A fly on the wall of a blind tasting

Just last night, I served a group of eight "young men" (average age probably over fourty, but this is how they referenced themselves) who each brought a bottle of wine to the restaurant to blindly taste all nine (yes, one person brought two, and as the story unfold this will be a bit comical), the deal being that whoever's wine was voted as the best at the table didn't have to pay their share of the check.

This would have been cooler if they had explained this to my staff, or even to me personally - the guy setting up the dinner has my cell number, but when they chowed up with eight guys. nine bottles, requesting 72 (yes, 72) glasses on their table for ten (at the last minute, two conveniently cancelled, but they didn't inform us, so thankfully the table was slightly bigger than it would have been). But regardless, I made it happen, and lo and behold, nine tastes of red wine were poured evenly in front of each setting within twenty minutes or so.

Please excuse my tone if it comes across a bit bitter, but these "young men" were actually very rude to me, pretentious (they were all trying to "one-up" eachother with fabricated stories, many of which included strip-clubs or celebrities.. whatever), and fairly clueless in general. That being said, they did seem to have fairly refined palates, and were all very, very cheap people, meaning that they had calculatedly picked wines that they thought would cost less than their share of the bill (and, for the record, no waiter ever likes seven spilt checks at a nice restaurant, especially when you bring in your own wine and tip the literal bare minimum). So they brought in some fairly good wines (two were creative, and did their homework, and brought wines that I would have been very eager and pleased to have tried, although they didn't care to involve my somm skills at all, not even a touch, so they missed that boat..), and I thought it would be a good wine blog to talk about the winners and big losers.

Their rules were simple enough - they didn't give any guidelines: may the best wine win. They could have brought white, sparkling, fortified, award winners. But they all brought fairly similar fashioned red wines, mostly from California, specifically from Napa, and generally from 2007 - a well received, drinkable vintage.

The wines were Continuum, a Napa Cab that retails retails for approx $150; Velvet Glove by Mollydooker, a $200+ Shiraz from McLaren Vale, Australia (one of two wild cards), Dominus and a Stag's Leap Winery Cabernet (two typical hundred-ish dollar bottles of Napa Cab), Montes-Alpha Chilean Cabernet - (the other wild card, and the cheapest bottle on the table), L'Adventure Estate Cabernet blend from Paso Robles - well under a hundred bucks, Kenefick Ranch Napa Cabernet Franc (the other cheapest bottle on the table, but from a respected boutique winery), and two others that were so blahze that I don't even remember what they were. If either come to me, I'll be sure to name them. Nothing cool like Washington or Oregon, or France or Italy. Most probably both Napa Cabernet from 2007, priced around a hundred bucks.

In a nutshell, the Continuum won, although it's scored tied with the Velvet Glove (the wine I most wish I could have tried on the table). It won because it has a lower MSRP than the Velvet Glove, partially because it wasn't as old, and it wasn't imported. But Continuum is an awesome, awesome, wine (the other one on the table I most wish I could have tried), and it was a worthy winner of the contest. The guy that brought it definately had a smug look on his face as the seven other guys paid for his fifty-dollar steak and his portion of the three side dishes. Obviously, then, the Velvet Glove took second place in the contest, followed by the Kenefick Ranch Cab Franc - a testiment to value wines being every bit as good, if not better, than their costlier couterparts. The L'Adventure, I believe, tied the Kenefick, but with a higher price tag (probably by thirty dollars or so) it was fourth place. Surprisingly, on many levels, the Chilean Cabernet, the Montes Alpha, came in fifth. I have never been a fan of this Cabernet at all, although I do enjoy and recommend their Shiraz. The last four were all very similar, but the Stag's Leap and Dominus were the big losers, and this mirrored my own palate. I have been quite underwhelemed by both these wines in the past.

In retrospect, it is interesting to see that cheap people trying to impress one another, and save money in the process, were least impressed with the 2007 Napa Cabernet. Especially since most of them brought 2007 Napa Cabernet, and were clearly trying to vote for their own wine that they brought to save two hundred dollars, and earn bragging rights among seven strangers. The Velvet Glove was no surprise, that is an excellent wine. Continuum, as I said, was a worthy winner.

It is sad that they weren't cooler, more pleasant, more considerate, or tippers. The stories they were telling about drinking Romanee Conti out of stirofoam cups in exclusive cellars making celebrities wait outside in the cold, and bragging about how they have the "ultimate hook-up" Alinea, and any other number of ridiculousness that came out of their mouths were a bit hard to swallow, as was (seemingly) the Napa Cab that many left in their glasses. But the results were worthy of sharing, and I thank you all for taking the time to relive it with me!

Also, my wine website, www.theswirler.com, is almost back to being fully functional - check out my wine cartoons, and reviews and such there if you like! ALl my best thoughts and energies, Cory "The Wine Guy" W.

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  • Larkmead was one of the other two napa cabs.. The stags leap was bin 23.. And I keep recalling and subsequently forgetting the last napa cab, but it was definitely something like Caymus (though that wasn't it) but not quite as good... Anyhow

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    Cory Warfield

    I am a server at Mastro's Steak House. I have been a wine-director and staff sommelier at a variety of concepts over the course of fifteen years. In addition to studying, enjoying, and writing about wine, and working as a waiter, I am a singer/songwriter, and enjoy spending time with my beautiful other half, Rebecca, and our dogs. I am from Chicago, but have lived years on- and off in Telluride, Colorado, which is where I met Rebecca in 2009, and where I first had the privilage of studying with a Master Sommelier, as well as my first high-end server position at the New Sheridan Chop House.

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