During this year's Wine Industry Technology Symposium, a group of wine bloggers were sent four wines from California and invited to participate in a live, virtual wine tasting. Frequent readers (all four of you) might be familiar with this format, as I've posted recaps of these tastings fairly often over the past few years.
The way a "virtual tasting" works is by having bloggers around the country receive the same wines, then use Twitter and a specific hashtag to talk about each wine. Usually there's a moderator, in this case the fine folks behind the @WineTwits account and website. We talked (tweeted) about each wine over the course of about an hour, with the various participating wineries chiming in to answer questions and give data points.
I tend to enjoy some aspects of virtual tastings, especially when bloggers whose palates I trust are participating. We get to compare notes and really dive into what the wines are about. The other side of virtual tastings is that all too often we get bloggers who do nothing but tweet hyperbolic statements praising every wine. Not only do they look like idiots, it undermines our already-fragile credibility as a group.
Each wine selected has the benefit of being easy to find in grocery stores and BevMo-type outlets, being of high enough production to virtually guarantee nationwide distribution. The sole unfamiliar wine to me was the 2010 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir, the rest have all graced my wine glass at some point in the past few years.
2010 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley: The bouquet is full of lemon cream, tropical fruit, and popcorn butter aromas. To me it smells exactly like I'd expect a traditional California-style chardonnay to smell like. On the palate there's a nice bit of that tropical fruit, some more lemon notes, vanilla, and more of the buttery taste. The acidity is low, or at least, feels low due in part to the malolactic fermentation that this wine saw. Wente consistently makes drinkable wines, and if you're a fan of buttery California chardonnay, I think you'll really enjoy the Morning Fog bottling. 13.5% abv. $11 retail.
2011 Hahn Winery Nicky Hahn Pinot Noir California: Pours a beautifully vibrant ruby color in the glass, a testament to its youth. The nose is full of ripe, jammy cherry preserves, baking spice, some woodsy aromas, and a touch of earth. Cherry jam dominates the palate, providing a soft, rich mouthfeel. The baking spices come out to play a little bit on the finish, which in itself is nice if a bit short. 100% pinot noir, according to the data sheet I have. 14.5% abv. $14 retail.
2010 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir Carneros: Loads of raspberry and strawberry aromas followed by a bit of white pepper spices. I think there's a bit of funk here too, some nail-polish remover came out as the wine warmed up. I think this pinot is very varietally correct on the palate, with light red fruit, peppery spice, hints of earthy funk, and lots of acidity. The finish is medium length, tapering off nicely, however, the bottle was open about five hours before the finish got to be any reasonable length. It might need a bit of age or an hour in a decanter before it shows all its facets. 13.5% abv. $19 retail.
2008 Franciscan Magnificat Napa Valley: A blend of 69% cabernet sauvignon, 23% merlot, 6% petite verdot, and 2% malbec. This Meritage pours dark, almost opaque garnet. Pepper, wood smoke, cassis, and leather rush up out of the glass. There's a touch of alcoholic heat, nothing more. Lots of ripe black fruit mixed with oak form the primary flavors. Secondary flavors include smoked meat, cocoa dust, and dried spice leaves. A nice long finish shows earth and leather before disappearing in a burst of dried black cherry. This is a 2008, and it shows true to form as a very young wine. Lots of firm tannin that will soften and integrate with age. I tasted this again after six hour and it had mellowed out noticeably. 14.5% abv. $35 retail.
The wines we tasted were all interesting and well made. The Franciscan was very good, and the clear leader of the group. I re-tasted each wine about six hours after I opened them and save for the Meritage, they'd all begun to fall apart. Out of the latter three, the Wente chardonnay held together best, still retaining some acidity and complexity.
The WineTwits crew did a great job getting such a large group of bloggers together and keeping the discussion moving along, but weren't as active with the technical facts and winery-liaison work that I've seen from other virtual tasting hosts. Perhaps that will change in the future, should they do another tasting. Then again, it's not always necessary to constantly chime in if the discussion is flowing nicely.
You can find each winery on social media here:
@Wente and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/WenteVineyards
@HahnWines and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/HahnFamilyWines
@FranciscanWines and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/FranciscanEstateWinery
@GarnetVineyards and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/GarnetVineyards
Thanks for inviting me!
These wines were media samples.