Interesting tasting format--blind tasting in groups of two. The wine couplets were identified by name, but you didn't know what the order was. Additionally, the wines were of the same varietal and had the same high score via Wine Spectator or Wine Advocate, but were much different in price. I did pretty well, correctly identifying 10 of the 12--the sauvignon blancs threw me for a loop with a grapefruit-flavored South African versus a bland New Zealand offering. In many of the cases, the more expensive wine was slightly older, though I tended to prefer the less expensive bottles.
Wine 1: 2003 Yalumba "Y Series" Riesling. Australia. I always enjoyed Yalumba wines, including their very affordable ports. For an inexpensive riesling, this was medium sweet and had a nice whiff of petrol on top. Good lemon flavor, a little acidic. Good summer wine, great match for Asian food. $12.
Wine 2: 2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling.Washington state. Slightly musty, more refined, lemon flavors again, but drier than the Yalumba. $23.
Wine 3: 2004 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc. South Africa. Great grapefruit flavors, acidic and dry. I really thought this was from New Zealand, but was quite happy with it. Not as excited about the price. $18.
Wine 4: 2004 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand. Herbal, grassy, slightly musky aromas, medium sweet but with a stale and boring finish. There are much better wines for the price and region. How did this score a 91? $12.
Wine 5: 2003 Rosemount Show Reserve Chardonnay. Australia. Decent offering from Rosemount--I've never had any of their higher-end wines. Good buttered toast flavors, obvious well-oaked. Great bargain, and though a well-crafted wine, not the kind of thing I personally like. $14.
Wine 6: 2002 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay. California. How did I know it was from California? It looked more like a urine sample than the Aussie chard. That's not a slam, it's just the way they oak Chardonnay in California tends to give the wine a deep gold color. Buttered toast flavors again, but a bit milder than the first wine. Don't think I'd buy it at this price. $25.
Wine 7: 2003 Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir. Oregon. Amazing black cherry flavor, yet dry and light on the tongue. A great wine. $18.
Wine 8: 2002 F. Magnien Ruchots Morey St. Denis. France, no link. A solid red Burgundy, meaning it's all Pinot Noir. Unlike the above, it doesn't have as much fruit flavor. Instead, there's a sort of claylike quality that you find in a lot of French wines, as well as higher tannins. Probably awesome in a couple of years, but too rich for my blood. $50.
Wine 9: 2003 Goats Do Roam in Villages. South Africa. I've had this one before, and had the simpler version just last week, so I spotted that weird pinotage flavor in a heartbeat. Herbal and tannic, I'm still not a big fan. $14.
Wine 10: 2001 Guigal Chateauneuf-du-Pape. France. This was my first exposure to the heralded Rhone blend. I was unimpressed, finding it dark, sour, and not well balanced. Why would you grab this when CDR is so much tastier and cheaper? $40.
Wine 11: 2002 Paringa Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia. Amazing little wine. Dark purple color, dark fruit flavors. Well balanced, good fruit-forward feel, incredible price. I loved their Shiraz, and am equally impressed by this wine. $10.
Wine 12: 2001 Hedges Three Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Washington State. I think this is the first wine that I've had from the tiny Red Mountain region. Black pepper aromas on top, but with a hot and dry flavor that I found offputting. $21.