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ZINFANDEL: Double Blind Tastings

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DOUBLE BLIND TASTING on 12/29/94 -- 4 zinfandels

The Contestants:

1. Sutter Home California Zinfandel, 1992. Price: $5

2. Ridge California York Creek Zinfandel, 1991. Price: $16 3. Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Zinfandel, 1991. Price: $13. 4. Topolos Sonoma County Zinfandel, 1992. Price: $13. Alcohol 13%. UPDATE ON THE TOPOLOS by SD, 12/5/95: Overall Comments: All four judges had the same ranking: everyone liked the Ridge York Creek best, followed by Topolos, Chateau Montelena, and Sutter Home. Sutter Home was the only wine everyone correctly identified; BW was the only judge to correctly identify all four wines. PB also had these comments before the identities of the contestants were revealed:
"Hypothesis: in order of increasing time in oak: 1, 3, 4, 2. Also, there are two styles: 1 and 3, 4 and 2. 3 is the winner of 3 vs 1 contest; 2 wins in 4 vs 2. I like the order 2>4>3>1. But I would buy #2 for $20 rather than #4 for $13, and #3 for $10 over #1 for $5."

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DOUBLE BLIND TASTING on 06/16/95 -- 5 zinfandels

The Contestants:

1. Lytton Springs Sonoma County, 1991. Price: $20. Alcohol: 14.5%.

Update, 11/96:
  • BW and I tried this wine again, over a year later. We both loved it, and stand by our former rave reviews. BW gave it an A; SD, a A-.

2. Ravenswood North Coast Vintners Blend, 1992. Price: $8. Alcohol: 13.8%.

3. Hop Kiln Russian River Valley, 1992. Price: $14. Alcohol: 14.4%. 4. Frogs Leap Napa Valley, 1992. Price: $14. Alcohol: 13.6%. 5. Vendage California Autumn Harvest (no year, bought 6/95). Price: $4. Alcohol: 13.0%. Overall Comments: Lots of spread in the reviews, but some general patterns emerge. The most expensive wine, Lytton Springs, did the best overall, with four judges choosing it as their favorite and none as their least favorite. Our two regular reviewers, SD and BW, both found it outstanding -- an 'A' rating. Several judges found it a bit tannic and felt it could have used a few more years in the bottle.

The other four wines were all over the board. All of these wines were the least favorite of at least one judge; all but one (Ravenswood) was the favorite of at least one judge. The Ravenswood was generally perceived as being rather ordinary, and two judges described Hop Kiln as having a nice cherry taste. Personally, I was not particularly impressed with any of the other four contestants. The cheapest wine, Vendage, scored quite well compared to Ravenswood, Hop Kiln and Frogs Leap, gathering every possible score from 1 to 5. The general consensus was that Vendage was a different style of wine, however: a light and fruitier "beaujolais nouveau" style rather than the rich hearty zin the other wines were striving to be.

Congratulations to our judge FT who, despite claims of allergies affecting his sense of smell, accurately divined the identity of every single contestant. None of the other judges correctly identified more than two.

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