May 5th, Cinco de Mayo! What better way to start the day then with a blind tasting held at NAHA (www.naha-chicago.com). The theme? Well, basically, see if you can pick out the Yellow Tail Reserve. The tasting featured John Casella, Managing Director for Casella Wines, and was hosted by none other than Master Sommelier and Master of Wine Doug Frost (one of only 3 people in the world to achieve both of these distinctions, www.twitter.com/winedogboy). The tasting panel of nearly 20 guests was made up of local wine industry all-stars including Master Sommeliers Alpana Singh (www.twitter.com/alpanawines) (popular from her show “Check, Please!”) and Serafin Alverado (also director of Education for Southern Wine & Spirits in Illinois), Chicago Tribune food and wine columnist Bill Daley(www.twitter.com/billdaley), Chicago Wine School Director Patrick Fegan, Sommelier for Rick Bayless’s Frontera Grill and Topolobompo Jill Gubesch, Master Sommelier Candidate and wine buyer/manager of local retail shop Wine Discount Center Michael Baker(www.twitter.com/bakerwine, www.twitter.com/winedisco), and a handful of other professionals whom I wish I had more time to meet and chat with.
The format was simple and casual. We all gathered around a table that had eight red wines at each place setting, divided into two flights of four wines. The four wines in the front were in Burgundy shaped glasses (these have wide bowls shaped like a balloon that taper in towards the top allowing more surface area for the wine), and then the other four wines in the back row were served in Bordeaux styled glasses (large bowls that are not as wide as the Burgundy stems but taller and more vertical, used for tasting Cabernet Sauvignon wines). Each taster was given a sheet of paper for each flight to take notes. We tasted quietly on our own recording our notes which we would then discuss as a group one flight at a time. We began with the front flight in the Burgundy stems. The following are my notes. You’ll notice they get less and less descriptive and that’s because I like to take my time with a wine but the average group time for tasting the four wines was faster than my pace.
Wine #1: COLOR– Ruby core, purple/pink rim, light staining of the tears, medium+ viscosity. NOSE– medium intensity and youthful with ripe cherries, raspberries, blueberries, stony minerals, fresh herbs, mint/menthol, fennel, vanilla, baking spices (indicating use of French Oak). PALATE– dry, medium body, medium tannins, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, medium length, medium complexity.
Wine #2: COLOR– dark ruby core, garnet rim, medium staining of the tears, medium+ viscosity. NOSE- medium+ intensity, baked black cherries, blueberry jam, raspberries, pepper, leather, fresh dirt, thyme, bayleaf, fresh ground coffee (indicating use of oak barrels). PALATE- dry, medium body, medium tannin, medium acid, HIGH alcohol
Wine #3: COLOR– ruby core, light red rim. NOSE– FRESH red fruits, cherries, raspberries, green bell pepper, menthol/mint. PALATE– medium tannin, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol.
Wine #4: NOSE– DRIED red fruits, fresh earth, mushroom, cinnamon/baking spices. PALATE- Medium+ tannin, medium+ acidity, medium+ alcohol.
So what were the wines in the first flight? What did you think based on my descriptions? I thought the first wine, along with a couple others, could have been Pinot Noir. Sounds very similar to Pinot Noir. Nope! All four wines are Shiraz! This is why you can’t generalize if you like “Australian Shiraz” because the styles run up and down the board! My favorite of the grouping? Wine #1!
Here’s the answer key:
Wine #1- 2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz ($11)
Wine #2- 2008 Marquis Philips Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($13)
Wine #3- 2007 Archetype Shiraz, Barossa Valley ($15)
Wine #4- 2006 D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz, McLaren Vale ($60)
The “best on paper” and most expensive “Dead Arm” Shiraz had a really bad day and did not show well next to the other wines. Gotta love those blind tastings!
Now on to flight #2!
Wine #5: NOSE- FRESH fruits, blueberries, black cherries, stony minerality, fennel, licorice, leather. PALATE- super ripe and concentrated fruits, medium + alcohol, medium+ tannins, medium acidity
Wine #6- Blueberries, blackberries, cassis (ripe and concentrated), floral with violets and lavender, herbal notes, coconut. Dry, medium+ body, medium acidity, medium+ alcohol, high tannin.
Wine #7- Dried fruits, raspberry dominant, meaty/game notes, bacon, grilled meat, toast, lots of mineral. Medium+ tannins, HIGH alcohol, medium+ acidity.
Wine #8- candied fruit, medium acid, medium+ tannin, medium+ alcohol.
I didn’t particularly care for any of the wines in the 2nd flight. My least favorite was easily wine #7. My favorite? Do I have to pick a favorite? Fine! If you force me to drink down one of these wines, it was wine#5! So what are the wines here? Sounds like Cabernet Sauvignon, and it is, with the exception of one. My least favorite, wine#7 was to my surprise a Malbec. Usually Malbec has much more vibrant concentrated ripe fruit with some sexy oak thrown on top for good measure. Not this one!
Here’s the answer key to flight #2:
Wine #5- 2008 Mollydooker Maitre’d Cabernet Sauv, S Australia ($24)
Wine #6- 2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, SE Australia ($11)
Wine #7- 2008 Layer Cake Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($14)
Wine #8- 2007 Penfolds Thomas Hyland Cabernet Sauv, S Australia ($16)