Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blind Tasting of 2004 Rieslings and various Merlots with Brian & Lisa

Blind wine tasting can yield some unexpected surprises. This was the lesson learned recently when my wife Tahirih and I got together with our friends Brian and Lisa to compare three bottles of 2004 Riesling and three bottles of Merlot across a couple vintages. I was in charge of bringing two bottles each of the Riesling and merlot while Brian and Lisa took care of one bottle each and the food. Tahirih was charged with hiding the identity of the wines by placing them in paper bags and labeling then by number. She was the only one from the group who knew the identity of the wines.

My first mistake going into this was thinking that I could clearly guess the wines before their true identities were revealed and I basically succeeded with the Rieslings.

In the end we tasted the 2004 Martha Clara Riesling from the Northfork of Long Island, the 2004 Ravines Riesling from the Finger Lakes, and the 2004 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett from Weingut Reuscher Haart in Mosel Valley Germany.

The 2004 Martha Clara was almost clear in color with notes of honeydew, melon, citrus, and pear. It was very minerally and acidic with a touch of tartness. It’s a complex wine with a few different things going on and thus not a great balance in my opinion. However, it’s acidity would make it great for Chinese food. Overall, not my favorite of the bunch. It was purchased by Brian and Lisa at the winery for $xx.

The 2004 Ravines Riesling was more golden in color with a slightly flinty and minerally nose mixed in with cantaloupe. There was a good balance between the acidity and the flavor. Smooth and crisp. It was a little more of a one-note wine as compared to the Santa Clara but I liked it a little more.

The 2004 Piesporter Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett was fantastic. Light gold in color with notes of leeche, pineapple, and a little bit of honey. There’s a little bit of zing at the beginning and then moves to a smooth, nicely balanced wine with a medium-light body. It was a classic Riesling.

I was able to guess which wine was which during the blind tasting but partially only because I had glimpsed the gold aluminum around the Ravines and deduced the German wine because it was just too distinctive compared to the rest.

As for the wines, I preferred the Piesporter Goldtropfchen followed by the Ravines and then the Martha Clare. More importantly, I learned the differenced between most domestic Rieslings and the German variety. German Rieslings tend to be less acidic, smoother, and with more body while the New York wines were more crisp and had a certain “zippiness” to them. Tahirih and Lisa also preferred the German wine while Brian like the cleanness of the Ravines.

The Merlots were a revelation to me. I provided a 2003 Pesano Merlot made by Falesco from Umbria, Italy along with a 2001 Chateau Mayne-Vieil from the Fronsac region of Bordeaux, a 90% Merlot-10% Cabernet Franc blend. Brian and Lisa contributed a non-vintage Collina 48 from Macari Vineyards in Long Island.

The 2003 Pesano was dark red/inky in color with lots of oak and secondary layers of strawberry and dark cheery. It was slightly acidic and just a little out of balance but still nice overall. Just not smooth.

The 2001 Mayne-Vieil was more brick red in color with notes of menthe, crème de cassis, and hints of cedar along with a peppery element. This was also more tannic but better balanced than the Pesano. Overall very good.

However, the NV Collina from Macari was a revelation in a way. It was dark cherry in color with notes of tobacco, cedar, and blackberry with a certain earthiness to it all. There was a very nice balance of tannin and acidity. Medium bodied with a nice long finish.

The revelation was this. I thought immediately it was the Bordeaux and I was convinced of this and I LOVE Bordeaux. In addition, I’ve never fallen for any Long Island wine and I think it’s one of the most over hyped regions from my New York City perspective.

I thought the Collina 48 was by far the best of the Merlots and was shocked when Tahirih revealed its identity. That’s the beauty of the blind tasting!

We all thought the Collina was the best of the bunch. Brian and I like the Mayne-Vieil 2nd best while Tahirih and Lisa liked the Pesano.

My lesson learned here is to maybe give Long Island another shot.

All in all they were good wines with no real duds but the bottom line is that we all had a great time and can’t wait to do this again. Thanks to Brian and Lisa for providing the wonderful food too!

Where to buy: Sherry Lehmann carries the Pesano ($14), Mayne Vieil ($12), and Piesporter Goldtropfchen ($16). The Ravines was bought at GCP Liqours in Elmire, NY for $14 but it’s Vintage New York may carry it in the future. Both the Martha Clara ($15) and the Collina 48 ($10) can be bought at their respective wineries.

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