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Wine Tasting vs. Wine Drinking
There is a difference

We call them sluts – big, flashy, high-alcohol wines that win competitions and get big scores from Robert Parker. It's a little like the guys who encounter Samantha on HBO's series "Sex and the City:" The meeting is always memorable, but they never propose to her. These are wines like Sparky Marquis' Molly Dookers, or those big, heavily French oaked Chateau Potelle Chardonnays. And we like them as much as most of you do. The problem is that they taste great all by themselves, but don't always shine at the dinner table. Case in point, I love the 2004 Rosenblum Heritage Clone Petite Sirah, and Robert Parker liked it 92 points, but the only food I have ever successfully paired with it is pizza (and it was very good).

A few weeks ago, I had an email from wine club members Burke and Lorrie Mamlin that really brought the point home. They belong to a group of couples who have a great idea for a party – an annual wine tasting where they judge the wines and give prizes. This year their tasting once again reinforced my belief that tasting and drinking are very different endeavors. Here is Burke's email, followed by my reply....

Dear Wine Guy,

You might remember when I came into your shop a week ago asking you to fill a spot in our annual wine tasting. I didn't want to know what you selected, so you and your colleagues sent me away while you chose a wine. When you brought me back, you were all brimming with confidence. I heard "you guys don't have a chance" and "this one will win for sure." I have to admit, after the boasting, I was looking forward to the Wine Guy coming in last place.

We had eight couples for a wonderful night of wine tasting, each bringing two bottles of the same under-$20 red (one for the winners' pot and the other for tasting). After rating each wine from 1 to 10, we tallied up the scores. The top few wines were fairly close. When we unveiled the winning wine, nobody claimed it. I ran over to the winners' wines and unwrapped your entry. Sure enough, you won with the Rosenblum Heritage Clones Petite Sirah 2004. It's hard to say that you had stiff competition, given that the woman who came in second place chose her wine because the label matched the color of her shirt.

Usually we give the wines to the winner, except the couple in last place takes theirs back home. We figured that you had enough wine already. So, we opened the other Rosenblum bottle and all drank it in homage to the Wine Guy (and gave the wines to our color-coordinated 2nd-place winner).

Cheers! And thanks for joining our wine tasting!


1. Rosenblum Petite Sirah 2004 Heritage Clones
2. Tintara McLaren Vale 2003 Shiraz
3. Amber Knolls Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
4. Montes Alpha Syrah 2004
5. Hewitson Ned & Henry's 2005 Shiraz
6. McWilliam's Shiraz 2004
7. Shingleback McLaren Vale Shiraz 2003
8. Fattoria Petrolo Torrione Toscana 2001
(A cheater in our midst? Over $20?)
9. Zonnebloem Shiraz 2004

Burke & Lorrie:

Actually, it was rigged... Bob and the Paul knew that the Rosenblum is a very flashy, dramatic wine, the kind that wins medals because the judges remember it. It's a little like owning a Ferrari, it's not good for much, but everyone remembers it. At 15.5% alcohol and filled with oozingly jammy fruit, it's almost impossible to pair with food. I love it for a glass, but it doesn't work for dinner... and, the Tintara that finished second was also a high alcohol, very jammy wine. We all do it when we taste wine... we go for the big ones.

At $39 the Petrolo was a ringer, but without a good dinner no one would ever know that it probably was the best bottle.

Thanks for sharing your tasting with us!