Our monthly blind tasting group met recently in the magnificent Hope Ranch ocean/ mountain view home of one of our members to blind taste CA Chardonnays versus white Burgundy with a vintage request for 2012 and older that was not adhered to, but what the hey.
As always, the challenge is to ID each wine at least as to whether they are CA or Burgundy and then to go on further if possible. I find it is always an educational experience and it reminds me of how much more I have to learn.
Along with a table full of delicious assorted appetizers, many of them home made, we enjoyed champagne from our gracious host:
NV FRANCK BONVILLE BLANC de BLANC BRUT AVIZE GRAND CRU- I`ve liked this bubbly over the past few years for its consistency in delivering creamy rich fruit notes aided by bright acidity; this first of 2 bottles complimented my history with it; in nice balance, it had a streak of vanilla underlying the lemon flavours, but it`s the rich creaminess that stands out.
We had 16 total wines tasted blind in 3 flights of 5,5 and 6. Each person grades and ranks each bottle using their own score sheet and then after the ranking for the flight is announced, we have a voice vote on origin and then discuss prior to unveiling each bottle.
First flight of 5:
2011 BRUNO COLIN EN REMILLY CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET 1ER CRU- light yellow straw color, nose of minerals and mild lemon, the taste also has orange peel and kiwi with a mustiness coming in late; the texture was very soft snd luscious and it had good acidity; all in all, this had to be French and a wine I want in my cellar; lo and behold, it was and I do; m #1 in the flight as well as the group`s.
2012 TYLER SANFORD & BENEDICT SANTA RITA HILLS CHARDONNAY- after I got what for me is typical characteristics of many wines from Chablis and almost stated it as being such, I mentioned just in the last few weeks I had a similar experience and it turned out to be a 2011 TYLER ZOTOVICH VINEYARD SANTA RITA HILLS CHARDONNAY; I kept my mouth shut, wrote down Chablis and once again was fooled by the same local producer; this wine had steely, mineral aromatics, but a hint of oak spice [clue]; the taste profile was of nice crisp mineral infused citrus; it had bright acidity and a medium weight/ body; very fine wine; Justin Willett [Tyler owner/ winemaker] rocks.
2014 WHITCRAFT WINERY PENCE RANCH VINEYARD SANTA BARBARA COUNTY CHARDONNAY- missed the ID on this one and it comes from the son of a now deceased dear friend, Chris Whitcraft; the nose had some musty, dusty character followed by a taste of musty citrus, honeysuckle served up in a lush, viscous texture; as far as the varietal is concerned, this had a different profile than either the stainless steel or oak bomb types, being somewhere in the middle OR FAR OUT.
2013 ORIN SWIFT MANNEQUIN CHARDONNAY- 76% Chardonnay, 8% Viognier, 6% Marsanne, 5% Grenache Blanc, 3% Muscat and 2% Roussanne; from an assortment of vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties, this Dave Phinney concoction was almost pure fruit denoting to me stainless fermenting and aged, but then the wine showed more ageing in barrel characteristics with some ML; honeyed citrus and pineapple notes with a touch of minerals and saline were prominent; it had some weight to it and all in all was very tasty and so different which might be explained by the blending fruit.
2012 NEWTON UNFILTERED NAPA CHARDONNAY- extremely rich and powerful, this had a touch of toast in the nose and a sense of oil; the taste was more of honeyed, dried, burnt toast peach and apricot with some flint coming in late; I did not know what to make of it as to CA or FR and called it CA; 15.5% abv.
Second Flight of 5:
2011 ETIENNE SAUZET BLANC- light yellow color; the first nose had some mineral component and the taste had lemon tart and green apple notes with a dusting of minerality and a honey overtone; toward the finish, some heat came in and kind of interfered with all of the good traits; most got this as FR.
2014 MAYACAMAS VINEYEARDS MT. VEEDER NAPA CHARDONNAY.- light yellow color; lemon first, then apple and pear come in, but the nose and taste profile is somewhat muted; overall, it seemed closed down and not yet ready to reveal its best qualities; as with the last wine, some heat came in late, but this time it dissipated and allowed for a decent finish; needs time.
2008 DOMAINE WILLIAM FEVRE CHABLIS GRAND CRU- medium yellow; honey and toast dominate the nose followed by delicious lemon zest with a little must served up in a creamy texture; very taste sensory pleasing; I wanted to call this CA, but kept going for FR= lucky guess.
2010 KOSTA BROWNE ONE SIXTEEN VINEYARD RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY CHARDONNAY- light yellow color; toast and flint in the nose joined by honeysuckle, apple and pear fruit in the taste; good feel, but it seems to close up by mid palate and the fruit dries out; most had it as CA and last in the flight as I did.
2011 FORMAN VINEYARDS NAPA CHARDONNAY- from Star Vineyard, this pleased above and beyond; it had a medium body and creamy texture which carried lemon zest notes and a touch of flint to the back end; it had nice balance and welcomed length; I had it #1 in the flight as did some others.
Third Blind Flight of 6: [great wines]
2008 AU BON CLIMAT SIERRA MADRE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY- inviting nose of toasted apples joined by some mint and spicy pear and stone fruit especially peach notes; bright acidity, medium body and nice long finish with all of the treasures in a climax; for me, this hit all the right spots and was my fav in the flight and one of the best on the evening. I believe the group concurred. I thought it was the ABC I brought; not so.
2009 DOMAINE WILLIAM FEVRE BOUGROS CHABLIS GRAND CRU- with bracing acidity, this had a huge of amount of minerals and flint notes from the nose thru the tail; it had really good mouthfeel to support the fine citrus, apple, melon and pear fruit; loved this and nailed it as a Chablis; tied for my #2 and the group`s #2 in the flight.
2010 AU BON CLIMAT NUITS XXX ANNIVERSARY BLANCHES au BOUGE SANTA MARIA VALLEY CHARDONNAY- 44% from Le Bon Vineyard, 56% from Bien Nacido K Block Vineyard; I`ve had a fair amount of this wine and thought I would recognize it, but wrongly called the 08` ABC as it; nonetheless, this shined as expected giving toasted almonds, spicy citrus, pear, white peach and honeysuckle; layers and layers kept unfolding as it had serious depth; great feel and long finish make this a winner; tied for #2 in the flight.
2007 ARCADIAN SLEEPY HOLLOW VINEYARDS SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS CHARDONNAY- medium yellow gold color; this picked up with time and showed quite well; the nose was redolent with spicy creamy rich stone fruit, pineapple and passion fruit; nicely balanced, honeyed and thick almost as much as honey; this wine makes a statement, almost too much so. I got this as CA as did most others.
2009 LOUIS JADOT CORTON CHARLEMAGNE GRAND CRU- first hit on the nose and it was clearly oxidized; I tried to move on past it, but it got worse.
2010 ARCADIAN CLOS PEPE VINEYARD SANTA RITA HILLS CHARDONNAY- oaky, buttery notes in the nose overwhelmed any other aromas, but the taste evened out a bit with honeyed lemon oil, flower essences and white peaches intertwining; it was viscous and oily like and therefore easy on the palate which enhanced the finish; good wine; has to be CA; most got this #3 as I did.
How many times have I missed identifying the wine I take to a tasting? Tasting blind is so educational and informative. My sensory perceptions are being refined every time I do a blind format and I remained humbled.
Please excuse typos and unintended auto-corrects