Comparative blind tasting of Napa Valley reds versus Crus Classés from Bordeaux always attract wine aficionados. As is often the case such blind tastings often reveal surprising results. This high quality comparative tasting of wines from reputed California and Bordeaux producers did shock some participants.
When it comes to fine reds that offer richness and elegance, for the past few centuries, Bordeaux stood alone at the top! But since the famous 1976 Paris blind tasting of California reds versus Crus Classés from Bordeaux, the surprising results have modified many experts and aficionado’s opinion. Since, lots has changed, the Bordeaux style has evolved and many determined California producers are now consistently crafting amazing long lived reds from Bordeaux varietals. To evaluate and compare the quality level and aging potential of these reputed California reds vs Crus Classés of Bordeaux, four (4) quality vintages were tasted.
@ Les Conseillers du Vin: in the usual blind tasting format, a group of 15 experienced tasters evaluated and compared four (4) high quality Napa Valley reds to four (4) Bordeaux Crus Classés/Bourgeois.
The wines were served blind in pairs, by vintage. The vintages of the four pairs were revealed at the end of the tasting. The participants had to choose a favorite wine in each pair and their top three wines of the tasting. The results were totally one sided ! The four favorites by pair were all Californians. The 1st pair 1996 : Pahlmeyer Meritage dominated Ch. Calon Ségur 13 to 2 in votes. Second pair 1994 : Dominus blanked Ch Lynch Bages 15 to 0. Third pair 2003 : Beringer Knight’s Valley Cab over Ch. Lascombes 11 to 4. And the fourth pair 2006 : Philip Togni Cab Sauv also dominated Ch. Sociando-Mallet 13 to 2 in votes.
Results: To establish the top three (3) wines of the tasting, 3 points were awarded for a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
It was a lob sided affair! The Californians also dominated the final top three! The group’s favourite wine was the 2003 Beringer Knight’s Valley Cab with 21 pts. Tied for second spot were 1994 Dominus and 2006 Philip Togni Cabernet, both with 18 pts. To complete the sweep, in fourth place with 16 points, the 1996 Pahlmeyer Meritage.
My three favourite wines were: 1- 2006 Philip Togni Cabernet, 2-2003 Beringer Knight’s Valley Cab, 3- 1994 Dominus
The wines : Order of blind tasting with my tasting notes
1- Château Calon Ségur 1996 Saint-Estèphe (Group score: 3 pts)
Medium colour, showing some evolution. Typical Bordeaux nose displaying bell peppers, black licorice, with earthy and leather undertones. Medium bodied, high acid content, but still enjoyable! Ready to drink, might have been better a few years ago. My rating: 89/100
2- Meritage 1996 Napa Valley, Pahlmeyer (Group score: 16 pts)
Medium deep colour. Sweet nose displaying blackberry jam with graphite and earthy tones. Surprisingly elegant with fresh acidity and good length. Very enjoyable now, maybe a few more years : 1 to 3 years. My rating: 91/100
3- Dominus 1994 Napa Valley, Jean-Pierre Moueix (Group score: 18 pts)
Deep colour, slight fading rim. The superb nose exudes ripe fruit with spicy scents. Rich, structured, quite flavourful with good length. Still some potential: 3 to 5 years. My rating: 92/100
4- Château Lynch Bages 1994 Pauillac (Group score: 4 pts)
Some participants detected a slight cork taint, preventing this charming wine from a much better score. The nose displayed some floral and earthy tones with hints of cherry. Fresh acidity with typical Bordeaux elegance. Ready to drink! My rating: 90?/100
5- Cabernet Sauvignon Knight’s Valley 2003 Beringer (Group score: 21 pts)
The preferred wine of the tasting. Deeply coloured, still youthful. Dark berries with some oak. Surprising acidity, lots of extract and aging potential. Very impressive structured Cab! My rating: 92+/100
6-Château Lascombes 2003 Margaux (Group score: 8 pts)
Obvious coffee nose with vegetal notes. Surprising high acid for this super hot vintage. Feels rectified! Rather light bodied for Cru Classé level. Finishes a bit short. Disappointing! My rating: 87/100
7-Château Sociando-Mallet 2006 Haut-Médoc (Group Score: 0 pts)
Medium colour. Feels youthful. Floral and vegetal scents. Firm tannins, medium weight, slightly off balance. Firm, austere, with a bitter finish, typical of many 2006 Bordeaux. My rating: 88/100
8- Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley, Philip Togni (Group score: 18 pts)
Deeply coloured barely evolved. Still a bit closed. Some dark berries and lingering oak. Quite full and rich with great aging potential (5 to 8 years). Structured red with good length. My rating: 93/100
Photo: Dominus Estate