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Wine tasting outcome

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Aug. 6, 2003
Several people have asked about the outcome of last week's tasting that matched chardonnay wines against sauvignon blancs.
We were trying to broaden horizons, you may remember, and prove there are other quality white wines that are not necessarily chardonnays.
When the show of hands came at tasting end, it was a virtual tie. There were as many for one as there were for the other, and I left feeling my point had been proven.
In tasting order, the first two were a Guenoc chardonnay ($14) against a Guenoc sauvignon blanc ($13). The chardonnay did not have the lovely honey or buttery flavors you find in more expensive wines.
Frankly, I thought it was very average. The sauvignon blanc, however, was crisp as it is supposed to be with a nice light bouquet and citrus finish. Neither were exceptional wines, but reasonable values at their prices. I gave the chardonnay an 82 rating and the sauvignon blanc an 84.
Next we served two wines from the famed Stag's Leap California winery and absolutely hit the jackpot. The crowd later voted them the wines of the evening and rightly so.
The chardonnay (about $26) was fresh and tasty with wonderful peach background flavor, along with a buttery taste and excellent balance.
Balance means no one flavor dominates the taste of the wine, but rather there are several flavors of more or less equal taste on your pallet. It had nice color and a remarkable bouquet. This wine was one of the better chards I've drunk in recent months and I gave it a 92 rating.
The attendees loved it, as they should have. With chicken or a cream sauce this wine would have been terrific.
Stag's Leap sauvignon blanc (about $20) was another winner. It had the crisp acidity taste good sauvignons are supposed to have. It would have been marvelous with oysters or other sea food.
Remember: In wine tasting, acidity is a plus. Roughly translated that means a faint lemon-like flavor, which is why it goes so well with certain foods. You couldn't have served the chardonnay with oysters, not with its buttery taste. But the sauvignon would have been a perfect marriage. I gave it a 90 rating, but considering the price differential it was a value equal to the chardonnay.
The big league Chalk Hill wines finished off the tasting. To my taste, their chardonnay flavor was intense, one of the most powerful I have drunk in several years. It just burst on you. There wasn't any subtlety in this wine at all nor should there have been at $46 a bottle.
People who consume wine on a regular basis thought it was wonderful. On the other hand, there were several complaints, mostly by ladies that the taste was too strong and they didn't care for it. It had a powerful lemon, lime flavor with some fruit in the background but I found only a limited hint of butter. It was truly packed with flavor. I rated it 93, the best wine of the evening. But to the crowd, they preferred the Stag's Leap with its somewhat light but well defined richness.
As for the Chalk Hill sauvignon blanc ($30) it was comparable with its Stag's Leap counterpart. Nice acid citrus flavor. Excellent sipping wine. I gave it a 90 as I had the Stag's Leap. But here again, if you consider price on one side of the scale and flavor, bouquet and color on the other, the Chalk Hill at $30 is every bit as good a buy as the more highly rated chardonnay.
We served all wines in pairs, the two Guenocs side by side in different glasses, the same with the Stag's Leap in the second round and again with the Chalk Hill, the third wines presented. That way the tasters could switch back and forth, one to the other.
The door wine was an Italian pinot grigio costing about $8 per bottle. It had a slightly sweet flavor, not memorable but pleasant, a truly inexpensive patio wine. The tasters accepted it for what it was and there were no complaints; in fact, there were some compliments on it.
I rated it an 80 which was probably a bit low because of my distaste for sweeter fruity wine. You can't go wrong at that price if you try a bottle.