Blind Test - Best Under $60

My tasting group got together last Friday for a little blind tasting competition. We all had what amounted to a pissing contest: Who could bring the “best” wine that retailed for under $60. THe only rules were that the wine had to be red, and had to currently retail for under $60. I decided to bring a 2003 Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi, and brought a 2003 Lagrange as a kicker.

In order of tasting…

2003 Lagrange Slightly sufurous on the nice. Supple, with rich blackberry, cedar, and tobacco leaf and charcoal. Eggish nose unpleasant, however. Medium finish. I think with the slight sulfur/egg funk, this had to be an off bottle. I called this the 2003 Lagrange blind. 87?? will retaste.

2003 Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi Called this blind (everything else was obviously not this, and since I knew what I brought, I championed a little deductive reasoning…and tasted it :wink: ). It’s something like 50% garnacha, and then Cab, Merlot, and Carignan and some Syrah. Interesting wine! Winner for me. Rich blackberry intertwined with bright red raspberry, and then blueberry. Intriguing fruit palate. Loads of minerality and only a hint of soft oak and smoke. Really bright acidity cuts through the fruit and oak notes, making for a really crisp but long finish. Showing very little age. Good structure to pair with fruit and acidity. Balanced, and far from heavy. One person complained about the acidity, but I loved it. I hope I’m not turning into an AFWE!!! Oh no! 94

2008 Foley Merlot Okay, clearly not turning AFWE. This rocked! Currant, Plum, Cocoa, hint of vanilla, great structure, and nice grippy tannins on the finish. Rich, but the structure helps balance it out. I guessed 2006 or 2007 Napa Cab. It’s a Foley Merlot, which tastes about the same. A monster of a merlot. Reminds me how much I love Napa. Really tied for 2d, but the Keplinger was so different and interesting that I gave it the nod for X-Factor. 93

1997 Lafarge Volnay Clos du Chateau des Ducs Very obviously burgundy, but I bricked very hard on the vintage, thinking it much younger than it was. Light in color and body, with really zingy acidity, earthy notes, and dried cherries. This was a couple of people’s favorite, but not mine. Frankly I thought the acidity dominated the fruit a bit, leaving the wine lacking a touch in the balance category. Didn’t need much more fruit, but could have used a smidge. 90

2009 Stolpman “Originals” Syrah Stylistic changeup here. Blueberry, Mineral, black pepper. Tooth staining and opaque, with fairly aggressive tannins. I guessed 2007-2008 Petit Sirah/Blend. Obviously very young. Has a lot there, but pepper was a bit overwhelming, and I don’t consider myself really that sensitive to it. 90

2009 Venge “Scout’s Honor” Similar in style to wine 5. Enormous, saturated, pitch black fruit bomb laden with blueberry compote, licorice, and a hint of chile. Seems like a really saturated syrah, but I have little confidence. I am sure it’s 2008-2009, since it’s beyond black in color. A little hot. 90

2007 Foley Petit Sirah Napa Valley. No question. Deep near-black. Rich with gobs of black currant, blackberry, plum, tar, oak, and spice box. Solid tannins and very large structure. Enormous finish. I think that if I like this, I will never be allowed access to the AFWE, but to hell with it. Clearly an extracted Napa wine built for decades, but so loaded that it’s screaming right now. Little young and a touch hot, but yum. I guess 2008 Napa Cab. Right near my top three, but edged out. 4 of 8 guessed Napa cab, me included. 93

2007 Keplinger N=1 Fascinating wine. I immediately wrote down Cali Pinot ala Sta. Lucia. Second go around has me stumped. Bright, rich cherry, strawberry, blackberry bramble, finishing with a wow-factor white flower and rosemary note that lifts the wine to another place. Clearly something a little bigger than a Sta. Lucia pinot noir, but I can’t figure it out. One taster says, it’s gotta be grenache. Nail on the head and it’s pretty obvious. Really neat, delicious wine. Loved it, and a great change of pace (it’s much lighter in body and style than the three previous wines. 2d place. Good wine to end on 93

Great fun. Group WOTN was the Venge Scout’s Honor, which I didn’t really get. Finca Dofi was second in 1st place votes. Lafarge Volnay was 3d. Keplinger was right up there. Super fun tasting. Double blind tasting is freaking hard.