Preparing for Wine Judgment Day
Hopefully, by now you've read about our Judgment of Washington tasting, in which we imitated the 1976 Judgment of Paris, but with a twist: We slipped in local wines to see how they would compete.
But you might be wondering: How did I choose the contenders? Well, first of all I wanted to pick wines that would represent California and France well across a range of prices. I did not want to stack the deck in favor of local wines – I wanted them to compete fairly against highly rated wines in their price range and above. My target price range was $30 to $70; I figured this range would show quality, while allowing the tasting to highlight value as well.
I drew on several sources for the wines. Jon Genderson, co-proprietor of Schneider's of Capitol Hill, a leading District retailer, was generous with advice and samples. The leading French finisher, Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion, is a Schneider's direct import. At $40, it shows impeccable Bordeaux characteristics and impressed the judges with its depth and balance.
Steven Schattman of Monsieur Touton Selections, a leading French importer, was kind enough to contribute some other French contenders. When he gave me the Louis Latour Chateau Blagny Meursault-Blagny, Schattman said, “This wine is killer.” And it was – leaving one of our judges tongue-tied in his praise. There is so much going on in this wine that it justifies the $50 price tag, even though some people may prefer a calmer wine.
Many of the other wines came from samples I receive as a writer. I tried to select well-regarded vineyards and, wherever possible, wines that had been highly rated by wine publications – such as the top-scoring
Cuvaison Chappellet Napa Valley Chardonnay or the Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon.
And the local wines? I chose these based on their reputation and my own personal judgment of which local wines might stand tall in world-class competition. There are others I could have selected, including wines from Breaux, Kluge Estate, Keswick, White Hall or Horton. But including all those would be the kind of deck-stacking I was trying to avoid. Luca Paschina of Barboursville, Jim Law of Linden and Michael Shaps of, well, Michael Shaps are Virginia's leading winemakers. While Black Ankle lacks the track record of its Virginia counterparts, I included it because winemakers Ed Boyce and Sarah O'Herron are leading a broad movement to improve winemaking across Maryland.
If you had been setting up such a tasting, which wines would you have included, and why? Tell us in the comments below, and come to the Free Range chat online today at 1 p.m. for more discussion. Luca Paschina is planning to join the chat, too, so you'll have the chance to ask both of us any wine-related questions that strike you.
-- Dave McIntyre
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