It took longer than expected for us to publish the results of our epic blind tasting on May 24th. First of all, we had to recover. Whooeeee! What an event! Tickets sold out, the shop was packed, all in attendance were excited and fully engaged. Regulars, friends and staff mingled with many first-time visitors from all over the city. It seemed to me that nearly everyone in the room approached me at some point, just to tell me what an amazing event it was, while it was still happening. It was talked about for days after, and we're still talking about it now.
To recap: we blind-tasted twelve wines from California and France. We all took our best guesses as to where the wines were from. We chose our favorites and cast ballots in three categories: Chardonnay, Pinot, and Cab/Bordeaux. Meanwhile, a team of wine professionals from some of New Orleans' best restaurants were hard at work, sniffing and tasting right along with us. They made notes, and cast their own votes, as well.
In the end, it must be said that France swept. Still, in this most European of American cities, Cali put up a heck of a fight. You've waited a week, so, without further ado- here are the results!
All of the wines are available for purchase in the shop, or pre-arranged home delivery. Faubourg prices are shown below.
#1 - Bachelet-Monnot Bourgogne Blanc 2013, $31.99/btl: This wine, a personal favorite of mine, didn't take home any medals. However, there is something to be said about the disadvantage of being the very first wine in a long tasting. I placed it there intentionally, because I felt it was strong enough. Most of the judges mentioned Chablis-like qualities. This wine was praised by judges for well-integrated oak, intriguing complexity, and chalky minerality.
#2 – Liquid Farm, Sta. Rita Hills, White Hill Chardonnay 2014, $44.99/btl: This wine earned first place honors from our customers. Meanwhile, our judges described it as balanced with good minerality, with fruit tones of apple and grilled pineapple, and a little cinnamon spice. Most judges recognized it as a California wine, but acknowledged its Burgundian style.
#3 – Duplessis, Chablis 1er Cru, Montée de Tonnerre 2013, $46.50/btl: This wine earned first place from our judges and second place in our customer vote. As a Chablis fanatic, this made me very happy. Judges really loved on this wine, using general terms like, “delicious,” and adding lots of stars and whirligigs- but many had a hard time describing it. (At times, great wines can leave you speechless.) Some descriptors from those judges who were able to muster up adjectives were, “Citrus/blooming flower/ saffron/lemon zest/chalk/lemon curd/good complexity & minerality.” (...Swoon.)
#4 – Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2012, $47.99/btl: We chose this wine not just because of its quality and typicity, but also for its context. Many may not realize that Miljenko “Mike” Grgich, winemaker of the '73 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that bested Burgundy in that infamous Paris tasting of 1976, is still a master of his craft at Grgich Hills, at age 93. Amazingly, forty years after the infamous Paris event, at our humble New Orleans wine shop, our judges still fell hard for Mike's wine. It ranked second place in our official judgment. Many guessed it was from Burgundy, calling it, “Full-bodied and beautifully balanced,” with “red apple, toast, lemony citrus, bright acidity and good complexity.” The lone judge who guessed it to be Californian called it, “more modern.”
#5 – Daniel Rion, Cotes de Nuits-Villages, “Le Vaugrain,” 2008, $26.99/btl: No medals for this beauty, described by one of our judges as having “tart red fruits of cranberry, unripe raspberry, dried potting soil and tea leaves.” The cranberry quality was noted by three of our judges, while oddly, a few of them noted its similarities to Oregon pinots.
#6 – Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2015, $26.99/btl: No accolades for my favorite classic California guy, Jim Clendenin. Most judges pegged this wine as New World, one even nailing it spot-on as Santa Barbara fruit. Judges described “fruit-driven tannins,” “cherry/honey/white flowers,” “ripe strawberry/vanilla/cherry/sweet fruit.” One judge described it as new world on the nose, old world on the palate. Everyone agreed it was enjoyably tasty.
#7 – Sandhi, Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2013, $39.99: New Cali superstar Raj Parr earns second place from our judges and second place from our customers for this gorgeous Pinot, described by our judges as having “great, bright, ripe fruit,” and “candied cherry cola” qualities. A nostalgic judge mentioned memories of cinnamon bears. Another described it as “electric,” with “quartz, cherry and bitter chocolate.” Most nailed is as a Cali wine, but one suspected it may be a Cote de Beaune.
#8 – Domaine Pavelot, Savigny-Les-Beaune 2013, $39.99: The big winner of the evening, this wine earned first place from our judges and first place from our customers in the Pinot category. I must agree that it was showing perfectly that day, and I probably would have voted for it myself. One described “blood & stone,” while others swooned over the fruit, describing “cherries and strawberries.” More critical judges described it as young and closed, “not yet showing,” with accurate guesses as to its youth.
#9 – Matthiasson, Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, $59.99: New California pioneer Steve Matthiasson takes the honor of second place in the ranking of our esteemed judges in the Cabernet vs. Bordeaux category. His Cab stood out as 'new world' to all our judges, but “not over the top,” as one judge put it. Eucalyptus, big red fruit, sunshine fruit, firm tannins, blackberry/plum, and mint were some descriptors.
#10 – Chateau Haut-Beauséjour, Saint-Estephe 2012, $39.99: This wine didn't win in any categories, but one judge chose it as a favorite, describing it as “bold, expressive, ruggedly sexy with earthy, beautiful fruit, firm tannins, wet tobacco.” Another judge described “cooked berries, chocolate cherries, baking spices and red licorice.”
#11 – Ségla Margaux 2008, $63.50: We admit that it may not have been fair to toss in a second growth Margaux... but we did it anyway, just to see what would happen. Guess what? It won. First place from the judges, first place from the customers. Judges noted dark fruit, mocha/chocolate, and some pleasantly earthy mushroom.
#12 – Heitz Cellars Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $54.99: California classic Heitz takes second place in our customer vote for the Cabernet/Bordeaux category. Our judges' handwriting became a bit sloppy at this point, understandably, but we were able to decipher a few notes: “Just and balanced,” “Reminds me of Sonoma,” “French-Good,” and my favorite, “Delicious. Not oaky, and with lots of fruit, but acid and freshness! Yeah, boi! Thinking new Cali Cab blend picked when it should be. Straight up tasty!” … And, how.
Huge thanks to our panel of judges: Joe Billesbach of Brennan's, Joe Briand of Herbsaint, Jenni Lynch of Mondo, John Mitchell of Marcello's, Laurie Casebonne of Mariza, and James Denio of Boucherie. Thanks to our many enthusiastic customers who signed up for the ride! Thanks also to our friends at Uncorked, Vino Wholesale, Purveyors of Fine Wines, Artisan Fine Wines, and Wines Unlimited for supplying the extra hands, supplies and expertise that made the whole shabang possible.
Love you, lovely people! Hope to see you in the shop soon.
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