The other night at Roanoke Vineyards, Melissa and I were 2 of 40 lucky people to join in on a very interesting and fun event. A winemaker’s smackdown.
The object was to taste wines from around the world and try to name their origin and varietal. All 40 participants including the wine makers tasted the wine blind. The five Winemakers will blindly taste seven wines. Those 5 wine makers are, Roman Roth of Wolffer Estate and Roanoke Vineyards, Chris Tracy of Channing Daughters, Eric Fry of Lenz Vineyards, Greg Gove of Peconic Bay, and Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery. The event was moderated by Chef Tom Schaudel.
The event began with the wine makers walking in and taking their seat up at the panel table. Roman Roth walked in with a leopard print snuggle on the wrong way and a pair of boxing gloves dangling from his neck. Eric Frye came dressed as Tom Schaudel and Greg Gove walked in with a pilsner.
Introductions began, but when we came to Roman Roth, he decided to read some poetry he prepared specifically for the SMACKDOWN. Quite hysterical and beautifully written. You really had to be there.
This event was going to be alot of fun and an education for me. First because I have never tasted blind. Secondly, I was going to be tasting wine from around the world. Something I never really get a chance to do. I have waited for this for a while. I wanted to see if I could name Long Island wine, old world wine and wine from another location.
There was a disclaimer given at the beginning, Wine makers look for flaws in wine. They look to correct wine. That is what they look for first. When they are missing they then go on from there. I found that interesting and extremely difficult to do. Something I need to find out more about.
The first wine we tasted was a white wine. My notes read as follows, Apple melon, dried pineapple. Sharp acidity, maybe spicy, viscous, ML, white flowers. No oak but aged in oak. White pepper finish. My guess, old world chardonnay.
All the wine makers guessed it was Chardonnay. Most thought it was east coast, non-california chardonnay. All thought it was aged in French oak.
The result: Rombauer Vineyards 2007 Carneros Chardonnay. 91 points from Wine Spectator. Aged 10 months in AMERICAN OAK! 100 % Malolactic Fermentation and 14.4% alcohol. We all guess the grape but where and how it was made, we were all wrong.
The next wine was also a white. My notes read as follows, Clean, crisp, melon, tropical, apple and touch of pear. Minerality and steel. Citrus and grapefruit. Slate. Tongue tingling acidity. My guess Riesling, new world, Long Island maybe.
The wine makers all agreed that this was a new world wine, most likely east coast, and all thought it to be Sauvignon Blanc. Roman stuck his nose out and said it was chardonnay. Chris Tracy said it was a recent release or unreleased 2009 Sauvignon Blanc….very specific.
The result, Wine # 2 was Channing Daughters 2009 Mudd Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Man that Chris Tracy is smart! It is just released and let me tell you, I loved this wine.
We now moved onto the reds. Wine # 3 had a huge alcohol note, but after if lifted, my notes read as follows, blackberry, raspberry spice, smoky, minerality stony, earthy mushroom, funk, black pepper dried herbs eucalyptus. Soft tannins with great acidity. My guess was that it was a Cabernet Franc; I went as far as saying it was Raphael 2007 or 2005 Cabernet Franc. Sticking my neck out a little.
Boy was I wrong! Wine # 3 was 2005 Chateau Greysac, Medoc. A blend of 50%Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petite Verdot. This scored an 89 from Wine Spectator. Now, saying that I thought this was a Cab Franc, made me believe that the 8% that was in the cab franc was really pronounced. We were all shocked by it and enjoyed it. Though it did have a short finish.
The next wine, #4 we tasted blind was a very good wine. I loved this wine. IT was loaded with loads of berries. Red and some blue with a bunch of black berries. Some cherry too. Floral. Black pepper and dried herbs. Juicy plum and chocolate. It was a good food wine, with a great balance of tannins and acidity. It did have a bit of a hot finish. I felt it was a blend, possibly from California, but not jammy enough so it could have been old world.
The wine makers thought this was an old world wine and love the nose on this, some great comments and thoughts from the panel on this wine. Roman was the closest I think to picking this wine. And this was a goodie:
Wine #4 was 2007 Domain de la Milliere Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieilles Vignes. 92 points from Robert Parker. IS a blend of 60% Grenache, 10% Syrah 10% Mourvede, 10% Cinsault, and 10% Counoise. It was macerated for 25 days in cement tanks then 18 months in French oak. A solid wine and well done. I have A CdP here at home from 2005 and this is a region I would love to explore some more.
Wine #5 was very jammy, almost a mixed berry cobbler on the nose. There was a dried herbal and spice note. The tannins were soft with minimal acidity. It was even a little sweet to me. This was a very easy going and drinkable wine. Most of us at the table felt this was a commercial wine, possibly Yellowtail or Barefoot. One audience member stuck there head out and said that if this was not a Zinfandel, then they would leave. Oddly they stayed the rest of the way. The panel was mixed on this one; I believe that they were thrown by this.
Wine #5 was, drum roll please, Charles Shaw 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, “Two Buck Chuck”, Bronco Wine Company, Ceres, CA. You can find this wine in Trader Joes for $1.99. Nuff Said. This revelation did bring the crowd to an unbelievable raw!
Our next wine would hopefully redeem itself and put some legitimacy back into this blind tasting. On the nose of this, I was home; this red wine was in my wheelhouse. I was getting this earthy, funky, barnyard, dark berry note. There was plenty of spice and pepper to make it sing. There was some nice minerality with great tannins and nice acidity. I actually wanted a second tasting of this. The group at our table felt that this was a local Long Island wine. But older. I felt it could have been Lenz, but the year we were not sure of. One said 2002 Old Vines, I said 2001. Chris Tracy had guessed it was Lenz Old Vines 2002 as well. And Eric Frye, he was guessing the same.
Wine # 6 was, Lenz 2001 Old Vines Merlot. 91Points by Robert Parker. Sold Out and man that is a shame. I really love this wine, and I was very happy that I guessed this right. But it puts me at 1 for 6 a .166 batting average. So sad.
It has now come down to this, our last tasting. Wine # 7. Right away, I was picking up funk, earth, and licorice, which gave way to some juicy dark berries and some slate and chocolate. There was a bit of dried fruit showing as well as some coffee too. It was a bit tannic at first, but the longer it was in the glass, the better. This really started to become something after a few minutes in the glass. The longer it sat the better. All of us were dumbfounded and found it difficult to pick this one. We were all in agreement that this was not from Long Island and most defiantly not new world. But where?
Wine # 7 was a rare wine, it took alot of research for Roanoke Vineyards to get their hands on this sold out wine, but it was 1989 Chateau Pontet Canet, Pauillac. 90 Points from Wine Spectator. Small producer, 32 acres blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 2% Petit Verdot. A little history about this location from the Answer card, “The average vine ins 35 years old and this have banned chemically weed killers and non-organic fertilizers. Pontet Canet uses only indigenous yeast and hand harvests and hand sorts. The property has been owned by only 3 families over 200 years. At on the skins for 28 days i a wooden tank, spent 20 months in French oak, 60 new 40 one year old, and it was fined with egg whites.” This wine was obtained from a small lot in a private cellar in Chicago. It was the most expensive wine of the night and it was the best.
WOW! It just blew us away. What a way to end the night.
Which winemaker was the best, it’s hard to say. I would give my vote to Chris Tracy. He was close on almost all of the wines. Plus I loved hearing is descriptions. They were all good. For them to put their palates and reputations on the line was very noble of them. Congrats to all of the wine makers!
At the end, Chef Tom prepared a little pasta dish for us all and we sat and drank some Roanoke wine and really enjoyed the night.
There is another SMACKDOWN 2 “The Wicked Crush” planned for some time in August. You can bet I will be there, but I won’t be betting on where the wine’s come from!
Editor’s Note: All photo’s except for the bottles are from Mary Antzak…thanks Scott!