We timed our June tasting with a trip to Tahoe with 4 friends and 2 new friends. Rather than let our open bottles sit on our lonely counter for a week as we slowly consumed them, we wanted to share them with friends and get their opinions on our wines. It felt a little odd showing up with 4 bottles and offering to pour a blind tasting, but our friends were excited to give it a try and play along.
We brought along 4 Syrahs varying in ABV from 12.5% to 15.5%: Domaine Vincent Paris Saint-Joseph, Mission Estate Winery Syrah Hawkes Bay, Melville “Estate-Verna’s”, and Michael & David Vineyards “6th Sense”. The goal was to see if people could tell the difference between low and high alcohol wines and if they preferred high alcohol fruit bombs. My guess was that people could tell the difference in ABV, but I wasn’t sure if the group would like the fruiter, high alcohol wines. So did the group pick the wines in order and go for the 15.5%?
I did the honor for pouring for everyone, managing not to spill except on myself. I wasn’t sure what order to pour so I opted for 2nd, 4th, 3rd, and 1st in ABV. Seemed fair. Surprisingly, only 1 person matched the wines correctly, but 4 people (including Linda) switched the Melville and the 6th Sense, the two highest in the alcohol range separated by 0.8%. I think that counts. I also switched two wines, but don’t give myself credit since I swapped the 3rd and 1st. Go figure. I blame the rest of the group for playing Whales Tales when I was sniffin’ and sippin’. I am irrefutable proof that wine tasting and saying “Who” and “Nay” don’t mix.
The crowd’s favorite was more convincing; 5 out of 8 preferred the Melville Syrah @ 14.7% with the Mission Estates coming in 2nd. The Melville impressed Linda as well as one friend who hardly drinks red wine. The crowd seemed to agree that the Melville tasted soft even through they suspected a high ABV due to the heat in the back of their throats. Note: heat generally equals alcohol. Props to Melville. Keep up the good work.
I guess this tasting proves that we Americans/Californians like bigger, fruitier wines, but nothing over-the-top. I wouldn’t call the Melville a fruit bomb even though K&L said it would “knock me out of my seat”. It had balance, which seems like one of the most important factors in a wine.
Now for the fun sound bites from the rest of our tasting…
Domaine Vincent Paris Saint-Joseph ($24.99) – “smells warm, drier” “smells stronger but doesn’t have the same heat” “tannic” “less body, less sugar” “earthy, leathery,…vegetables?” “bug spray?”
Mission Estate Winery Syrah Hawkes Bay ($12.99) – “very sharp, burning my nose hairs” “complex & inviting” “more consistent than others” “rich fruit but not grapey” “burning a bit down the throat” “little stinky” “tongue tingle” “fruity, balanced nose”
Melville “Estate-Verna’s” ($19.99) – “rose petals” “delicious, light” “light, mellow” “thumbs up” “smooth sip” “more spice & leather”
Michael & David Vineyards “6th Sense” ($12.99) - “cedar smell with lots of tannin” “sweet like caramel” “one dimensional” “chocolate-esque” “actual purple color while swirling” “lots of oak”