The Judgment of Quarantine

In doing a very-long-overdue inventory of my wine storage cabinets, I discovered and pulled out some older bottles, some of which might be over the hill, or in the questionable area, or at least seemed like now is the time to drink rather than holding longer.

In that vein, I pulled out two 2009 chardonnays and figured the smart play was to open them now. The wines were the 2009 Louis Carillon Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Les Macherelles and the 2009 Rhys Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard.

It seemed like a fair fight, two wines of the same age, both from warm vintages, roughly the same price. I tried them single blind, with my wife getting to try them double blind.

Wine #1:

A beautiful clear, light, bright yellow-gold, zero worry of oxidation from the color. The nose has some salted butter, tart pineapple, tea, and the slightest hint of smoke.

The wine really shines on the palate, with bright pineapple, guava, lemon, and especially a wash of ripe orange. You also get a blast of white spices in the mid palate. The finish is long and juicy.

Overall the wine is bright and energetic, without heaviness or oakiness. It feels very much like a pure expression of the grapes and site. A sense of clean, pure, transparency. The bottle was also quite youthful considering its age and vintage.

Wine #2:

Very nearly the same color as Wine #1., light, clear, pretty, and a welcome sigh or relief that the wine is not oxidized. The nose has a layer of sweet earth to it, bright orange, and a persistent note of matchstick and gun flint. The nose gives the wine a feeling of importance.

On the palate, the slightest hint of white spice, much less than the other wine, tart pineapple, baked green apple, lemon, and some lingering notes of toast to the finish.

For those who like tastefully added notes from the barrel, this pulls it off well, without creaminess or heaviness, but with a consistent accent of smoke and toast. This is not as purely transparent as the other wine, but does offer its power with reasonable elegance.

The Judgment:

I think you would impress more people with Wine #2, but I think Wine #1 was probably more spot on. I leaned ever so slightly to #1 myself. Really, though, both were very good and pretty much a tie in quality, it was just a question of which style appealed to you more.

Wine #1 was the Rhys, and Wine #2 was the Carillon. Fun tasting.


Chris, nice notes. I find myself saying I’m not a big fan of Chardonnay, nor am I fan of oak presence on white wines. Yet every Rhys Chard I’ve popped I’ve found absolutely delicious.

Great idea! A few months ago we did something quite similar: 2013 Rhys Horseshoe Chardonnay vs 2013 Henri Boillot Puligny Montrachet Perrieres. We felt the exact same - neither was truly “better” they were just slightly different. Rare for me to really enjoy a California Chardonnay. Would love to compare them 5-10 years from now.

Nice notes! I had that Rhys a few months ago and it was really really fantastic.

Interesting pairing.

Question, how did you try them single blind and wife double blind, or did she try them first then pour for you?

I was trying to figure that out too. Here’s what I came up with. He opened both bottles and wrapped them in foil. She then took the foiled bottles and bagged them (or refoiled). So he wouldn’t know which was which and she wouldn’t know what either are. Is that right?

Counselor, enjoyed reading that. For you to sit down and sift through organizing, knowing you as well as I do, that says a lot about the times we are in. One of the reasons (among many) that I have such fondness for you is that you’re not a programmed, follow the plan and check off the list kind of guy.

More side by sides, please!

Appreciate the notes…nicely done.

I opened them and removed the foil, then had my son put them into numbered tasting bags out of my sight.

I’ve done it myself before where I put the bags down with the number side down, bagged them with the number facing away. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes not. It works better if the bottles are similar size and shape, like they were this time (nearly identical bottles).

What did your wife think? She’s the one with the palate in the family!

And pulls no punches when it comes to what she thinks.

See, this damn quarantine thing had my brain working around “how the hell did he and his wife have a single blind and double blind tasting?”

I Can totally see how his wife could have a double blind but if he knows Precisely what 2 wines they are then I question whether he’s actually blind. I Give him a half blind at Best

How fitting as I just watched Bottle Shock recently - not the finest acting but enjoyable enough when you’ve popped your second bottle.

Rhys makes some damn fine Chardonnays. I’m convinced the Santa Cruz mountains are one of THE special places in the world to grow this variety.

It’s funny how trends go. Back in the '90s the conventional wisdom, pushed by the regional producers group SCMWA, was that Chard was the future of the region. I’d go to big multi-winery tastings and every one of them was making a Chard. They were all good or better - even that funny one from a tiny producer that tasted like it had some Gewurztraminer in the mix… Eep! The next decade it swapped and Pinot was the thing, with an annual focused event (Pinot Paradise). Another decade and they added a smaller Cab focused event. Still none for Chard. It hasn’t gone away, and there are more top-tier ones than ever.

A point of trivia is David Bruce came to the region idolizing the Martin Ray Chards and started as a Chard specialist, and earned his reputation with them.

I didn’t know which bottle was which, but I obviously knew the two bottles I’d put in. So it was technically single blind, but on the smallest scale, and I certainly wouldn’t brag if I guessed which one was which (which I did, though I wasn’t 100% certain). So I’ll accept half blind.

More than anything, I do things like that because I think it focuses my mind more on what I’m tasting. I wouldn’t have had a particular bias of one of those wines over the other, but without knowing which was which, I think I experienced the wine a little more genuinely. I can’t immediately fall back on things I would know or expect based on the label.

Like me, she ever so slightly preferred the Rhys. But she didn’t like the wines quite as much as I did — the aged characteristics don’t appeal to her as much. She would have liked these better five years ago.

Great idea, excellent wines, outstanding notes.

I might have to try this tonight with Easter dinner reds…

My teenage daughter helps blind me sometimes, he’s got a son.
Chris, great idea-great notes.

Besides the usual suspects, winemaker John Benedetti is doing nice things SCM Chardonnay at Sante Arcangeli and also is making chardonnay for Lester Estates too. All 5 bottlings I’ve had from him are really good and stylistically aligned with Rhys. I think you tasted at least one last year the SCMVA grand tasting. I’m super excited for Sandar and Hem’s upcoming release. I think Alfaro does a nice job with his Chardonnays as well. Well balanced and not too big and ripe.