Michael was in a playful mood; he brown bagged a bottle of red wine, popped the cork and told me to ‘have at it’. Ohhhh! I am out of practice. During the Goldie’s by the Bridge years, I would taste blind as a rule. I didn’t want to be prejudiced by winery reputation, ‘reviews’, labels or price tag. I’m easily influenced.
Blind tasting is a great way to learn about wine, and about your palate. When assessing to purchase for a wine list, you must consider balance, weight and end. When guessing what’s in the bottle, it’s more a matter of elimination; most of the time.
The usual process is:
- Is it a new world or old world wine?
- What are some varietal characteristics that stand out?
- Zero in on the weight of the wine.
- Determine color/fruit/acid and tannins in the wine.
Sometimes, the wine changes in the glass quicker than you can come to a conclusion. Here was my thought process over the course of 10 minutes with Michael’s selection:
First sniff, Bordeaux or Rioja (slight maderization, pencil shavings, liquored cherry)
Then my mind raced to mature California Cabernet
But no, I’m sticking with old world because of good acidity
Then I ruled out Rioja and Garnacha
I reasoned, not Pinot or Gamay
…Not Cab Franc
It’s Italian: maybe Nebbiolo
Not earthy enough to be Austrian or Hungarian
Then I arrived at a 4- year old Italian or Spanish wine
Wait, it’s cool climate!
It’s gotta be a Cabernet and Nebbiolo blend
No, 14% Alcohol
I’d guess $40 retail but it’s probably $60
Nose is Syrah-like now, except no funk…
Cabernet is coming out
My final answer: Cabernet Sauvignon or Nebbiolo, or a ‘sterile’ Syrah- like Guigal.
And it was unveiled…..
Peter Michael Winery, 2001 l’Esprit des Pavots , Knight’s Valley, California, Mostly Cabernet, 15.6% alc, $70.