Tarara and the World (and a humbling blind tasting).
Last night, on February 18, we had our first of a series of tastings that we are hosting at Tarara. These tastings are held every other month, and each will have a cool theme where we taste some Tarara wines alongside some of the top wines from around the world. There are several reasons for these tastings:
- Obviously, we want to see and show how Tarara stands up to benchmarks from around the world.
- Give the winemaking team an opportunity to taste some great wines with our customers, which will serve as a learning experience in order to make our wine better.
- Bone up on our blind tasting skills (clearly very needed after last night’s debacle :).
- Probably most importantly, have the chance to have a good time drinking our wines and the world’s greats with some of the best fans on the planet.
This first tasting of the series was an easy choice for a theme. Tarara is based around the idea of terroir and single vineyard wines, so we knew we should try to showcase some other great terroirs from around the globe. In this case, we narrowed it down to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wines from some of the top regions and vineyards that produce these varieties. We did it as two flights and I have to say, both were great (although in my opinion the Chardonnay may have been the stronger of the two). Here is the line-up that we tasted (in order of how we tasted – although it was all blind and only revealed after great discussion):
Flight One – Chardonnay
- Tarara Chardonnay Virginia 2012 - $25.00
- Failla Keefer Ranch Chardonnay Russian River 2012 - $46.00
- Louis Michel Montee Tonnerre Chablis Premier Cru 2012 - $45.00
- Isole Olena Collezione de Marchi Chardonnay IGT Toscana 2013 - $45.00
- Tarara Chardonnay Virgnia 2013 - $30.00
- Felton Road Bannockburn Chardonnay Central Otago 2013 - $50.00
Flight Two – Cabernet Sauvignon
- Tarara Tranquility Middleburg 2012 - $45.00
- Tarara Tranquility Middleburg 2010 - $45.00
- Heitz Cellars Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 - $210.00
- Boneyard Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 - $25.00
- Le Pauilliac de Latour (Third wine of Chateau Latour) Pauilliac 2009 - $112.00
- Hay Shed Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River 2012 - $27.00
Overall we were thrilled with the results of having two outstanding flights, but more importantly how our wines showed in such prestigious line-ups. While the favorite wine of my co-host Sarah Walsh and myself out of the Chardonnays was the Chablis, the crowd consensus was certainly not. I was incredibly thrilled to hear that the top vote-getting wine was the Tarara Chardonnay 2013. It certainly wasn’t a landslide victory, and in fact any wine really could have shown as the top wine since the voting was pretty even all across. I was just thrilled to see that both of our wines showed so well beside some wines I personally idolize. It showed that our Chardonnay was a great value and we are happy to put it at any table with any other wine.
For the Cabernet it was a bit more perplexing of a flight and there were two clear favorites, but those shocked almost everyone. The two wines that were voted evenly as the top two wines were the Hay Shed Hill and the Tarara Tranquility 2010. That said, I think this flight certainly played heavily into stylistic preferences, so it was hard for me to really state a top wine. They all showed their own unique style which was the whole idea of this tasting. The only two that were really similar in any measure were the Boneyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and the Tarara Tranquility 2012, which makes a lot of sense. They were both from a cool vintage by our standards, but also a long vintage. A large portion of the Boneyard Cabernet also comes from Tranquility. These two were certainly the lightest weight wines of the flight and were lauded for their bright fruit and immediate drinkability.
Everyone was stunned by the Martha’s Vineyard, in that many people found in unmemorable for a wine of its price. Personally, I thought it was a great wine and showed some classic tell-tale elements of this vineyard, with great concentration, lovely fruit, and the always-Martha’s-Vineyard mint and eucalyptus notes. Funny thing is, both Sarah and I guessed it wrong, thinking it was the Hay Shed Hill for similar reasons, and fully discounted it as Martha’s, because it was so youthful and we did know that the Martha’s in the lineup was a 2006. I do think with time this wine will be astonishing.
The Hay Shed Hill was just an all-around correct wine with beautiful fruit and medium body. It also deserved to be in this line-up and is a great value.
The most controversial wine was definitely the Le Pauilliac de Latour. Simply put, it showed some gaminess that can only be equated to a certain level of brettanomyces. That said, it was not off-putting to Sarah, myself, or most others tasting. There were some in attendance who found this to be their hands-down favorite because of the complexity it brought. There was still fruit to balance with the earthy and meaty characters, and the textures were sublime. Overall, though it stood out from the crowd for these reasons, many didn’t know what to think.
Finally, the most perplexing wine of the night was without a doubt the 2010 Tranquility. I fully expected this wine to show well and it did. The part that threw me off is that it showed so well in a completely different way than I had anticipated. Not having tasted this wine in over a year (sadly) I expected rich concentration and gobs of fruit. It did have great concentration, but it was far more complex than I had anticipated and showed almost signs of age. Thinking more on it, I think it was simply the nature of the hot vintage and our slow style of processing that has given this wine almost an “Amarone”-style characteristic to it. The fruit was more stewed and dried, and it was balanced with earthy and leafy tones that made a few of us think of mint and eucalyptus. At the tasting, it was a sure thing that this wine had to be the Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. Boy, were we shocked when we pulled off that bag! I was both thrilled and shocked that I had no idea it was my own wine.
I am not sure why I was shocked that I couldn’t guess the Tranquility 2010. The reality is, of five wines made by my team and myself, I only guessed two correctly. What was really funny is the two that were favorites in their respective flights were not the ones I had guessed! All and all that tasting was extremely educational for me and also, I think, everyone else. We were all over the board on what we were guessing, with the so-called-“pros” hosting the tasting only guessing a couple wines correctly per flight.
The whole night was simply a lot of fun drinking great wine. Again, we were pleased because we brought in some really cool wines and all showed great. There wasn’t an outright dud in my opinion in either flight. The wines did just as they were supposed to and showed different characteristics based on their sites. I obviously need to learn to train my own palate more to be able to use those tell-tale hints, but for the most part, even when wrong, we were not shocked to see what was in each bag. They were all great wines.