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Sparklers, Whites, and Reds, Oh My!

A Report from The Indy‘s Eclectic December Wine Tasting


For no reason in particular (other than the obvious, of course), this month The Indy decided it was time for another official office wine tasting. Although this tasting hosted more wine professionals than usual, the panel still ranged from novice to know-it-all, and we tasted most of the bottles blind, with labels hidden behind recycled paper bags.

In one of our less-focused tastings, the evening began with bubbles, moved onto two whites, three red blends, and ended with three Cabernet Sauvignons, and the regions ranged from Paso Robles and Montery County to Galicia, Spain and Languedoc, France. We’ve rated and evaluated each wine for the sake of our readers’ time, money, and taste buds.

So here we go.

Sparkling Wines

Nicolas Feuillate Blanc de Blancs 2004

Origin: Champagne, France

Price: $45

Score: 8 out of 10

Notes: While we were excited to be able to call this one Champagne and be politically correct for once, we happened to unanimously enjoy it, too. With its toasty, earthy, ripened apple flavors, one taster suggested it fit “to serve at a royal wedding.”

Antech Brut Blanquette de Limoux

Origin: Blanquette, France

Price: $11

Score: 5 out of 10

Notes: For the price, this Mauzac-dominated bubbly — with light citrus essence and honeyed finish — undoubtedly makes a fantastic party sipper. We’d never heard much of this grape, which is mostly used in southwestern France, and it was exciting to try something new.

Whites Wines

Abadia de San Campio Albarino Rias Baixas 2009

Origin: Galicia, Spain

Price: $20

Score: 8 out of 10

Notes: While tasting this Albarino from northwestern Spain’s Galicia region, the panel discussed how amazingly suited the varietal is for Santa Barbara. Medium-bodied and balanced with a great acidic backbone, a glass of this packs some serious complexity, with flavors as tropical as pineapple, as zesty as tangerine, as floral as orange blossoms, and as earthy as wet stones.

Zocker Gruner Veltliner Paragon Vineyard 2009

Origin: Edna Valley, California

Price: $20

Score: 6 out of 10

Notes: For a wine reminiscent of Riesling, we suggest picking up a bottle of this Gruner Veltliner, one of the first examples of the Austrian varietal — a sommerlier’s favorite — to be grown in California. Beautiful, floral aromatics give way to a smooth wine as crisp as salty ocean air. One taster could swear that fresh-squeezed pear juice somehow ended up in every super soft sip, although others thought there might be too much of the grape in this offering, since traditional Gruners show off brighter minerality.

Red Blends

Pittacum Barrica Mencia 2006

Origin: Bierzo, Spain

Price: $24

Score: 8 out of 10

Notes: Admittedly unfamiliar with the Mencia grape, our “blind” tasters had a tough time guessing this one, albeit all were pleasantly surprised. This Spanish selection hosted the most dynamic character of the flight: The panel picked up musky, perfumed, and even smoky aromas, and tasted pepper, black cherry, tangy earth, baking spices, and hints of vanilla and chocolate.

Gerard Bertrand Tautavel 2007

Origin: Rousillion, France

Price: $18

Score: 7 out of 10.

Notes: The nose on this wine, from a lesser-known wine region in southern France situated on the Spanish border, ambushed us with potent herb fragrances as savory as sage, sesame, dill, white pepper, menthol, anise, and eucalyptus. It was an interesting twist for a Rhone-based blend out of southwestern France.

Domaine St. Roch Fitou 2007

Origin: Languedoc, France

Price: $15

Score: 4 out of 10

Notes: Although this wine didn’t deserve a high score due to its flavor lacking focus and its body being weak in tannic structure, some tasters found this Grenache-Carignan blend reminiscent of a California GSM (a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre blend) and enjoyed hints of clove, white pepper, caramel, sage, and cassis.

Cabernet Sauvignons

Niner Cabernet Sauvignon Bootjack Ranch 2006

Origin: Paso Robles, California

Price: $28

Score: 8 out of 10

Notes: Niner’s offering ended up becoming the panel’s favorite of the three cabs, prompting a plethora of adjectives with its wonderful complexity. Currants and meat, earthy loam and black cherry, orange peel, blueberry and clove — we all enjoyed how Niner presented us such complimentary flavors with a big, spicy nose, backed up by some excellent acidity and tough tannin.

Robert Skalli Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Origin: Languedoc, France

Price: $17

Score: 6 out of 10.

Notes: This wine provoked a high variety of responses from tasters, with scores ranging from 3 to 8. Most noted its classic French character, but descriptions also spanned a wide range, from maple to cassis, sawdust, and cherry liquor crème.

Pacific Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Origin: Monterey County’s San Antonio Valley, California

Price: $15

Score: 5 out of 10

Notes: While this Monterey cab exhibited some green characteristics, we still found it widely enjoyable. With tart cranberry fruitiness, it’s acidity backed up its medium-light body, creating hints of jalapeno backed by dusty tannins.

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