Blind tastings are educational and humbling. Here's another weekly one featuring wines from across the globe

Our Monday night dinner group enjoyed another fine night at our dedicated venue, Ca Dario Montecito. We typically blind taste the red theme and recently added that objective for the whites on some occasions.

On this night, our wine theme was for both whites and reds to be from anywhere, any varietal, tasted blind. If you want to challenge your varietal detection skills or your recognition of your own wine, this will do it. Additionally, I always discover another wine or three that I just have to add to the cellar as what occurred on this evening.

We started off with 3 whites served blind and my notes reflect remarks both before and after they were unveiled:

2020 TERRE ROSSO di GIABBASCIO CENTOPASSI CATARRATTO SICILIA- as I understand it, this comes from a coop, Terre Rosso di Giabbascio, and is made from 100% Catarratto with an abv of 12.9%; the first thing I noticed was its cloudiness; then the aromas of talc, minerals and honeyed orchard fruit and once tasted, apple and pear were more easily distinguished; it was mildly sweet, had some nice viscosity and overall was a pleasing, mellow wine.

I had no clue as to the varietal nor did I recognize I’d had this at a Sicilian wine dinner a couple of weeks prior.

2016 L`ECOLE NO 41 OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC COLUMBIA VALLEY- 13.5 % abv; in this case, the old vines were planted in 1978-9; the color was a clear yellow and the nose offered mild mineral accented tropical fruit that on the palate translated into passion fruit, pear, apple and grapefruit with accents of fennel and pine; it was nicely crisp and refreshing and paired beautifully with the appetizers we had.

As an aside, this and 2 other old vine Chenin were sent to me by the producer in early 2019 to taste and review and I chose to allow them to rest and age just a bit prior to opening. This is the first and the oldest of the 3 and although I did not pick it out of the blind format, it expressed a very intriguing and pleasantly different profile than what I anticipated for new world Chenin.

2013 CHATEAU SMITH HAUT LAFITE LES- HAUTS de SMITH BLANC PESSAC-LEOGNAN- pale yellow color; this is a fabulous Sauvignon Blanc that shined from the nose through the tail; it expressed bright acidity and was replete with pleasant flavors highlighted by lemongrass, lime, green apple and kiwi with a nice underlying streak of minerals and a barely noticeable sweetness at the end; this elegant wine has body and texture and hits all of the right sensory receptors.

After an hour or so and lots of finger food, we moved on to the 4 reds, also tasted blind:

2018 GIROLAMA RUSSO FEUDO ROSSO ETNA SICILIAN RED WINE- 14% abv; 100 % Nerello Mascalese; I first noticed the vibrant bright red color which confirmed its youthfulness and then once nosed, I got a huge spicy, peppery blast that put a smile on my face as I’m a spicy, peppery lover in wine; the fruit was mainly that of blueberry and now I’m thinking this is a Zinfandel after my first thought, Petit Sirah; I loved everything about this wine as it exuded elegance and sophistication, but it’s that spice and pepper accent that sealed the deal for me; plus, I like blueberries too.

Funny thing. I also had this wine at the Sicilian wine dinner a couple of weeks ago and it was my fav of the night for the same reasons. I did not expect it to come around again so soon, but I’m stoked it did, as one of our foursome bought some of the wines offered at that dinner and brought 2 of them here. Now, I’m motivated to purchase this wine and just ordered some from our local wine shop who put on the dinner.

2008 LOPEZ de HEREDIA VINA BOSCONIA RESERVA RIOJA- decanted 2 hours; 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacho and the rest Graciano and Mazuelo; I did not recognize my own bring although the American oak was surely a dead giveaway, but I just kept on fooling myself; surely the coconut aromatics should have been enough; regardless, I struggled over the first 30 minutes to find its identity; it finally landed in a good place giving tobacco and eucalyptus laden blueberry and blackberry fruit while being delivered in a medium bodied texture; a re-taste 5 days later found it to be so much more evolved and settled in, even with some semblance of balance; it’s these latter remarks that lead me to continue to hold love for Bosconia, my fav of the LDH lineup. This vintage needs another 10-15 years.

1994 WILLIAMS SELYEM MENDOCINO COUNTY ZINFANDEL- 13.1% ABV; wow! I`m loving this one out of the gate and calling it a Zin and little did I know it came from one of my all time dear friends, Burt Williams, and one I’ve had a few times and still have one remaining; IMHO, this is the epitome of what Zinfandel should exemplify with its requisite spice and pepper accents to the blueberry and black cherry fruit; early on, there were also accents of talc, leather, earth and black currant, but they faded into the background while the spice, pepper and blueberry moved in, a good thing; the mouthfeel was a super soft velvet and more than adequately served to carry all of the goodness to the back end where it all came together and just rocked on. My WOTN prior to and after revealing. And then to top it off, the one who brought it gave me the remaining 1/2 bottle which I tasted a few days later with even more admiration and remembering half full is a lot better than half empty.

2013 SANGUIS PILGRIM SANTA BARBARA COUNTY SYRAH- 95% Syrah, 5% Grenache, and 2% Viognier; once again, I’m struggling to ID the varietal while loving the process; this had a dark inky purple color and a nose full of spice, pepper and fresh dark berry fruit which on the palate could be recognized as blackberry and black cherry; this wine seemed to initially come off as pretty mellow, but within each layer of depth, new nuances kept showing up and about mid palate, it just took off and sailed into a grand finish while touting loads of complexity and super bright acidity; I thought this was another Zin or Petit or even a N. Rhone with the pepper notes, but obviously that was not the case and I got another educational experience.

This is such a fun evening and the 4 of us are exploring, learning and sharing the passion with each wine while eating some of the most tasty Italian food on the planet and enjoying the fellowship.

Blind tasting is so humbling and educational. Also, it requires extra time to just hang out with a wine and follow it over the course of an evening and experience the shifts and changes just about every wine goes through in a couple of hours or more. It also leads to a more informed buying decision if and when that time comes like what happened when I wrote up the notes on the Sicilian red and made the call to buy.



Funny, I never ever get any obvious American oak notes in Heredia reds. The whites might show some oaky nuances soon after they are released, but even in those aromas tend to fade away after a few additional years in a cellar.

Using American oak is definitely a reliable sign of many a Rioja red, but even if I’ve picked correctly many Heredias in blind tastings, I must say it has never been due to any oak influence. I’ve thought it’s because the wines are aged in predominantly old - well, ancient - barrels that IMO don’t leave any aromatic imprint whatsoever to the wines.

i agree with Otto–I’ve never really noted much notable American oak character in the LdH wines.

Just a note on the L’Ecole Chenin. They’ve always made a chenin–Megan Club’s mom apparently loved Vouvray. It’s always an interesting under $20 wine. I’m rather sorry that more Chenin is not made in Washington State. Erica Orr makes a very good example as well.

Otto, John, have either of you had the 08` Bosconia? The coconut aroma was pretty distinct and another got dill when he announced the American Oak presence after I had already made note of it. I agree with both of you, LDH is not an oak bomb producer and I’ve enjoyed and preferred their wines over most other Rioja, both young and old, for decades. Also, it should be noted that the oak presence was much less noticeable in the second tasting of this bottle 5 days later.

Regardless, thanks for your input.


No, unfortunately I haven’t had the 2008, just the 2006 (which I tasted a couple of years ago, ie. at the same age as 2008 is now). To my understanding the winemaking for all the Heredia wines has remained pretty much constant for decades, so it’d be odd if the 2008 vintage was suddenly noticeably oaky as opposed to any other vintage I’ve tasted. However, I have a bottle or two of the 2008 vintage in my cellar, so it’s possible my TN will appear here someday.

FWIW, here’s my note on the 2006 vintage from late 2020:

  • 2006 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Bosconia - Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja (1.10.2020)
    A blend of Tempranillo (80%), Garnacha (15%), Mazuelo and Graciano, the grapes sourced from the El Bosque vineyard. Fermented spontaneously in old and very large oak fermenters, aged for 5 years in barrels and then for a further 3 years in bottles before release. 13,5% alcohol. Tasted half-blind.

Quite dark, somewhat translucent and relatively youthful deep ruby red color with a pale garnet rim. Fragrant, sweet-toned and somewhat perfumed nose with aromas of wild strawberries, some raspberries, light wild floral tones, a little bit of exotic spice, sweet developed hints of wizened red fruits and marmalade and a floral touch of violets. The wine is dry, firm and relatively acid-driven on the palate with a medium body and precise, elegant flavors of tart lingonberries and cranberries, some savory old wood spice, a little bit of marmaladey raspberry, light ferrous notes of blood, a hint of ripe black cherry and a touch of farmhouse funk. The wine has a lovely, silky texture yet it sports wonderfully precise structure with its noticeably high acidity and somewhat grippy medium-plus tannins. The finish is firm, moderately grippy and very long with complex, dry flavors of sour cherries, some leathery funk, a little bit of crunchy cranberries, light notes of savory wood spice, a hint of sweet-and-sour lingonberry jam and a touch of earth. The bright acidity makes the wine end on a quite mouthwatering note.

A wine that came across as noticeably different from the other red wines in our Spanish Tempranillo half-blind tasting. If such an analogy makes sense, all the other wines felt more “Cabernet” in style - the classicist coming across as Bordeaux, the modernist more like Napa Cabs - while this wine was the only one that was distinctively “Burgundian” in style - lighter in weight, more delicate in taste, wonderfully perfumed in the nose and sporting beautiful, Pinot Noir-like acidity. Many said this wine was underwhelming and most likely not going to age that well in the cellar, but I guess they were just expecting a more robust style of wine; for me, this was a classic, well-made Bosconia showing outstanding freshness, precision and sense of sophistication. Still a mere baby at the age of 14 years, I expect this wine to age gracefully for another two decades or so. Excellent value at 22,25€. (94 pts.)

Posted from CellarTracker

Nice notes on the 06`.

LDH has long used the Bosconia/ Burgundy analogy and Tondonia/ Bordeaux analogy and I can see it is a fair assessment although I have found some differences in various releases.

As to the oak influence in the bottle I tasted, the coconut was clearly present and the dill was too once the suggestion was made. For me, those are 2 of the notes that sing out American oak. We all have had many wines where the integration has not been fully complete at time of release or soon thereafter and I`m thinking this is one of the occasions. I understand you are well experienced and informed and surmise you would make similar conclusions about the bottle we had in spite of past experiences. Regardless, this was just my interpretation of one bottle anyway.

I’ve had both the '06 and '08 Bosconia (as well as a number of other vintages). I found American Oak very subtle in the '06, yet more noticeable as a coconut note in the '08. Still less than other Rioja producers, but in a relative sense I think the '06 integrates it better. And to my palate I like the 06 more.

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Beauty, Blake—always fun and as usual a terrific read. Thanks for all your impressions on these wines, great spectrum of brings as well.

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Hey Mike, thanks and all the best.