February marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of these tastings, so we thought it fitting to taste the same wine category from the one that started it all.

Our top two bottles were actually the same wine, and though nobody at the table suspected they were matches, we all dithered about which one was better than the other.  Gilles' winning bottle just seemed to have more heft of fruit compared to Kristin's, but both were outstanding examples.  Also in the running were the highly regarded Merlot bottlings of Montiano and Galatrona.

It was a very enjoyable night, with all wines showing well, in addition to the treat of Ali & Andy's amazing cheese selections, plus acorn-fed Iberico ham.

We all toasted to the thought of doing this for another 10 years.

First Place:  Marchesi de Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castelgiocondo Lamaione 2008 (Toscana).  Tasters found scents of rust, fennel, raisins, wild flowers, roses, dark fruit, and burnt sugar. Intriguing  and inviting.  Impressive, well-balanced, with a very long finish.  Smooth, with great density of fruit, Gilles called it "a conversation stopper", and "a bad VD" (a good thing).  Ali  felt that "this is what a finish should do".  Received 32 points.  Gilles' bottle.  About $75.

Second Place:  Marchesi de Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castelgiocondo Lamaione 2008 (Toscana).  A nose of menthol, eucalyptus, pine, sandalwood, mint, lavender, green grass, prune, and butterscotch.  Andy noted "something desirable about it".  Great body and presence, fleshy with lots of interesting texture.  Plum and blackberry flavors, with licorice on the finish.  Ali found "Big Red cinnamon gum".  Received 27 points.  Kristin's bottle.  About $85.

Third Place:  Falesco Montiano 2009 (Lazio).  Opaque.  Gilles felt that it "smells pink to me", while David thought it was "very elegant".  Scents of cinnamon, butterscotch, beets, lavender, cut grass, hints of bacon, and dark cherries.  Not heavy.  Minerals and aluminum in the mouth, and not as complex as it smells, moving to caramel and bitter chocolate flavors.   Fine tannins, and a bit short.  Joyce felt that "if this was a white wine, it would be a Riesling".  A more generous mid-palate was displayed after more aeration.  Received 12 points.  David's bottle.  About $40.

Petrolo Galatrona 2010 (Toscana).  Smelled green, and not unlike fresh tennis ball, dust, minerals, acetone, and alcohol.  Gilles noted "something artificial".  Shows quality, but not complexity, offering flavors of coffee, chocolate, pepper, and plums.  Received 8 points.  Andy's bottle.  About $75.

Falesco Merlot 2009 (Umbria).  Aromas of body odor, pond water, weak coffee, locker room, dust, and sawdust.  Smelled thin, rustic, and a bit out of balance.  Andy felt it was "awkward and smelly".  Higher in acidity, with notes of peppercorn and tea.  Gilles felt that it "tastes of decay, like dead leaves from six months ago".  Received 3 points.  Joyce's bottle.  About $15.

Duemani Altrovino 2009 (Toscana).  Tasters noted scents of ripe tomato, dish water, orange peel, blackberry, wet wood, lavender, and cough medicine.  Ali found a "Strawberry Shortcake character; Blueberry Muffin".  Nice body, with good progression in the mouth, with flavors of green bell pepper, berries, and ruby red grapefruit.  Ali detected "Hawaiian Punch on the mid-palate".  Made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  Received 2 points.  Ali's bottle.  About $35.

Also tasted:

Schramsburg Brut Rosé 2009 (North Coast).  As a refresher at the end of the tasting, this had notes of cranberries , citrus rind, grapefruit, flowers, mint, peaches, honey, and apples.  Very elegant.  Made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.  About $35.

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