Jan 2011 Blind Wine Tasting

Last night we had the first installment of my wife’s Ruby Hill Wine Club at our house. Her and a friend had been talking about it for some time, and they finally decided to put the club into action with 12 couples. The couples were chosen from families in Ruby Hill who have young kids (grades K – 2nd). The plan is to meet monthly (my feedback was that’s way too often, but that’s what the group is shooting for out of the gate).

We hosted, with the theme of trying to find out if the Livermore Valley wine region makes a good cabernet. We asked each couple to bring a vintage 2007 cab from a Livermore Valley winery (there are now over 40 wineries here locally) and an appetizer to share. I wanted to throw in a high-end Napa cab and another random cab to the mix, to see how they stacked up. Because some people brought the same wines, we ended up with 8 wines, but only tasted 7 (weird timing of things). We wrapped the bottles in tin foil, and the guys all grabbed a bottle and started pouring. Was a lot of fun, and everyone cast 3 votes at the end of the night: their #1, #2, and their pick for worst wine. All secret ballots, and I tallied the winners with a point system of 5 pts for a #1 vote, 3 pts for #2 vote, and -2 pts for a worst wine vote.

What was interesting was that every wine received a #1 or #2 vote, and only 4 wines got a “worst wine” vote. Here are the results of our voting:

  • 1st place – Lamborn Family Vineyards (www.lamborn.com) – this Howell Mountain cab from Napa easily took 1st place, with 6 people giving it their top vote, and another 2 said was their #2.
  • 2nd place – Amavi Cellars (www.amavicellars.com) – our throw in wine from Walla Walla, Washington. A great value play at $20/bottle, three people had this wine as their top, and another 4 had it ranked #2.
  • 3rd place – Wente Vineyards (www.wentevineyards.com) – we tried their Charles Wetmore Estate Vineyard cab, one of the four different cabs this winery produces annually; the most strange voting here, with 2 #1’s, 5 #2’s, and 4 “worst”
  • 4th place – Steven Kent (www.stevenkent.com) – this wine only got 3 votes, but they were all #1 votes
  • 5th place – Retzlaff (www.retzlaffwinery.com) – got 2 #1 votes, but was hurt by 2 “worst” votes
  • 6th place – Cuda Ridge (www.cudaridgewines.com) – was the only wine that didn’t get a #1 vote, but got 2 #2 votes.
  • 7th place (ugly duckling award) – Wente’s Nth Degree – to be fair, I actually think this was just a bad bottle as the nose was really strange. Most of the crowd agreed, as 9 people voted it as “worst”, although strangely one person voted it their #1 choice (go figure).

Was great fun, and everyone really warmed up to the format of the tasting once we got started. One regret is that a couple came in late with some Ruby Hill Winery (www.rubyhillwinery.net) 07 cab that we didn’t get into the tasting. I would have liked to have substituted them in for the Nth Degree, as we already had a Wente wine and that Nth Degree bottle seemed bad. Maybe next time.

What I learned is that cabernet might not be the varietal of choice from Livermore Valley wines, and they certainly don’t compare well to a top end Napa Valley wine.  However, it’s obvious from the voting that people’s tastes for wine are extremely varied, and what really matters is sharing wine with good friends.  Even though I didn’t like the idea of meeting monthly, I’m looking forward to our February get together and trying some new wines.

About svbmark

I'm a father of four boys; live in the Tri-Valley of the SF Bay Area; technology enthusiast; work with entrepreneurs and venture investors; SF Giants fan; budding wine lover
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