Last Saturday, I thought it would be fun to have a get together with some friends to do some wine tasting. We got four couples together and each couple brought one bottle of red and one bottle of white wine. The only rule was that each wine had to cost under $20. We then did a blind taste test and rated each of the wines.
We used a scoring system to decide the winner (one winner for white and one for red). The most points that any one wine could receive if everyone loved it was 35 points. (If you would like to know how we set it up, etc. - just e-mail and I will send you the details.)
Going into this, I thought what better way for me to taste the J. Lohr Zinfandel than to enter it into the "competition." The results amazed me. Of the 35 available points, the J. Lohr received 28, with the next closest wine getting 20. A clear cut winner of the wine tasting.
Here is what I liked about the wine:
The first thing I checked was the body of the wine - just by looking at it I could see that it would be a medium body, not a big heavy Meritage or a light Pinot but a smooth and easy-to-drink wine. It had a fabulous smell to it. I never really understood how wine could smell spicy - but it does. You can really smell the peppers in this wine with other berry type scents.
The main things I look for in wines are: flavor, balance and aftertaste. This one was full of flavor both before and during dinner. It could easily be served with or without food. The balance was very consistent - it started and ended nicely with just a small aftertaste. The only minor flaw was that there was not a long lingering aftertaste (although some may consider that a positive). As for food pairing - this is perfect for pasta, chicken, lighter meats or heavier fish (i.e., swordfish). It will be washed away by heavy or spicy meals.
Ultimately, it comes down to: Would I buy this wine again? This week, I was driving through San Jose and I stopped at the J. Lohr Tasting Room and bought a case of it. It is a very nice, reasonably priced wine that will continue to improve over the next five years in the bottle (although in my case will probably last three months).
So here was the trick to winning the Wine Tasting. When buying a wine to appeal to the masses, it is kind of like winning the presidential election. You need to appeal to the middle of the road, not the extremes. If you pick a Chianti, you will lose votes from those that like lighter wine; and if you pick a light pinot noir, you lose the full body wine drinkers. The same holds true for smell, flavor and aftertaste. This zinfandel is something that will appeal to the masses. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime wine but is a perfect everyday wine - and that is what I like.
In the next article, I am going to change things up and compare two "gift" wines (wines that cost more than I would normally spend) from the same vineyard - St. Clement Vineyards: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) vs. 2005 Merlot ($28).
Until then, cheers!
Don Colman, the Everyday Wine Guy lives in Danville and can be reached at email@example.com.