The February tasting marked the 20th year that we have been hosting these blind tastings. It took a couple more months for us to settle into the current format, but February 2004 was our first stab at comparing multiple bottles for quality without knowing what was behind the brown bag.

Since this was an occasion to celebrate, we selected Châteauneuf-du-Pape as our topic, a category we last compared in January 2019. We came away from this one very impressed, with all bottles being enjoyable for different reasons, and every bottle received at least a couple of points. Our top two wines stood out by having just a little more complexity than the rest, offering both intensity and nuance.

Photography by Andy.

First Place:  Bosquet des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2019. Tasters found briny, green olive scents, plus notions of sawdust, graphite, plums, stone fruit, freshly brewed coffee, licorice, dried orange peel, and fig. Had brightness to it. Andy was reminded of "freshly swept wood floor." Some meatiness on the palate, reminiscent of beef blood, iodine, and sharp cheese. Saline, and slightly medicinal. Mouthcoating and rich, with clear but not aggressive tannins, ending with notions of blueberries. Ali was reminded of "cheese stuffed olives in a martini." Andy, Ali, Kristin, and Addy's favorite of the night, for a total of 31 points. Kristin's bottle. About $50.

Second Place: Domaine de 3 Cellier Châteauneuf-du-Pape Marceau 2016. Evolved dark brick in color, with an amber ring, but also more opaque than some others. The nose was like tequila/agave, pine needles, wet wood, mint, rosemary, thyme, and lavender. Josephine was reminded of "St. Stephen's Green in Dublin", while Ali thought it "smells like Gilles' apartment." More of that tequila note on the palate, plus lime peel, squid ink, pine, and eucalyptus. Salty, savory, with lots of umami, like truffles or dark mushrooms. David noted that it has "a sense of decay -- in a good way", and correctly guessed that this was the oldest bottle of the night. Josephine and David's favorite, with a total of 25 points. Andy's bottle. About $50.

Third Place: Domaine Chante-Perdrix Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2020. Suggested seaweed on the nose, plus other green leafy things, like rosemary, tobacco, and lavender, then notions of currants, black pepper, black cherries, birch beer, and brown sugar. Andy was reminded of a "little bit of soft leather", with David leaning toward "new wallet." Youthful and exuberant. Very full-bodied and rich in the mouth, having flavors of prunes, black pepper, licorice, raisins, and root beer candy. Solid acidity, leaving a tangy sensation, then a long finish that included green bell peppers and coffee. Perhaps a bit hot. 11 total points. David's bottle. About $48.

Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Télégramme Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2021. Vivid in color, but also not super opaque, and having vibrant scents of roses and cherries. Had a freshness to it, reminding Andy of "fresh laundry hanging outside", with Josephine thinking of "wind through a grassy field." With plenty of acidity, this starts off primary and fruity, then turns darker through the palate, showing a journey, with flavors of cherry cola, Dr. Pepper, and orange peel. High concentration without being heavy. Focused. 9 points. Josephine's bottle. About $65.

Delas Châteauneuf-du-Pape Haute Pierre 2019. Smells like a perfume. Very pretty, floral, and powdery. Josephine noted scents of oak moss and bergamot, while Ali detected "dusty road." Feels lighter in weight, with not a lot of fruit, and more understated. A little bit of blood/iodine on the attack. Hints of tart red fruit, baking apple, and black cherries, then licorice and black pepper on the finish. Elegant. 6 points. Ali's bottle. About $70.

Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2020. Hints of skunk on the nose, plus dark berry, smoldering ember, forest floor, and wet wool. A little bit of decay. Andy was reminded of "extinguished fireplace." Riper on the palate, suggesting cherries, raspberries, young strawberry, graham cracker, and Band Aid. Youthful, with a long finish, and a touch medicinal. 2 points. Addy's bottle. About $55.

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