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ClarkDGigHbr

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WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by ClarkDGigHbr » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:06 am

Our tasting group met in January for an evening of Domestic (U.S.) Sparkling Wines. For the first time since we started these tastings 5 1/2 years ago, we had a duplicate wine, which we swapped for a bottle in my VinoTemp.

Warm-up Wine (Not from the U.S.)
    2001 Saint-Hilaire Blanc de Blancs Blanquette de Limoux ($12): Another good value non-Champagne sparkling wine from the Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France.

Tasting Wines & retail value (in order of most preferred)
Of the 14 attendees, 12 tasters completed their rating sheets. There were eight bottles in the blind tasting; most were in the very good to excellent quality range. Five bottles were from California, plus one each from Washington, Oregon and (surprise) New Mexico. There was a clear first place choice, and four wines were separated from one another by only 1 point. The last place wine suffered from flawed winemaking and was easily the least preferred; it was that substitute wine from Clark's VinoTemp.

    1999 Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut ($32 on sale; $45 regular): 31 points (5 first, 2 second, 0 last) This is a consistently excellent sparkling wine, and it proved this again by being the clear winner of the evening. It had a wonderfully complex taste with excellent body and long finish. (Wine Enthusiast: 90 pts; Wine & Spirits: 92 pts)
    NV Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs ($20): 39 points (2 first, 1 second, 0 last) This wine also showed very good complexity, with a tiny bit of smoke on the aftertaste. It did not have much of the light pink hue that often comes with this style of sparkling wine. (Wine Spectator: 90 pts in 2004)
    NV Gruet Winery Brut ($15): 44 points (1 first, 3 second, 1 last) This sparkler from New Mexico was the sleeper wine of the evening. It was lighter bodied than the others, with nice crisp fruit. At $15, it is a good buy; some places on the web are selling it for $10 or less. WOW.
    2000 Argyle Brut ($21): 58 points (1 first, 1 second, 1 last) This is another example of Argyle's consistently very good quality sparkling wine. It was crisp and fruity, with only moderate complexity. Only one point separated this from the next wine. (Wine Spectator: 90 pts)
    2001 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut ($28 ): 59 points (1 first, 1 second, 2 last) Given the reputation of this wine, this is a somewhat surprisingly low finish. This was also the duplicated bottle, but only one was served. It had very good crisp fruit, along with a moderate finish. Only one point separated this from the next wine. (Wine Spectator: 86 pts)
    1998 Domaine St. Michelle 10th Anniversay Limited Release ($26): 60 points (0 first, 3 second, 1 last) This wine was St. Michelle's first Reserve Sparkling Wine, which they now call Luxe. It had good complexity, with a touch of smokiness blended in with the fruit flavors. Only one point separated this from the next wine.
    2004 Francis Coppola Sophia Blanc de Blancs ($22): 61 points (0 first, 1 second, 1 last) This wine had somewhat understated flavors with a medium finish. With a bit of searching, I found out this wine is made primarily from Pinot Blanc with 14% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Muscat. It's quite a unique wine.
    NV Pacific Echo Brut ($19): 75 points (2 first, 0 second, 5 last) Most people were turned off by the excessive smokiness in this wine, which is made by Scharffenberer Cellars. This was the substitute wine for the duplicate bottle of Schramsberg, and its flawed winemaking was quite a disappointment. NOTE: A bottle of Pacific Echo Brut was served at another blind tasting at Clark & Eileen's home just over five years ago. That wine, which was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator, came in first place, edging out a 1993 Roederer L'Ermitage by one vote. How times (and wines) have changed.

Dessert Wine
    2004 Sylvan Ridge Early Muscat ($15): This is a fragrant, low-alcohol, very pleasant semi-sparkling wine from Oregon.


After several folks left, the hard core tasters retired to the family room to chat, sit a while, and savor a bottle of NV Vinhos Barbeito Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira, sold under the label of The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series ($44). It has a deep ruby-amber color, with a sweet-tart flavor. Despite the fact that it has 19% alcohol, it is a very smooth drinking wine.

-- Clark
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Randy Buckner

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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by Randy Buckner » Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:26 pm

I don't understand your scoring system.

I've always found the Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut to be a nice New World version.
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by Jenise » Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:38 pm

Clark,

How does your scoring system work? At first I thought the Roederer was the last place wine, then I realized it had the most first place votes, so most likely it was first even with the fewest points. That suggests you give higher points to last place than first, and second would be somewhere in the middle. But then I look at the Michy vs. the Sophia, where each had 0 first and 1 last place votes, but the Michy had 3 2nds vs. the Sophia's 1 2nd. Yet they were only separated by one point. Can't make sense out of that.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by ClarkDGigHbr » Sun Jun 04, 2006 12:56 pm

Jenise, It's like a golf score ... the top finisher has the lowest score.

Each taster rates the wines from most preferred (#1) to least preferred (# last); ties are not permitted. I then record these in a spreadsheet, which gives me the final ranking. For example, if we had 6 wines and everyone selected the same wine as first place, it would receive a total of 6 points. If everyone selected the same last place wine, it would receive 36 points.

The statistics about how many first-second-last place votes is strictly added information we give the tasters.

I hope this explains the scoring system.

-- Clark
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by Jenise » Sun Jun 04, 2006 1:09 pm

Clark, so 1 point for first, 6 points for third. What about second? (I would interpolate 3 pts, but it can't be three points or only one point wouldn't have separated the Michy and Sophia.)
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by ClarkDGigHbr » Sun Jun 04, 2006 2:53 pm

It's actually a very simple scoring scheme. Every first place vote gets 1 point, every second place vote gets 2 points, every third place vote gets 3 points, and so forth. We do not using any other point weighting scheme.

Here's are two examples from that tasting (8 wines & 12 voters):
    Roederer L'Ermitage: 5 first place votes, 2 second place votes, 2 third place votes, 1 fourth place vote, 1 fifth place vote and 1 seventh place vote. The total is 5*1 + 2*2 + 2*3 + 1*4 + 1*5 + 1*7 = 31 points. As you can see, this wine had predominantly 1st, 2nd & 3rd place votes, with a few outlying votes at the other end.

    Pacific Echo: 2 first, 2 sixth, 3 seventh and 5 eighth. The total is 2*1 + 2*6 + 3*7 + 5*8 = 75 points. This wine received predominantly 6th, 7th & 8th place votes with a couple of outlying votes at the top end (from two tasters, who enjoy oakey-smokey wines).

I posted the results that I sent out to our tasters. We always discuss total points, as well a summary of first, second and last place votes at the tasting. When I revealed (only) the number of first, second and last place votes to all of you, I think I confused things. All votes contribute to the final point count, not just the first, second and last. I have been to so many blind tastings that use this point scheme, I assumed it was very common. My apology for not fully explaining it earlier.

As I mentioned, we use a spreadsheet to calculate everything. It also ensures that no voters slipped in a tie somewhere or forgot to vote for one of the wines, etc. If anyone wants a copy of that spreadsheet, send me a private email and I'll be happy to share it with you.

-- Clark
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by Jenise » Sun Jun 04, 2006 3:52 pm

Okay, okay, now I understand. My group awards points for 1, 2 and 3, only, so I was errantly equating your 'last' with my 3rd. Now it makes sense--sorry you had to go to so much trouble to explain it.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by ClarkDGigHbr » Sun Jun 04, 2006 4:02 pm

Jenise, I've used a top-three voting scheme a couple of times before. However, it was for tastings with a larger number of wines, say 12 or more. At that point, it is very difficult (for me at least) to perform a decent 1-12 ranking. -- Clark
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by wrcstl » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:32 am

Clark,
The Gruet NV is a no brainer. Don't know how they do it but for quaffing it is my #1 wine and a great QPR.
Walt
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Re: WTN: Domestic Sparkling Wine Tasting Results

by Charles Weiss » Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:29 pm

Thanks a lot for the notes. I'm a big fan of the Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut, and like the broad lees-y style.I haven't tasted the '99 yet but the '96 still tastes young to me. Despite Randy's somewhat dismissive (forgive me if I interpret that wrong) praise as "a nice New World version" these are the most champagne-like of nonchampagne in my limited tasting opportunity, and have a depth of flavor that exceeds most champagne that isn't a special cuvee.
Also agree with the QPR and refreshment value (I guess that's me being dismissive now) of the Gruet. I like the Blanc de Noir even better.
Charles
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