at Salty's Pub, Clifton Park, NY (5/26/2011)

My regular Albany-area group met to blind taste 18 Rhone varietal wines from around the world. We had white blends, red blends, Grenache, and Syrah from California, Washington, Spain, Australia, and of course the Rhone Valley itself.

Cousin Matthew brought all the wines, generously pulling a broad range of his favorites from his cellar. He also brought along his son David who is in the wine business, and is used to his "Uncle Ken" taking photos at every occasion.

Some of the guys set up their glasses.

The group knew only that the wines were Rhone varietal wines. I knew the general theme of each flight and some of the wines, but generally not the order, and in most cases, I had no idea which wine I was drinking. So, roughly single blind for me, and double blind for the group. With so many wines, we decided to vote for Wine of the Flight (WOTF) for each flight, then reveal; rather than an overall WOTN.

The whites (Flight 1) were all opened and recorked at 4:30. The reds (Flights 2-5) were all double-decanted between 7am and 8am. The tasting began about 7:30 and ended about 10:30.

Click on any image for a much larger view of that image (which may contain more picture).

Flight 0: Leftover from Last Tasting.

Flight 1: Whites

With Corn Cake with Jail Island Salmon Tartare, Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Dill Butter Sauce. OMG this was good! And great with the white wines. That's sushi-quality raw salmon (left) and delicious smoked salmon on top of a poached salmon filet which is then on top of a corn pancake!

All opened and recorked at 4:30. Tasted around 7:30. These were all very good wines. Quite flavorful and delicious
  1. 2007 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châeauneuf-du-Pape
    Blend of 45% Grenache Blanc, 30% Clairette, 20% Bourboulenc, 5% Roussanne. Lovely nose of crisp fruit and flowers. Fresh and delicious! 6 votes for WOTF. (92 pts.)
  2. 2005 Turley The White Coat - USA, California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County
    60% Roussanne, 35% Viognier, 5% Grenache Blanc. More overt floral nose. Delicious and complex. More intense than the first wine. 4 votes for WOTF, including mine. (93 pts.)
  3. 2006 Alban Vineyards Roussanne Estate - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    75% Roussanne, 25% Viognier. Nose of lime custard. Thicker and more oily than above. Needs more time. 6 votes for WOTF. 92-?? points for me. (92 pts.)

Flight 2: Grenache

With Classic Risotto with Fresh Local Wild Mushrooms and Ramps and Grilled Zucchini.
  1. 1998 Clarendon Hills Grenache Old Vines Blewitt Springs - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, Clarendon
    Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night for me. A bottle I had a year or so ago was totally shot. This one had a lovely nose of red fruit and spice. Hugely expansive in the mouth with a long ringing finish of ripe red fruit. A great sense of harmony. Many guessed Grenache, no one guessed Australia. 12 votes for WOTF. (95 pts.)
  2. 2002 Alban Vineyards Grenache Alban Estate Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    15% Syrah. More backward in the nose and mouth. Ripe and sweet. Very tasty, but still quite young. May be even better in 3-8 years. 2 votes for WOTF. (93 pts.)
  3. 2005 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Campo de Borja - Spain, Aragón, Campo de Borja
    100% Garnacha (Grenache). Muted nose but huge and thick in the mouth, but there is a very appealing complexity to it. By far the youngest in this flight. May be the best in 5 years. 92-94 points. 2 votes for WOTF. (93 pts.)

Flight 3: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre Blends

With Pan Seared Duck Breast with Currant Demi-Glaze and Root Vegetable Hash. The duck was exquisite, the root vegetable hash delicious!
  1. 2000 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Chaupin - France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Châeauneuf-du-Pape
    100% Grenache. Black pepper and black fruit in the nose. Sweet red fruit on the palate, but a lot of tannin in the finish and some of it is green. May be terrific in a few more years or maybe not. 93? points. 1 vote for WOTF. (93 pts.)
  2. 2001 d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
    70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre. Gorgeous red fruit nose. Really exquisite in the mouth. Must be at its peak. Loads of pleasure here. 11 votes for WOTF, but I liked the Pandora even more. (94 pts.)
  3. 2002 Alban Vineyards Pandora - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    80% Grenache, 20% Syrah. Stunning nose. Thick and delicious with loads of harmonious tannin. A very big wine. A total joy to drink. 2 votes for WOTF, including mine. (96 pts.)

Flight 4: Syrah 1

With Tournedos Rossini (Beef Tenderloin with goose liver). This smelled wonderfully!
  1. 1996 d'Arenberg Shiraz The Dead Arm - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
    Nose of black cherries, mint, and spice. Rich black fruit. Long sweet fruit finish. Just a fabulous wine. Expansive and delicious. I could drink it all night! 11 votes for WOTF, including mine. In his original review from Feb. 2000, Parker said "aged in 100% new oak, tipping the scales at a whopping 14.9% alcohol, yet has a glorious level of fruit and extract." He also called it "port-like". I had no sense at this stage of its life that is is port-like. It has mellowed into a just stunning wine, that no one thought was Australian. (95 pts.)
  2. 1998 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Nice sweet fruit, but some odd greenish tannins. Not sure what to make of this. NR. 0 votes for WOTF.
  3. 1999 K Vintners Syrah Walla Walla Valley - USA, Washington, Columbia Valley, Walla Walla Valley
    Tight but exquisite nose. Smooth, sweet, silky mouth feel. Delicious stuff. 4 votes for WOTF. Clear 2nd favorite for me and the group. Looking at the notes here in CellarTracker, it is hard to believe this is the same wine others have tasted. (94 pts.)
  4. 2000 Alban Vineyards Syrah Seymour's Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Inky, oaky nose. Massively oaky, but very tasty. Needs 5-10 years for the oak to integrate. Hopefully, it will. Then this will be 94-96 points. 1 vote for WOTF.
  5. 2002 Pax Syrah Cuvée Keltie - USA, California, North Coast
    Big gunky nose. So big and rich, but with an unpleasant medicinal streak. NR. 0 votes for WOTF.

Flight 5: Syrah 2

With Chef's Assorted Cheeses.
  1. 2000 E. Guigal Hermitage - France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Hermitage
    Smoky nose of dark tannic red fruit. Long finish. Needs time. 2 votes for WOTF. (93 pts.)
  2. 2001 Alban Vineyards Syrah Reva Alban Estate Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Stunning nose of licorice and exquisite black fruit. Thick and expansive in the mouth. Still quite young but the greatness is obvious. 6 votes for WOTF, including mine. (96 pts.)
  3. 2001 Shirvington Shiraz - Australia, South Australia, Fleurieu, McLaren Vale
    Another exquisite nose and mouth. Just another wow wine! Long, long finish. Big but harmonious. 4 votes for WOTF. A close 2nd for me and the group. (96 pts.)
  4. 2003 Pax Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Delicious but bitter on the finish. May be hurt by following the 2 above. 1 vote for WOTF. (92 pts.)

Bob tells The Bear Joke in David's honor . . .
. . . but everyone enjoys it.

A lot of terrific wines. Really too many for one evening, but somehow we managed. Thank you, Matthew!

Chef John Marzilli (seen below receiving some well-deserved congratulations) once again did a terrific job with the food, not only delicious, but well-matched to the wines. Sadly, Salty's Pub closed permenantly in 2019.

I don't think anyone could consistently guess where the wines had come front. Certainly the New World wines held their own.

Tasting notes posted from CellarTracker.



All original content © Ken Vastola