All very good questions, folks. I should have pointed out the fact that the bottle was not tainted. However, from your responses, it seems that none of you has had the opportunity to taste this wine yet.
I found the wine to be dark and lush smelling. However, upon tasting, it came across as being a dark fruit bomb with an unsatisfying finish. To me it felt overripe and over extracted. The other wines showed greater elegance and balance, although one of them was more tannic. I later recorded the fact that its alcohol level is pretty high at 14.9% ABV.
Although we specified Cabernet Franc as the varietal for the evening, we left choice of origin open. Here's the list of wines in the blind tasting, in order of finish:
2002 Chandler Reach Parris Estate Reserve Cabernet Franc ($38 )
2004 Owen Roe Rosa Mystica Yakima Valley Cabernet Franc ($36)
2001 Peju Province Napa Cabernet Franc ($40)
2005 Catherine & Pierre Breton Bourgueil Trinch (Loire, $16)
2004 Barrister Columbia Valley Cabernet Franc ($25)
I don't believe the bottle of Barrister was a one-off problem. Rather, I think that professional reviewer liked his/her Cabernet Franc to be made to taste like a big, heady Syrah. I don't think Cab Franc should be made that way, and ended up casting my first place vote in this blind tasting for the French wine. Note, I did not bring that French wine, and tasted it for the first time during this blind tasting.
Not surprisingly, we saw very bi-polar voting on the Breton Trinch. Three of us gave it first place votes, and everyone else voted it fourth or fifth. This almost surely reflects stylistic preferences that differentiate Old World vs New World winemaking. However, in analyzing the votes, I noticed that those folks, who voted the French wine in last place, also voted the Barrister at the bottom of the New World selections.
I'm thinking that the 2004 Barrister could be an off year in terms of absolute quality, and the reviewers are simply being a bit too generous to a winery with an otherwise wonderful record.
Please do not misconstrue my intent here. I don't have anything against Barrister wines; this was the first time I even tasted one of their offerings. I was just curious about the obvious mismatch in my expectations, and the clear results from our group tasting vs the published professional review. Then again, that's why we do blind tastings.
One final note, sitting to my left that evening was a local barrister. She placed the French wine last (fifth), and the Barrister fourth (i.e. at the bottom of the New World wines). See, it wasn't just an anti-lawyer thing.