Massive Tasting: Part 1 30 and 4
Occasionally, in my line of business, an opportunity presents itself to taste a bunch of wines. Industry Distributers really want to move a lot of product, and to facilitate this they employ representatives to hold tastings for retail professionals. Often these tastings are limited and private affairs, put on by solitary reps in the back rooms of wine stores the world over. However on occasion, larger Distributers will have a mass tasting, specifically for their larger volume clients. I happen to work for such a retailer (Which will remain unnamed) and as a Wine Enthusiast am given priority attendance to them and boy are they important. I’d say that I have sold $100,000 worth of product, bottle-by-bottle, based entirely on wines I had at such tastings. While my palate is not the most refined, I can say with great certainty that my selections have a less than .1% return rate. Which is funny because the rate of corked bottles in the industry at large probably exceeds this.
Despite what you may think, these tastings are not all fun and games (except for sincere masochists like myself). A serious focus is necessary as one’s palate and inherent desire to taste wine can be fried and shaken by such overwhelming abundance. Actually to be honest I enjoy the challenge of getting as many wines under my belt as possible, it expands my knowledge of varietal as well as regional character.
Many people scoff at the image of a snooty Somm, taking tender sips of a wine, then spitting it into a gilded bucket. The reactions to this range from incomprehension to disgust, but I can assure you it is definitely necessary.
Even when spitting wine, some is absorbed through the soft tissues in the mouth, and can lead to a mild tipsy intoxication. If swallowed, however, every wine mentioned below would account for 1.5-2 ounces each. Mathematically that adds up to around 2 bottles consumed within one hour. Not only would I be hammered halfway through, but more than likely also fired, so I spit.
Keeping focused in a room full of talkative wine people is not easy, less so when clamoring for limited cheese and the well stocked wine tables. Representatives love talking about their wines and can grow long winded with respect to our one-hour tasting time-limit.
Without further stalling for time, the Wines, and a simple synopsis of flavors and point scores. I apologize for omitting vintage, please presume the vintages available at the time of this post’s publication.
Louis M. Martini Sonoma Cabernet:
Redfruited, hint of oak toast, structured, tannic 88pts.
Louis M. Martini Napa Cab:
Riper fruit than Sonoma, Lush, similar level of structure, Balanced. Outstanding 90
Dry Creek Sonoma Cab:
Ripe Red and Black Fruit, integrated structure, Balanced Palate, Great 89
Frei Brothers Alexander Valley Cab:
Some fruit, cinnamon, green pepper, drying tannins, last year was better 88
Catena Malbec Mendoza:
Floral, Blackberry, clean midpalate, integrated finish, Simple 88
Merryvale Starmont Cab:
Sour Cherry, Raspberry, very dry, tannic 87
Simple Floral, Clean midpalate, missing structure, crowd pleaser 87
Very fruity, red and black berry fruit, raisiny finish, no backbone 86
Clos Pegase Merlot:
Very approachable, clean fruit, fresh plum, hint of cocoa 88
La Merika Pinot Noir:
Hot nose, strawberry and raspberry on the palate, whisper of acid 88
Lunatic Red Blend:
Very ripe flavors, fresh or candied raspberry, hint of tannic structure nice 88
Beringer Merlot Reserve:
Rounded Plum, some black cherry, very ripe, minus finish good 89
Stone fruit, hints of tropical, almost off-dry lovely 89
BV Rutherford Cab:
Hot Red Currant, great length, nice acidity, some oaky tannins 89
Beringer Knights Valley Meritage:
Great extraction, clean berry and currant notes, up front, tannic 89
Starborough Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand:
Tropical pineapple, Lime, very crisp zing, possible mineral hint in finish 90
Ghost Pines Chardonnay:
Oaky citrus, lemon, lime. Actually some wood tannins on this one 86
J Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay:
Vanilla nose, creamy ripe peach attack, simple delightful 88
Mac Murray Pinot Noir:
Odd Malic Pear flavor, some berry notes, hint of green vegetal finish 87
Chateau St. Jean Fume Blanc: (quick note Fume in the U.S. is barrel aged Sauv)
Citrus up front, Lime, creamy midpalate into stony peach finish Nice 88
Condes de Alberai Albarino:
White Peach, apricot, light lime acidity, very rounded Great 89
Ben Marco Malbec:
Brilliant black fruit, balanced acidity, medium length finish Great 90
Floral, Peach, not cloying sweetness, just right 86
Merryvale Starmont Chardonnay:
Oaky, green apple, non existent acidity flabby 87
La Marca Prosecco:
Medium Mousse, very pronounced Apple, clean floral mid, perfect for cocktails 86
Mumm Napa Brut Prestige:
Finer Mousse, toasty almond, very old world, good grip, dry finish 89
Brancott Sauvignon Blanc NZ:
Powerful lemon/lime citrus, goosey, grapefruit, short finish 87
Tapiz Tradicional Blend: (mostly replacing their Merlot)
Hot black fruit, cedar, short finish, some acidity, uncomplicated 87
Graffigna Malbec Reserve:
Ripe Blackberry, cinnamon spice, a touch of acidity, very balanced 89-90
Coppola Diamond Claret:
Black Currant, structured, medium bodied, oak and fruit is balanced 88
I also had Harthill Farm Cabernet with dinner at Casa Joel and it showed remarkable varietal characteristics for a $5 wine. Not bad for the price.
30+ wines over a 4 hour period is daunting but doable. Make sure to cleanse the palate with a nice mild cheese and some crackers, keep your nose in the glass, and take notes.