Frugal Feast Blind Tasting Results

Post date: Apr 19, 2010 9:17:51 PM

You can't fool the ABNN. Our blind wine tasting last night, in theory, should have sorely tested our ability to identify wines just by taste. Not this group. They did an extraordinary job of identifying flavors in the wine and matching them to the typical grape type. Andy, Nate, David, Dave, Kathy and Viki were particularly astute tasters naming not only the grape type, but also the region.

Our hosts for the evening, Viki and Andy Carter were the consummate hosts providing us with a gracious surrounding and the most gentile, welcoming environment. The environs at Amerscot House were a perfect compliment to the evening. Thank you for opening your B&B to us for the evening.

We blind tasted over 15 different wines. The favorites of the evening included:

Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2008 $6 New Hampshire Liquor Stores

Hess Chronos Chardonnay 2008 Napa Valley $14 West Concord Liquors

Frontera Malbec 2009 Mendoza $8 1.5 liter ~ $4 per bottle West Concord Liquors

Anderson's Conn Valley 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 94 pts. $40 West Concord Liquors

Natura Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley 2008 Chile 87 Pts. Wine Spectator. Great fruit and a pleasing crisp finish, this Chilean look-a-like to more expensive New Zealand wines is an organically grown wine. I appreciate this wine for its perfume of grapefruit and grassy notes. This wine is on sale through the end of April for $5.94 a bottle at the New Hampshire Liquor stores.

Clos Fussay Reuilly/Sancerre 2008 France 88 pts. Sancerre wines tend to be more crisp than overtly fruity. You get a more balanced, less spritely wine that has sage, lime and grapefruit flavors. This is a more subtle wine. As more than one of our guests said, this is a wine that can be savored on a warm summer's evening. I picked up this beauty at Marty's in West Newton for $17 – roughly half the price of other Sancerre.

Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc 2008 Sonoma This wine stood in no man's land. It didn't have the crisp and fruity flavors of the Natura or the remarkable balance and subtle tones of the Clos Fussay. I typically like Ferrari Carano's wines but it paled by comparison. This wine is widely available at $14-$18.

The Riesling flight had two wines that were remarkably different in style and it showed in our friend's preferences. Riesling isn't for everyone. It is particularly aromatic – but not in a good way for some. One of the characteristics of really well made Riesling is that it has a bit of petroleum (Bardosol as David called it) in the nose.

Waterbrook Riesling 2007 Columbia Valley WA 87 pts. Robert Parker This is a medium dry Riesling which is to say, you will taste a hint of residual sugar in the wine. Fortunately, it has enough crispness and acidity in the finish to balance it. Waterbrook has always focused on over delivering taste for your dollar. If you like this style of wine, then Waterbrook is a great value at $12-16.

St. Hallett Riesling 2008 Edna Valley Australia 87 pts. This wine is very typical of Australian Riesling. It tends more to the crisp side of the spectrum with less pronounced aromatics. It is dry, so if you like your Riesling with a hint of sweetness this isn't for you. Viki Carter mentioned that Riesling's are all the rage in Australia, so it is great to find one of the top producers available in our neighborhood. Chris Saia at West Concord Liquors suggested this beauty and at around $17 it really delivers.

Chardonnay – Oak or No Oak? People always have a firm stance on this. I offered three wines that showed the differences in style and was surprised by the results.

Bodegas Catena Zapata Chardonnay 2007 Mendoza Argentia 91 pts. Robert Parker. This is a classically styled chardonnay from the new world. “The 2008 Chardonnay was fermented with native yeasts and aged for 9 months sur lies in 35% new French oak. It is light gold-colored with an alluring nose of mineral, baking spices, apple, pear, and tropical scents. This leads to a creamy textured, vibrant, complex, medium-bodied Chardonnay with outstanding balance and length. It will drink well for another 4 years. “ This is an exceptional value at $18.

Chronos Chardonnay 2008 Napa Valley This wine was produced by the Hess Collection as a new expression of Napa Valley Chardonnay. It still has that butterscotch note that you expect from Napa, but isn't' over oaked. This wine has lush tropical fruit with white peaches, Bartlett pears, orange blossom, honeysuckle flavors and exudes elegance. It is a great aperitif and will pair nicely with fish, seafood and chicken. So how do you get a true Napa Valley Chardonnay from one of the premier producers for $13.59 per bottle? The back story is this. Hess didn't want to lower the price on their premier label so they created a “secondary label” to move all the wine that wasn't selling at $35. Got it? This wine is available at West Concord Liquors for $13.59!

Sterling Vineyards Chardonnay 2007 Napa Valley As I was trolling the bins at West Concord looking for values I spied this $23 chardonnay on sale for only $14. Is this another casualty to the glut of exceptional California Chards? What is a distributor to do when no one is willing to pay $35 for Napa Chardonnay? They make it available to us at ridiculous prices. Now is the time to start bargain hunting for these wines. This is a traditional, heavily oaked Chardonnay with everything you liked in the old school version. This was an absolute steal at West Concord Liquors for less than $15.

The two flights of Red Wines had very interesting results. The first up were the Malbecs. I began with the premise that it there is a quality compression within Malbecs. Have you ever had a bad one? Have you ever had one that was over the top fantastic? The Argentinians seem to have perfected the ability to craft exceptional value wines.

Frontera Malbec 2009 Mendoza This wine was without a doubt the best value wine of the evening. A 1.5 liter bottle sells for around $8 – $4 for a 750 ml bottle! There are two problems with this wine. If you heft this bad boy to the table any given Tuesday evening it might as well be a neon sign “Please Help Me. I need to be in rehab.” The second problem is that we associate really low grade plonk with the big bottles. Not so. To solve both of these problems I decanted the wine about an hour before we tasted it. It was fantastic. The decanting really brought out the cassis, plum and dark berry fruit in the wine. This is available for $7.99 at West Concord Liquors – the equivalent of $4 a bottle.

Alamos Malbec 2009 Mendoza This is another in a long line of high value Malbec from Argentina. I really don't understand how they can pack that much flavor into an $12 bottle of wine. Peg and I found this at the New Hampshire Liquor store marked down to only $8. I expected electronic sensors to go off as we left the store to notify management that someone had charged us too little. New Hampshire Liquor Commission $8.

Clos de los Siete 2007 Mendoza 91 pts. Robert Parker. This wine is made by Michel Rolland. To test my hypothesis about the quality compression, we tasted the other two wines against this beauty. To be sure, it was more full body with a richer compliment of flavors. “Dark ruby-colored, it offers up a fragrant bouquet of mineral, violet, black cherry, and black currants. This leads to a medium- to full-bodied wine with both elegance and stuffing. Ripe, intensely flavored, and well-balanced, it will evolve for 1-2 years but can be enjoyed now and over the next 6 years. “ This is a blend of Malbec 48% Merlot 28%, Cabernet 12% and Syrah 12%. This wine had a lot more tannin than the other two Malbec wines, so I ran it through the Vintori to give it a bit of instant aging. Yes, it was better, but was it really 4x better? West Concord Liquors $18.

I'm a cabernet sauvignon fan and love it in just about all of its styles. We tried three different styles of the wine from Chile, France and Napa Valley.

Root 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 Colchagua Valley Chile. 90 – 91 pts. This wine is one of the very few that is from the original root stock – hence the name Root 1. Most of the original cabernet root stock has been wiped out by phyloxera and various mites. This decimated the French wine industry in the mid-19th century. The Chilean vines weren't exposed to the disease and have continued to prosper without being grafted onto hardy American root stock. This cabernet is much more fruit forward than its California or French cousin. You really pick up the black currant, and dark cherry in this wine. For around $12 a bottle, this is a show stopper. West Concord Liquors $12

Roland La Garde Cotes de Blayes 2005 87 – 89 pts. Robert Parker “I can’t say enough about this 13.1-acre site. The vineyard, which includes sand, clay, and limestone soils, is situated near the well-known garagiste estate of Valandraud and another up-and-coming St.-Emilion, La Fleur Cardinale. A blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Cabernet Franc, it enjoys such Burgundian winemaking techniques as malolactic in barrel, aging on its lees, and no filtration at bottling. The owner, Eric Prissette, a famous but now retired French rugby player, keeps yields low (only 24 hectoliters per hectare in 2003), and employs the fashionable new winemaking guru, Stephane Derenoncourt.” 2005 was an exceptional vintage and this winemaker continues to improve. I was surprised to find any 05 Bordeaux wine left. If you have friends or clients that prefer a Bordeaux claret to a California Cab I recommend this wine. It has all of the classic characteristics and is affordable! This is on sale at West Concord Liquors for $13.59 a bottle.

Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 94 Pts. Robert Parker I love a bargain and when I found this wine that normally retails for upwards of $100 a bottle, I decided to splurge. Anderson's Conn Valley has quite a track record of 93+ pts wines. It is easy to be impressed by a $12 bottle that over delivers for the price. But when you compare it to a truly remarkable wine, how does it fare? Here is what Bob Parker says about the wine:

The unfined, unfiltered 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve spends two years in French oak and another year in the bottle before being released. This cuvee has a long track record of aging (the 1990 and 1991 are still going strong). The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2006 offers notes of new saddle leather, black currants, autumnal vegetation/forest floor, cassis, and cherries, superb richness, and a full-bodied, powerful finish. Cellar it for 5-6 years, and drink it over the following 25 years.

Todd Anderson and his winemaker, Mac Sawyer, are on top of their game at this backwater winery tucked away in Conn Valley, a few miles east of the Meadowood Resort. Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyards became famous because of their long-lived, impressive 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from their estate vineyards in Conn Valley. They have added two brilliant proprietary reds, the Right Bank (usually dominated by Merlot with the balance Cabernet Franc), and the Eloge, a wine that is based on a French Medoc with two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. Conn Valley’s wine possesses a distinctive singularity as there is not another wine in Napa that is reminiscent of them

This wine is fairly priced at $100 a bottle, but it goes to the head of the table for the Frugal Feast when you can find it for only $40 at West Concord Liquors. I checked this morning they still have the wine in stock.