Friday, June 10, 2005


On June 10th we held a blinded, all-comers “Smackdown” - no theme, bring any red wine you like. A fantastic evening for our tasting group, and our first tasting that was not structured around a theme.

The six wines were as follows:

First: 2000 Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot
The 2000 Avignonesi Desiderio Merlot. Seven first place and two third place rankings – impressive! While this was not the most expensive, it certainly wasn’t the cheapest – this cost me C$60 in March (LCBO). According to my notes (and my memory), this was an elegant wine with an incredible nose. While this wine may improve with time, I didn’t expect much improvement – this is very drinkable now! While I normally rush out and buy the winners from our tastings, I have the good fortune of having two more bottles of this gem in my cellar. (RP 90-91, WS 90)

Second: 1998 Chateau Montus Cuvée Prestige
My first experience with Tannat, the Montus was brought by Chris and Marie-Lise. It placed second, and was a little more polarizing – two first place rankings (hmmmm - Chris and Marie-Lise – maybe you have tasted this before?), five second place rankings, a fourth and a sixth. This reminds me a lot of the wine Chris brought to the Tuscan tasting – clearly a BIG, high quality wine, but with a few rustic edges that may have nudged it into second place for many. According to my notes, this seven year old wine still needed more time in the bottle and should get better. I loved it, and bought eight bottles of a different vintage as proof! According to Chris, this wine was only C$36, which makes it the best value. The key caveat is that other vintages of Chateau Montus Cuvee Prestige are much more expensive. Did you secretly switch price tags at the store, Chris? For shame…

Third: 1997 Camigliano Brunello di Montalcino Riserva
The overall ranking for Pramod and Sofia’s Brunello was very close to the Chateau Montus. The wine garnered one first place, four second place, a third, fourth, fifth and sixth place ranking. My notes were different from the rest of you, as many of you liked it but I thought it was light in the nose and a little unbalanced. I also recall it being atypical for a Brunello. We really should redo a Brunello tasting one of these days… Note that the price on this one was steep. (RP 85, WS 90)

Fourth: 2002 d’Arenberg “The Footbolt” Shiraz
Eden’s 2002 d’Arenberg “The Footbolt” is also a winner, in my mind, because it ranked so close to the second and third place wines. It was a very strong finish given the price (C$20!). Five tasters ranked it second or third, and none ranked it last! While the pros always rave about d’Arenberg wines, it was nice to see it in a blinded fashion against such illustrious competitors. Looking at my notes, I raved about the subtle but very interesting nose. I also noted that this wine has peaked – drink now. This outperformance in a strong crowd should send everyone running to buy a case. (RP 88, WS 88)

Fifth: 2001 Falesco Montiano
My other Merlot, the 2001 Falesco Montiano, did not perform as well as the pro ratings might have indicated. No one ranked it first or last, but very consistent third and fourth place rankings. This may have been a case of vinuous infanticide. My notes were very complimentary of the nose, but I commented that it should improve with more time in the bottle. WS agrees, and says to wait until after 2006 to drink. At C$51 (SAQ), it was a disappointment. (RP 93, WS 90)

Sixth: 1999 Yalumba “The Menzies”
Cam’s 1999 Yalumba “The Menzies” Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon was a great disappointment for me, personally. First, I suggested that Cam buy the wine. Second, I have three bottles in my cellar. Aargh. Five people ranked it dead last. At C$43.75, not a great deal. Could Parker have steered Cam and I so wrong? (RP 90, WS 87)

1) In case you were wondering why I entered two expensive Merlots, it was to teach a lesson to a friend who claimed he hates Merlot! My contrarian nature will now force me to buy Merlots while the rest of the wine world hunts down California Pinot Noir. Thank you, Sideways.
2) The key problem with this tasting, of course, was the comparison of very different grapes/regions/producers/vintages. It was meant to be fun, and I think our rankings should be taken with a grain of salt. All very nice wines.