite, it can only be petite sirah! It cries out: "Hurrah! Sirah, sir! That's 'I', not 'Y'! Why? Sirah, Petite, and quite a treat!" This is the Guenoc (famous last words...) RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- SB: Complex, lightly sweet, nice. RANK: 1 (Fave). GUESS: McDowell.
- AK: Spicier, almost clovey or nutmeggy; legs -- fave so far, some aroma. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Rosemount.
- MK: Sour acidic aftertaste at first, but lingers for sometime, with woody strong overtones. Improves with time, young. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Rosemount.
- JK: Upon first sip, this wine has a full flavor that promises a very interesting experience. But repeated sips seems as insubstantial as water. RANK: 3. GUESS: Rosemount.
5. McDowell (Mendocino, California) Syrah, 1993 Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: $12.
- TED: Lighter, smooth with peppery finish. RANK: 3. GUESS: Pin a'Alep.
- MED: Good legs. Smells fruitier, tastes fruitier -- smooth. Boofless. RANK: 3. GUESS: McDowell.
- BW: Color - purpley red, same as #3. This is a good spicey red. RANK: 2. GUESS: Rosemount.
- SD: Nose reminds me of old leather. Nice, smooth, a little smoky. Very European, with tobacco smoke everywhere. A little plum, or maybe I am just plumb drunk by now. This is the syrah style that made the grape noble. RANK: 2. GUESS: Pin D'Alep.
- SB: Very complex, spicy, very lightly sweet. RANK: 2. GUESS: Guenoc.
- AK: Little aroma, acidic -- similar to #2, but less acidic than #2. RANK: 2. GUESS: --.
- MK: Though vinegary at first taste, this wine has the peppery spicey flavor one expects from a syrah grape. Definite grape flavor. RANK: 4. GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- JK: Full bodied and an agressively spicey flavor that does not shrink away with repeated sips. RANK: 1. GUESS: Guenoc.
Overall Comments: Generally people were not too enthusiastic about the wines, although I personally thought the Guenoc was great and the Rosemount very good. The Guenoc petite sirah ranked as the clear winner; it was everybody's favorite except for JK, who thought the flavor didn't last, and TED, who didn't like the biting character at all. The shirazes scored in the middle; several judges were able to note the cabernet character blended with the Queen Adelaide. (The Queen Adelaide -- an inexpensive wine -- might be a good bargain for those who gave it good scores.) The syrahs scored poorly, seeming shallow and thin compared to the others. Hopefully, in future tastings we will find better examples of this varietal!
- TED: As light as 34. Grapefruity bouquet. Weak legs, acid finish. Fickle / very inconsistent. No good. RANK: 4. GUESS: Rosemount.
- MED: Very leggy -- part cab? Weaker, kind of flat. Grapey thin at first, something underneath pepper others didn't have. Slightky acid finish. Tastes like a Snackwell's strawberry poptart minus sugar: fake, processed. RANK: 4. GUESS: Queen Adelaide.
- BW: Same purpley red color. Strong odor of... ? Dry, unfruity -- antifruit! Blah. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Pin d'Alep.
- SD: A nice roasted pepper atmosphere. This wine also belongs in this tasting. But later, disappointment: that's all I get, oven-roasted pepper in a medium-bodied wine. Repeated sips place it in the #1-#2-#5 class, only minor differences. The peppers are from compost, I think. After five wines, who can tell anything anymore? RANK: 4. GUESS: McDowell.
- SB: Watery, bland, balanced. RANK: 4. GUESS: Rosemount.
- AK: Slightly green smell; agressive, almost burns. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: --.
- MK: Slightly unpleasant undertone to its bouquet. Transforms in the mouth from a smooth yet robust flavor to a widening dry quality. Tame, even dull, on second taste, but improves considerably with third. RANK: 2. GUESS: Pin d'Alep.
- JK: Thin, insubstantial, watery. It tastes as if it is watered down. A vacuous wine. RANK: 5 (lowest). GUESS: Pin d'Alep.
My own personal comments: "#3 and #4 stand out from the bunch as fine examples of their varietal. #1 and #2 are shiraz, #3 petite sirah, and #4 and #5 syrahs. But this is based only on an inebriated tongue, pre-conceived notions, and problematic reasoning." [NOTE: I was partially correct, but mistook the Rosemount for syrah and the Pin d'Alep for shiraz].
I was terribly disappointed in the Pin d'Alep, for I had tried it before (11/95) and found it a complex wine at a bargain price. How could our reviews be so different? A different batch? ... our tastes have changed? ... 16 additional months in the bottle?
Congratulations to judge BW, who identified 3 of the 5 wines correctly (confusing only the two syrahs). Also, a nod to MED for introducing the terms "boof" and "boofless". SPECIAL NOTE: The day after the wine tasting, the daughter of judges MED and TED spoke her first words: "Boof! Boof! Boof!"
DOUBLE BLIND TASTING on 11/95 -- 4 petite sirahs.
1. Bogle California Petite Sirah, 1992 Alcohol: 12.5%. Price: $7.
2. Foppiano Sonoma County (Russian River Valley) Petite Sirah, 1992 Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: $10.
- LS: Smooth, black cherry, deep, nice, purple. Not Foppiano. Lost quality with time. RANK: 3. GUESS: Bogle.
- ME: An emerging bucket, pleasant too. Relatively full-bodied but no Jane Mansfield. Aura not overpowered by its ambivalent fruity flavor, mainly 'cos it doesn't have one. Perhaps a spicy taste that does not linger. My feet are cold. Overall, pleasant, innocuous. RANK: 3. GUESS: Glass Mountain.
- ES: Sweet, fruity nose, thilly. Lightweight flavor, needs Tchaikovsky, not Bach. Tastes young and acidic -- Bogle? Grows on you a touch. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Bogle.
- JG: Wan, perhaps delicate, a petite one. Hint of cherry, no seducer this one but Bogle is it. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Bogle.
- PB: Red wine. Red red wine. The RED of the lips of the beloved... The lips are below a very small (but not petite [get it?]) nose. Bright taste -- not much pepper, but a lot of oak, Chewy. High Point: inoffensive. Low Point: inoffensive. RANK: 3. GUESS: Foppiano.
- SD: Rich peppery bouquet. Color: disappointingly thin for a sirah. But is is a ruse... pleasant surprise! Spicy with blackberries, a delicious glaze. Black pepper and raspberries in a lusty mix. If there was ever a wine I would correctly guess to be a petite sirah, this is it. A very good wine, but overall, the weakest and most crass of the four. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Bogle.
3. Guenoc North Coast (Lake County) Petite Sirah, 1991 Alcohol: 12.5%. Price: $15. SEE ALSO tasting on 03/97
- LS: More sour, spicier, not as fruity. Foppiano? Browner. Most sour. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Foppiano.
- ME: No stink here but a whammo taste, very peppery, but again it doesn't linger. From the description and my trusty Rodent's Guide to cheap wine I'd say either the Bogle or the Foppiano. This is a more interesting (better?) wine than #1 but a tad too spicy for me. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Guenoc.
- ES: Not much nose, goy wine. (Mike says "Jesus Christ!"). Surprising! Oaky, slightly tannic, Baroque... nice with Bach, simple wine. RANK: 3. GUESS: Foppiano.
- JG: Lusty red, bawdy, Russian robustness. RANK: 3. GUESS: Foppiano.
- PB: No smell. I mean NO smell. Tart on the tongue [which is giving me some ideas, especially after reading the "lusty, full-bodied" schtick]. Less oak than #1, more "jam". I like it fine except for the lack of stench. High Point: pepper taste. Low Point: nose lack. RANK: 4 (lowest). GUESS: Guenoc.
- SD: Dark, very thick, very rich, hearty. A sharp and unusal taste -- like rye or pumpernickel? This is a Russian sirah... but I don't think it's Russian River Valley Foppiano; I think I would have remembered this unique taste. [Editor's Note: Guess again, Seismo-Zombie! :) ] I'll guess: thick with the blood of Chinese laborers [referring to notes from the Glass Mountain label] and rich in dust from a mineral quarry. RANK: 3. GUESS: Glass Mountain.
- LS: Very dark, sharper, very peppery, berry, acid, good. Sweetest, most aromatic. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- ME: 'Nother with a fiery flatulence but a heady spicy taste that lingers longer than #1 or #2. This is fruitier than #2 which of course makes me think of the Brooklyn Bridge and Muriel Hemmingway and Bogle -- or Foppiano. Dry. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Foppiano.
- ES: Dark, smells of alcohol, very complex -- excellent with Bach. Evokes simulataneous stroking of two strings in a major key with a few overtones. A Stradiverius (did he make celli?) Should be great with food. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- JG: Boudoir red, peppery scent. Seducer without foreplay, whammo. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- PB: With the first scent -- all of my previous attempts at sexual metaphor shrivel. This, finally, is wine. More specifically, petite syrah. Fruit jam. I could drink this wine 'till I fall down. In fact I will. High Point: yes. Low Point: no. RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Guenoc.
- SD: Another dark. No notable nose. Rich and peppery, with a cabernet overtone. This is a petite sirah striving to the richness and complexity of the reds preferred by snobbier wine enthusiasts. Paul said, "Mmmm... mmm... mmm..." so I guess he is one of the snobs. But wait, that's not fair, I like this wine too, and I wouldn't, couldn't possibly be a wine snob. But wait again... I am very, very tentatively choosing this as my first choice... oh God, I AM a wine snob! RANK: 1 (fave). GUESS: Foppiano.
Additional review sent in by the feedback form from Paul Harwood (received 1/12/97):
4. Glass Mountain Napa Valley Petite Sirah, 1990 Alcohol: 13.0%. Price: $9.
Overall Comments: The clear winner was the Guenoc, picked as the favorite wine by all of the judges. All of the judges also chose the Glass Mountain as their number 2 choice; at $9 it appears to be an excellent buy. The Foppiano came in third and the Bogle finished last, although nobody seemed to dislike any of the wines.
Individual summaries as follows:
SD: I really like these wines. They are all different and have their own good points. I haven't a clue as to which is which. And ranking these will be difficult.
PB: There is a quantum difference between 3 & 4 (good) and 1 & 2 (o.k.).
ME: I like them all / From 1 to 4 / But without a doubt...
The Bogle was apparently easiest to guess; 5 of the 6 judges correctly guessed its identity. The other wines were each identified by half of the panel. Congratulations on our reviewers JG, ES and LS, all of whom correctly guessed the identity of every single wine.
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