Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pinot Large Group Blind Tasting

We invited some friends over to do a blind tasting. Everyone was to bring a bottle and a decanter. The group established the parameters via 50 emails (not kidding): We would only taste Pinots that cost at least $20, and no one could bring a group favorite (Burrell School was out). I told everyone we would do something simple for dinner.

As the guests arrived, I helped them to open and bag their contributions. I then hid the wine away in the living room, trying to minimize any information about the wines. When everyone had arrived, my oldest daughter, Kaitlynn, randomly lettered the bagged wines. Almost everyone brought two wines, making nine in total to taste.

The wines bagged and randomly lettered
Kaitlynn and Sue then combined the wines with random decanters Everyone else waited impatiently outside enjoying good conversation, cheese & crackers, caprese sticks (tomatoes, mozzarella, and prosciutto on a toothpick), and some plain prosciutto for the meatetarian.

The wines poured into random decanters
One by one we tasted the wines, writing down notes and ratings. After everyone had a chance to form opinions, we discussed the wine. By the third wine I knew I was in trouble; it was hard to discern the subtleties among the many Pinots. Others had less of a problem, putting my tasting sheet to shame, but that didn't stop me from enjoying some wonderful Pinots.

Jose was a good sport to join us, given his disregard for Pinot and love of Zin. He was given a good amount of grief for bringing a $10 wine at the previous blind tasting. All the while he unfavorably compared the wines to Burrell School's PTA Pinot. He reminded me of an old Mike Myer's SNL skit. If it's not PTA, it's crap!

As we tasted, the less desirables created a grand concoction in our dump buckets, also known as Sue's flower vases. The group joked that whomever would drink it would get $100. Thank goodness, no one attempted the gross task.

I enjoy a taste in my classy wine tasting shirt
We were lucky to have Paul and Jennifer join us
Jose enjoying the evening
After we tasted them all, we all read our scores and tasting notes. Ted did the math. We revealed one by one from worst to best.


Right to left, best to worst
Here's best to worst:
  1. 2008 Windy Oaks Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains
  2. 4.0 Average

    • $30.99 at Whole Foods, $27.90 if you buy 6 wines
    • Ted & Shannon brought this
  3. 2007 Kings Mountain Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
  4. 3.89 Average

    • $42 directly from King's Mountain Vineyard
    • Double Gold - Best of Micro Wineries - 98 points, 2011 California State Fair Wine Competition
    • Bob & CJ brought this because of its showing in the California State Fair Wine Competition
  5. 2007 Molnar Family, Poseidon's Vineyard
  6. 3.56 Average

    • $25.99 from K&L Wine
    • Jose brought this
  7. 2008 Dehlinger, Goldridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Estate Bottled
  8. 2.78 Average

    • $50 - Ted's estimate
    • Ted & Shannon brought this
  9. 2008 Varner, Santa Cruz Mountains, Spring Ridge Vineyard, Three Blocks
  10. 2.67 Average

    • $36.99 from K&L Wine
    • Sue & I brought this because it was the only 90 - 100 rated Pinot from Santa Cruz Mountains that K&L had
  11. 2007 Bargetto, Santa Cruz Mountains, Regan Vineyards Reserve
  12. 2.17 Average

    • Best-Pinot Noir-in-California, Best-of-Class in the Greater Bay Appellations, a Double Gold Medal and 98 points, 2010 California State Fair Wine Competition
    • $50 directly from Bargetto
    • Sue & I brought this because of its showing in the California State Fair Wine Competition
  13. 2006 Kings Mountain Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains
  14. 2.17 Average

    • $39 directly from King's Mountain Vineyard
    • Bob & CJ brought this to compare it to the double gold vintage
  15. 2008 Elk Cove Vineyards, Willamette Valley
  16. 2.06 Average

    • $25
    • Paul & Jennifer brought this. 2008 is a supposed to be a good vintage for Oregon wines.
  17. 2009 A to Z, Oregon
  18. 1.72 Average

    • $20 directly from A to Z
    • Paul & Jennifer brought this
Paul & Jennifer's choices both came in last, much to Paul's dismay. He vowed to do better at the next event. As a side note: If we were giving away prizes for best decanter, they would have won.


After revealing all the winners and retrying our favorites, we ate. We enjoyed beef bourguignon, chili, corn bread, and mashed potatoes. This was my wonderful wife's idea of something "simple." I enjoyed 3 helpings of chili. Yumm! She followed this up with warm chocolate chip cookies. A sweet ending to a wonderful night.


Ted put all the data together and made a nice graph.

Ted's impressive graph
Ted discovered some of the bottles cheaper than $20 online, presupposing that Paul had broken the pricing rules. We joked that we would have to carefully consider his involvement in the next event.