Go to a Winebat blind tasting. No one’s running events like this in Austin, and you should jump at the chance to experience a blind tasting, if you haven’t yet. And if you’ve already attended some kind of blind tasting, you should go to a Winebat tasting because they are so well-run.
What I like about blind tastings is that all preconceived notions, all expectations of what a wine will taste like based on the region, the winery, the label, the price point… all of those prejudices are stripped away, and all you focus on is the wine. There’s something really pure about it; like running is described in Sharon Olds’ poem Sex Without Love: “the single body alone in the universe/ against its own best time.” Also, I guessed right about region a couple of times that night, so I’m very pleased with myself.
For the next six weeks Winebat will hold its tastings at Green Pastures, a restaurant I have often heard of but never experienced, in the heart of South Austin. Chef Charles Bloemsma of Green Pastures picked a fantastic selection of wines and paired great apps with our Cabernet Sauvignon theme, including Bacon-Wrapped Jalapeno Stuffed Quail Breasts, Artisan Blue Cheese with Dried Cherries and Pecans and Castiron Beef with Rosemary Garlic. The portions were small, but the quality was excellent.
I arrived a little early, and enjoyed a nice little New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the name of which escapes me, with some goat cheese and pecan-encrusted grapes and a tasty little brie-and-chutney grilled cheese sandwich. It was obvious that most of the attendees knew each other, but they were very welcoming (I do love Texas for its friendly people). Attendance at this event was down a little (there were 10 of us), as they had had a big Halloween event the night before. Nice mix of folks; no pretention whatsoever.
At 7:00 we were seated, and the first three wines were poured. A rather nervous young wine rep from Republic (he was named Atlas, which would either be a blessing or a curse to my mind) gave a short primer on the grape of the evening, and we were off.
Now, Damon and Abha of Winebat work very hard to make sure that you’re not tasting the same wines as the person next to you at the same time. There is no cheating at this blind tasting, my dears; they don’t really even like you to talk about what letter you like until the very end when the wines are disclosed. They provide a card to make notes on and another card on which you score the wine for quality (on a 100 point scale) and say how much you’d pay for it. You also note which of the 6 wines was your favorite and which was your least favorite.
I’m very slow at tasting compared to these people. Maybe because I wanted to report back to you? Or I’m abnormally methodical? Regardless, it seemed like no time at all before they were unveiling the wines, after tallying up what people liked most and least. It was fun to see what the general consensus was, and if you neglected to take good notes some week, they also list the results of favorites on their website.
Here are the wines we tried, in order of my most to least favorite, with my own notes:
Montes Alpha 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $21): Dark red/black in color. Fascinating vanilla-fudge-covered cherries, rare meat, cola syrup and a touch of menthol on the nose. Palate is also meaty, round and peppery with vanilla flavors. Red currants, if the currants are made of raw beef. Great long finish — really interesting wine.
Penfold’s Bin 407 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $25): Opaque black/red. Distinctive and enchanting eucalyptus, jalapeno, and earth on the nose. This just screamed Southern Australia to me… Powerful grippy tannins frame tart black cherry and rich, meaty flavors. A delicious powerhouse.
Louis Martini 2004 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $15): Ruby reflections, good clarity. Very fruity with gobs of raspberry and blackberry, along with pepper and a touch of cedar. A twinge of dusty earth notes. Cherry and red currant on the palate with mocha notes and round, supple tannins.
Pepper Bridge 2003 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $50): Deep ruby in color; opaque. Dee, rich black currant is set off with a hint of floral aromas and some intriguing menthol. In the mouth: tar, fudge, more currant and dark chocolately tannins. Tasted expensive to me, though I pegged it as California.
Simi Landslide 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $35) Dark maroon in color. Tea, currant and green pepper on the nose, with bramble fruit flavors and soft tannins in the mouth. Slightly astringent, and spare on the finish.
Torres “Mas La Plana” 1999 Penedes Cabernet Sauvignon (avg $40): Bizarre powdery nose with green pepper and very little fruit and perhaps a hint of coffee. Light-bodied and tart on the palate, with some good cherry flavors, nice balance. Elegant, with a long finish. I figured this as French, but I think it was just past its prime. I would happily taste a newer vintage if I have the opportunity.
The Bats have some interesting blind tastings coming up in the coming weeks — I’ve signed up for the Pinot Noir tasting this week, as well as the Beaujolais tasting in December. Which is to say, I’ve reserved my place, so you can sign up yourself and your friends with impunity. I’ll see you there!