I took on a big project this time, comparing two very nice gift wines from the same vineyard - the only difference being the grape. The wines were from St. Clement Vineyards: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon ($36) vs. 2005 Merlot ($28). I thought I might need some help for this one so I invited over another couple who know a lot about wine. If I am Don, The Everyday Wine Guy, then one of them would be known around Danville as Mike, The Everyday Wine Snob. We had four people deciding which wine we liked better.
We went through the official taste test. We checked the age, color, legs, nose and then finally the taste. Both wines are still relatively young and should age well. There are a number of similarities in the wines - particularly in the scent. We picked out a fair amount of oak, pepper and berries in both wines. The taste is where we noticed the big difference - the Cabernet was full of body and a medium dry wine, while the Merlot came across as being a little sweet and a bit thin. When we finished the official review, we all looked at each other and agreed that the Cabernet Sauvignon was a better buy even though it cost a bit more.
Being an "everyday wine guy," I could not have an official recommendation based solely on the small tasting samples. Here is really how I pick my favorite wines: When given a choice, which wine would I want to drink first? In this case, we continued with our night and I left both bottles on the counter and let everyone pour their own drinks. Here is the interesting part - of the four of us, three immediately polished off the Merlot bottle leaving Mike, The Everyday Wine Snob, as the only one drinking the Cabernet Sauvignon. I asked the wives why they started with the Merlot and both responded that they found it to be a smooth and more balanced wine. This is exactly what I look for in a wine.
Ultimately, which of the two wines would I suggest bringing as a gift? If you are going to give it to someone who is a wine connoisseur, then splurge for the Cabernet Sauvignon. However, if you are going to a friend's house and want to have an easy to drink wine that will lead to good times - then reach for the Merlot. That's the wine that I liked best and I hope you do too.
Incidentally, one of the reasons I like St. Clement winery is that it reminds me of old times. Much like people in Danville who read local newspapers and support small businesses, St. Clement is more of a boutique winery with a local following. In fact, the 2005 St. Clement Merlot comes from a production of under 4,000 cases. There is nothing better than bringing a nice wine as a gift that has a unique feel to it.
After all of my red wine reviews it is time for a white wine. Next time we will look at the 2007 Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay ($14). Until then, cheers!
Don Colman, the Everyday Wine Guy, lives in Danville and can be reached at email@example.com.