Throwing a blind tasting: planning and pouring for Leo’s Blind Tasting Club

I’ve written in the past about participating in various blind tastings, but this week I had the opportunity for a new challenge: throwing a blind tasting.  I’m part of a group here in New York unofficially known as “Leo’s Blind Tasting Club”, which follows an idea put forth by founding member Leo F: rather than the common wine group structure of “everyone bring a bottle”, we take turns hosting the monthly tastings, and the host for each tasting supplies all of the wines for that particular evening.  This allows for the
host to plan a very coordinated double blind tasting, with themes for each flight or even an overall theme for the whole tasting. This month was my first turn hosting.

Most of the members of the club have a deeper cellar than I have, so I wasn’t going to be able to match other club tastings where, say, hosts poured entire flights of gems from the 70s or 80s.  In planning my tasting, I decided to build around what I could offer to the group: the benefit of my experiences as a wine blogger.  I’ve had the opportunity to taste a lot of wines off the beaten path, as at trade tastings featuring wines from non-mainstream regions like the Jura, Greece, Portugal, Toro, Navarra, right down to groupings as specific as cool-climate chardonnays from Canada.  In those wine travels I’ve come across a number of overachievers, and have often said to myself “this wine could totally pass for a wine from [fill in a heralded region].” A tasting like this one was a perfect opportunity to test some of those hypotheses.

As a starter wine to welcome the group to Trattoria L’Incontro in Astoria, where this dinner was held, I poured my favorite champagne of all time – the 2001 Vilmart & Cie Champagne Coeur de Cuvée, which I’ve blogged about in the past in this post.  Paired with cheese and vegetable-filled cream puff hors-d’oeuvres, this got us off to a great start- lively and exciting, showing complexity uncommon in the 2001 vintage and mouth-watering acid, this drew raves.  Although I warned the group that I would be pitching curve balls on this night, everyone pretty much called this as champagne, with pretty accurate guesses on age, mostly ranging from 1996 to 2002.

Onto the first white flight, built around comparing some French chardonnays from less vaunted regions to a very typical white Burgundy. The first wine in the flight shows golden color and a slightly smoky, flinty nose.   Out of nine blind tasters, this garners a few votes as favorite of the flight, and some guess Burgundy; other guesses include pinot gris and gruner veltliner.  This one is the 2009 Domaine Tissot (André & Mireille now Stéphane) Arbois Les Bruyères. Although savagnin, poulsard and trousseau seem to get more of the buzz around Jura wines, I feel the chardonnays from the Jura are underrated and stand up well to white Burgs, as I think this one does.

The next wine, buttery-opulent but saved by counterbalancing acidity, is our benchmark wine of the flight, 2007 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes.  This wine gets a majority of votes for wine of the flight – but not because everyone is a Cote d’Or Burgundy snob.  In fact, more people guess Cali Continue reading