Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

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Kevin Patrick
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Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#1 Post by Kevin Patrick »

Our wine group gathered five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50) to gauge the relative quality and dollar value we would place on these wines when tasting blind. As a control we mixed a 2014 regular bottling of Chateau Montelena. While it would have been better to choose a 2018 vintage our goal was more to make a determination if the private labels would be good enough that a solid, price comparable, name-brand Napa Cab would simply mix in or would it tower over the mystery wines.

For preparation, the OG 50 was micro-oxidized per Cameron Hughes’ instructions: 24 hours in advance give it a 2 hour decant, back in the bottle resealed with the cork; the next day pop and pour. All other wines were double decanted 90 minutes in advance.

Randomized Drink Order
#1: Yesterday Howell Mountain
#2: Commission
#3: OG50
#4: Yesterday Oakville
#5: The Ringer
#6: Radio Silence
#7: Chateau Montelena (the control)

2018 Wine Access Yesterday Howell Mountain -- dark purple in appearance, a viscous wine in the glass. The nose was simple with big blackberry notes. Jammy and smooth on the palate with a slight fuzz in the mouthfeel. Full bodied with concentrated fruit and an enjoyable long finish. Should continue to open with even more time. Very nice wine. Would pay $60 for this. Rated 7.5 out of 10

2018 Wine Access Commission: Robust raspberry on the nose; Opulent red fruits (cherries) and full bodied on the palate with a nice long finish. Young, brilliant, modern-style Napa Cab. Would pay $70+ for this wine; Rated 8.5 out of 10. Unanimous WOTN.

2018 de Negoce OG 50 (Walla Walla Washington): Muted nose of violets and rich, soft strawberries. Super soft on the palate with a dusting of light blueberries. Very thin wine lacking heft and staying power. Enjoyable but a decided step down from the earlier wine. Would pay $20 for the wine; @ $35 it’s over-priced. Rated 6 out of 10.

2018 Wine Access Yesterday Oakville -- Big, full-bodied blackberry nose; Consistent on the palate with a smooth, full-bodied jammy note of cassis and blackberry. Excellent wine with a long finish. A real star and virtual tie with The Commission for WOTN as voted by the group. Would pay $70+ for this wine; Rated 8 out of 10.

2018 Wine Access The Ringer -- Nice, mild nose of earthy cherries. Easy drinker with medium body on the palate. Smooth and enjoyable mild blueberry and strawberry fruit. An easy, nice wine. Would appeal across palates without offending nor wowing the crowd. Would pay $45 for this wine. Rated 7 out of 10.

2018 Wine Access Radio Silence -- Holy bottle variation Batman! This label had been consumed multiple times previously and was fantastic. Tonight it was not. Nose of full-body black cherry was inconsistent with the rest of the sampling. The wine was disjointed, underripe green apple. Green sweet tarts that made me pucker. Young and needing a lot of time to find what it wants to be. The parts were all there but they did not form a fine wine. Unfair to score and put a price on as this was simply not good and unreflective of prior samplings. Clear worst wine of the night.

2014 Chateau Montelena (regular bottling) -- this was the “control” The Montelena had an earthy, leafy strawberry nose, medium body of dark cherries and ripe strawberries. Smooth easy drinker. A crowd pleaser. Would pay $50 for this wine. Rated 7 out of 10.

Overall we were very pleased with the performance as a group. The Wine Access private labels continue to deliver solid showings well above their purchase price. My experience with the Yesterdays has been consistently positive and the Commission was a joy on this night. The Radio Silence was the clear outlier as it suffered from severe and unpleasant bottle variation. The OG 50 was the most handicapped as the 24 hour micro-Ox is simply giving the wine its best chance to shine rather than waiting a couple months to let the wine show its wares as intended. It still was not a bad wine and worth the money even in its infancy.

Note: my original post here flipped the wines for #5 and #6. The above order is now correct.
OGWIneAccessBlind.jpg
Last edited by Kevin Patrick on January 11th, 2021, 5:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#2 Post by YLee »

Thanks for posting this. I came to almost similar conclusion about these wines except the "would pay $" part. I would pay less for these.
The Yesterday wines needs time to age and will get better. Commission was nice but a step behind Yesterday wines for me in terms of structure and potential complexity from laying it sideways. Radio Silence seems to be the best to drink now without expecting much complexity. More of a easy smooth drink. I have not had the Ringer. The OG wines I've tried were disappointing.
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#3 Post by Eric White »

Very interesting, thanks for the notes!

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#4 Post by Max S. »

I'm hoping the dNs come around, but worst case they're just $20 bottles of wine from what I've tasted
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#5 Post by Kevin Patrick »

YLee wrote: December 31st, 2020, 10:26 am The OG wines I've tried were disappointing.
I honestly don't believe the de Negoce wines have gotten much of a fair hearing as yet. We attempted to achieve this through the micro-Ox but to me that is still a great stretch to make this recently bottled wine drinkable. As such I think just about all tasting notes are unworthy of fair representation for these late-bottled wines. I did not purchase any of the low # de Negoce so my wines were all bottled in August/September time frame. Nearly all wines benefit from three to six months in bottle, some for much longer so I am not, as yet, dissuaded by the early, sub-par reviews available. Come this March, or better yet, into the Fall if these wines continue to be lackluster then I would have greater concern. To date, the investment is small and even most negative reviews concede the wine is sufficient to serve your non-aficionado friends. At $8-$10/per bottle for whites and $12 - $20/per bottle for Pinot/Cabernets I'm still comfortable with where I think these end up relative to the price points.

That said, the Wine Access private labels have shown enough mettle to me to warrant continued purchases and thus far are leaps and bounds ahead of de Negoce in product quality (as well as price). The bottle variation is real and I will be extremely interested to see how frequent this issue arises. If it's 1 out of 12 then so be it. But if it is 3 or 4 out of 12 then these will be purchased under only selective circumstances (i.e. huge discounts, rebates, etc).

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#6 Post by larry schaffer »

Love seeing this thread - a great concept. In terms of 'being unfair because the wines are so young', well isn't that one of the 'challenges' of buying such large quantities of each wine (I know, a case may not be much but it's more than I usually purchase of any wine, regardless of price) and trying to ascertain whether they are 'worth it'? Isn't that what this thread is really about?

And how often do folks say the same about MOST wines - perhaps opened too early; showed better on day 2; etc . . .

If a winemaker is going to release wines and get them into your hands, unless they are specifically noted as 'futures', then once expects to be able to open them and get 'enjoyment' out of them, no?

The better thing to do would be to have you purchase and have Cam sit on the wines until they are 'ready', but that is not a practical thing to do these days, especially at these prices.

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#7 Post by rsmithjr »

I would have put De Negoce OG. 08 instaed of the 50. The Mt. Veeder wine is so far the best I have tried.
Roger Smith- Longtime wine drinker and bon vivant' and unofficial De Negoce' FANBOY.....

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#8 Post by Tyler F. »

Very cool and love the idea of this! I have been super happy with the 4 private label WA bottles I've purchased:

2018 Yesterday (Oakville)
2018 Editorial
2018 Commission
2018 Radio Silence

Would definitely buy more of all of them, if given the chance. At roughly $30 to my door (after discounts), these drink like $50-75 cabs and are an excellent value.
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#9 Post by Arv R »

Interesting tasting, and thanks for reporting on this blind. One question:

When you say the 'regular' Montelena cab are you referring to the $100+ estate flagship, or their Calistoga (perhaps rebranded now) cab?
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#10 Post by Kevin Patrick »

Arv R wrote: January 1st, 2021, 1:00 pm When you say the 'regular' Montelena cab are you referring to the $100+ estate flagship, or their Calistoga (perhaps rebranded now) cab?
This was the Calistoga Cab, not the Estate bottling.
larry schaffer wrote: January 1st, 2021, 11:11 am If a winemaker is going to release wines and get them into your hands, unless they are specifically noted as 'futures', then once expects to be able to open them and get 'enjoyment' out of them, no?

The better thing to do would be to have you purchase and have Cam sit on the wines until they are 'ready'
Larry I am in agreement with the entirety of your post while still holding to my position the opinions on de Negoce wines are premature.

What you write above is, to me, the major rub of the entire endeavor. I have no disagreement nor counter. My only contention is, as somewhat knowledgeable wine consumers, we know the wines will continue to evolve especially in the immediate months following their bottling. To drink the wines knowingly premature and render that a decisive verdict is my pushback. I am still cautiously optimistic that in 2+ more months the wines I have purchased will be a good place to sample and pass judgement upon.

That being said, the current negative reviews are a by-product of Cameron's own marketing prowess. He brilliantly sold these "futures" and delivered this exciting product before it was ready. As has been admitted by most, the proud owners can't wait the needed 6+ months to give these wines a fair showing.

Cam has to decide what stress his business model can tolerate: 1) cash-in-hand today but delivering a product not ready for consumption and subject to market backlash (i.e. bad reviews), or 2) having his business show patience delaying his cash intake but delivering a ready to drink product that could spur greater demand.

If his product quality ultimately proves sufficient he could turn this endeavor into more of a true "futures" and get the cash in hand early while delaying the shipments until the bottles are ready. But I think we're a ways away from that even considering my cautious optimism for the de Negoce wines I've purchased to date.

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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#11 Post by Toby P »

I would push back in general on the idea that a) the wines aren't being reviewed well and b) there is anything misleading about what Cam is doing. Regarding a), I'd say the clear impression from the notes on the "what DN are you drinking" thread, and CT, is quite positive. My personal experience (and that of several others I know who have tried a bunch of the wines) is 100% positive and very happy with the QPR - and that's with how the wines are today, not giving credit for future improvement. Obviously there are going to be plenty of negative reviews as well, but the balance so far does seem pretty strong from what I've read - and as you all point out, some of these wines (esp the higher end cabs) may not be ready for a proper evaluation.

Regarding b), Larry it says on the front page of the website: "known in the trade as En Primeur or futures, buying wine out of the barrel allows you to access pricing not seen since the 1970's". I think everyone involved is well aware that these are effectively futures and that part of the reason you are getting such a low price is that Cam is minimizing all his costs, including that of storage and working capital / financing. Sure Cam could launch a storage business (or hold back and charge a bit more), but he's decided against that, and it's up to every buyer if they want to take on that responsibility in exchange for the lower upfront cost.
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#12 Post by larry schaffer »

Toby P wrote: January 1st, 2021, 4:43 pm I would push back in general on the idea that a) the wines aren't being reviewed well and b) there is anything misleading about what Cam is doing. Regarding a), I'd say the clear impression from the notes on the "what DN are you drinking" thread, and CT, is quite positive. My personal experience (and that of several others I know who have tried a bunch of the wines) is 100% positive and very happy with the QPR - and that's with how the wines are today, not giving credit for future improvement. Obviously there are going to be plenty of negative reviews as well, but the balance so far does seem pretty strong from what I've read - and as you all point out, some of these wines (esp the higher end cabs) may not be ready for a proper evaluation.

Regarding b), Larry it says on the front page of the website: "known in the trade as En Primeur or futures, buying wine out of the barrel allows you to access pricing not seen since the 1970's". I think everyone involved is well aware that these are effectively futures and that part of the reason you are getting such a low price is that Cam is minimizing all his costs, including that of storage and working capital / financing. Sure Cam could launch a storage business (or hold back and charge a bit more), but he's decided against that, and it's up to every buyer if they want to take on that responsibility in exchange for the lower upfront cost.
Toby,

I totally understand what Cam is doing and the whole concept - the challenge i have seems to be the constant desire by many to 'justify' their purchases and the QPR aspect of each and every wine.

Tastings like these are really 'instrumental' I would believe to many folks out there to try to look at things more 'objectively'.

One poll I'd love to see are the percentage of purchases buying these wines that actually DO regularly purchase $60-$200 bottles of wine to be in a good position to actually compare and contrast.

As I've said from the beginning, kudos to Cam for pulling this off - his timing was impeccable, and quite lucky based on circumstances that happened after he was well on his way.

Cheers.
larry schaffer
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Re: Blind Tasting: Five 2018 Wine Access Private Labels and one de Negoce (OG 50)

#13 Post by David Crow »

With regard to the bottle variation of some Wine Access wines, does anyone have ideas as to what might be behind that?

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