We decided to challenge the group this month with a set of three blind comparisons, with two pairs focused on location, and one designed to determine the grape variety. They were all delicious wines, from an extremely refined Champagne (provided by Andy) and a local vintage sparkler (provided by Jo), to a pair of Spanish values imported by Jorge Ordoñez, and a couple of tasty Chardonnays in between.
Josephine won the night with a perfect score, while Kristin, David and Andy all got one wrong. No points were awarded this time due to change in format.
This pair turned out to be more difficult than we expected, with David and Kristin incorrectly selecting glass B for the flavor profile, while Josephine and Andy chose glass A due to its refinement.
A) Pierre Péters Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Cuvée de Réserve Non-Vintage. Livelier in the glass, with scents of lime zest, yeast, straw, tangerine, and more minerality than the other bubbly. Tasters noted flavors of tangerine, green apple, mandarin orange, grass, and white mushrooms. Had a touch of earthiness, then Sweet Tarts on the finish. With almost sharply malic acidity, this could use a year or two in the cellar. From Grand Cru vineyards in Les Mesnil sur Oger. About $74.
B) Westport Rivers Brut Blanc de Blanc 2001 (Massachusetts). Offered smaller bubbles and a darker nose compared to glass A, with aromas reminiscent of caramel, almonds, yeast, straw/fresh hay, brioche, and baked apple tart. Slightly funkier than glass A, developing hazelnut, rotting wood, and butterscotch scents. Richer in the mouth, where the caramel and nut qualities are echoed, then a toffee note. Tart on the finish, showing depth and salinity to it, but remaining lively, with that salty air note at the close. About $45.
Second Pair: New World v. Old World Chardonnay
Same producer, same grape, different continents. We all nailed this one easily.
A) William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux 2015. A touch of funk on the nose, with Josephine deciding on "slightly fecal" and saying, "I almost can't get past it to find out what's in there." Some white peach, cheese, and green apple scents, but not very effusive. Andy found some "undertones of some sort of outhouse." Tasted much different than it smelled, with a silky and round texture supporting flavors of chives and tart green fruit. Would be great with a raw oyster. A clean, saline quality on the finish. Plenty of acidity. About $21.
B) William Fevre Chile Chardonnay La Mision Reserva Especial 2014 (Maipo Valley). Slightly darker in color compared to glass A. Scents of honey, caramel, bubble gum, starfruit, limes, and wildflowers. Clean, fresh and vibrant, but also a little more wild. A touch riper on the palate, with notions of honeysuckle, tangerine, green pear, and rosemary. A touch of pine and thyme on the finish. A little more weight in the mouth compared to glass A. About $15.
Third Pair: Tinta de Toro v. Monastrell
A couple of excellent values from Spain, one made from the local version of Tempranillo (Tinta de Toro) and the other a Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre). Only Andy got this one incorrect.
Bodegas Ordoñez Triton Tinta de Toro Old Vines 2015 (Toro). Tasters found aromas of dark cherry, flowers, pine, pomegrante, and incense. Not shy, and turning beautiful and voluptuous, with brighter fruit, but also blueberry and dark roses. Really beautiful in the mouth, but also tannic, leading Andy to suggest that it "sucks the moisture right out." Josephine found it "very balanced, very civilized", with Andy saying "Beautifully crafted, you can taste the love." Tannins are assertive without being overpowering. Graceful, even at 15% alcohol. About $17.
Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima Hill Old Vines 2010 (Alicante). Sap, smokey wood, coriander, clove, honey, dark spices, Nyquil, eucaplytus, and licorice aromas. Kristin was reminded of "hints of Waterfire walking home on a cold night." More rugged than glass A, but with a sweetness of ripe fruit to it. Masculine and dark in the mouth, though not as tannic as glass A, but fuller bodied, juicy, and intense. Great depth, with a beef blood quality, not unlike iodine and rusty iron. Also 15% alcohol. About $16.