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A tasting of blended wines

In order to take a look at this fascinating and expanding category of blended wines I decided to hold a wine tasting. I’m always interested in locally produced wines but I wondered if there were enough available to organize such a tasting.

I contacted all the local wineries. My only requirement for a wine to qualify was that no single grape component be more than 74% of the total blend. I succeeded in gathering 30 wines, eight whites and 22 reds from 14 different wineries.

I wanted a fairly large tasting panel because I didn’t want one or two of the judges to be able to skew the results. Also I wanted a cross section of tasting points of view. People taste wine with very different perspectives. Winemakers are trained to find faults and taste for what’s wrong. Restaurateurs care less about right or wrong, they look for wines their customers will like. Consumers taste for what they personally like and would purchase again. I figured that with enough different perspectives the most interesting wines would surface.



Often a big question in wine judging is whether a wine is varietally correct or not. But none of these were varietal wines. They were all blends. So here the big question was, does the wine taste good? Is it balanced, flavorful and well made?

With all that in mind I gathered a group of 20 tasters. I invited four winemakers, five Restaurateurs, and filled the rest of the group with an eclectic mix of wine drinkers.




And finally, to make the event truly sparkle, I had an unbelievably cool place to hold the tasting. It was at the wine cellar at Jesse and Kay Connor’s house at 422 Searls Ave. in Nevada City. Jesse is a local builder who is well known for his careful restoration of some beautiful older houses around town. The basement of his house used to be a brewery cellar in the 1890s. He has converted it into a stunning meeting place, tasting room and wine cellar, complete with wine lockers available to rent. Check it out at http://www.nevadacitycellars.com. It was the perfect place to hold my tasting.

I divided the wines into four flights of eight wines each. All wines were tasted blind meaning no one knew which wine was which. The eight whites went into the first flight. The other three red flights, which included all sorts of interesting combinations of grapes, were selected in completely random order.

At the tasting I asked the judges to rank each flight from one through eight with one being their favorite and eight their least favorite. I wanted each judge to act independently so there was no discussion about the wines. Each judge simply tasted the wines and made their choices.

At the end of each flight I gathered the score sheets and tallied the numbers. The wines with the lowest scores were the overall group favorites for that flight. This was not designed to be a competition. Nor was it designed to find the best wine. What I was looking for was a consensus opinion from a diverse group of wine tasters for some wines that would be worthy and tasty examples of this blended wine category.

Burch Hall 2004 Howling Red $15.00

43% Syrah, 35% Mourvedre, 22% Grenache

Damiano Divine Wine $15.00

48% Zinfandel, 48% Petite Sirah, 4% Primitivo

Naggiar 2005 Mistero $21.00

50% Zinfandel, 37% Sangiovese, 13% Syrah

Naggiar 2007 Trois Demoiselles SOLD OUT $21.00

50% Marsanne, 35% Roussanne, 15% Viognier

Nevada City Winery

Rough & Ready Red Cask 205 $12.00

41% Syrah, 31% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 10% Cabernet Franc,

5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Sangiovese

Nevada City Winery 2006 Sonata $11.75

54% Chardonnay, 46% Sauvignon Blanc

Pilot Peak LiVedo Lot 2 SOLD OUT $17.00

69% Zinfandel, 19% Cabernet Franc, 12% Syrah

Pilot Peak 2006 Paramour $24.00

67% Syrah, 11% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre, 11% Petit Sirah

Pilot Peak 2006 PrimoZin $19.50

48% Primitivo, 40% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah

Sierra Starr Jack’s Blend 2 $17.00

60% Zinfandel, 40% Cabernet Franc

Solune 2005 Fleur De Lune $20.00

40% White Muscat, 40% Orange Muscat , 20% Gewurztraminer

Solune 2005 Titan V SOLD OUT $19.00

50% Barbera, 50% Petite Sirah


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