What’s the Score? – A Blogger Tasting at Ridge Vineyards

When I first started this blog in the Summer of 2011, I wrestled quite a bit with the idea of whether or not I would post scores in my wine reviews.

I mean… On the real…

The whole idea of quantifying something as subjective as one’s perception of a wine’s quality is straight up whack, son.

And yet…

I do score my wines.

It’s an easy way for me to remember how I felt about the wines I have tasted.

It’s also fun to compare my scores with those of other folks who have tasted the same wines.

Now…

I’m not the only blogger who’s struggled with the idea of scoring wines.

In fact…

This past Sunday, I got together with a bunch of bloggers at Ridge Vineyards’ Monte Bello Tasting Room to tackle the very topic of wine scores.

This is how it all went down at the most recent installment of the Ridge Vineyards Wine Blogger Tasting:

As I approached my seat in the back of the barn, this was the view of the table set before me…

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Five red wines and a spit cup.

You should know that there is always a theme to these tastings… Always.

You should also know that Blogger/Host extraordinaire, Christopher Watkins, always keeps the theme a secret… Always.

That being said, based on my quick observations, it was easy to infer that we were gonna be going blind today.  If you’ve seen any of my blind tasting videos, you know that I was gonna have to work hard on this fine Sunday afternoon.

But first…

I had to fill my plate.

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Olive and Fig Spread

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Olive Tapenade

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Dope Cheeses

While snacking on some of the tasty bites, my eyes went back to the wines on my table.

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The Wine

Christopher proceeded to break down the theme to this Blogger Tasting… “Scores”.

The five wines presented to us had all been recently scored by well-known and respected wine critics.  The difference between the top-scoring and lowest scoring wines is ten points on the 100-point scale.  Our task was to taste each of the five wines, and rank them from our most favorite to least favorite.  Christopher would then compile our scores, and crunch the numbers to get some (hopefully) meaningful data.

His hypothesis: While the scoring rubric (on a 100-point scale) may vary from one critic to the next (due to the subjectivity of taste), there must be similar valuations of wine beyond the subjectivity of a point score.  So, if several bloggers are charged with ranking wines from best to worst, they should end up ranking them in the same order.

So…

From left to right, here are my tasting notes…

Wine A:

Color: Dark ruby-red.

Nose: Good fruit of raspberry and cranberry.  It’s got a candy-type nose of rainbow sherbert.  There’s also a hint of walnuts.

Taste: Bright red fruit with some funky Earth and orange zest.

Wine B:

Color: Darker than wine A.  Ruby red to purple.

Nose: Subtle dark plum and tires with a hint of cinnamon spice.

Taste: Plums and red fruit.  There’s a lively acidity to this.  It’s complimented by cranberries, clove spice, and a touch of orange.

Wine C:

Color: Dark ruby-red with some pink shimmers in it.

Nose: Chalky blueberry and plum with hints of cocoa powder.

Taste: This wine has a BIG palate of ripe red fruit, pepper, and spice.

Wine D:

Color: One of the lighter wines of the bunch.  You can see your fingers through the burgundy red color.

Nose: Very subtle.  Good chalky notes, but that’s about it.

Taste: Again, a very subtle wine.  Cranberries and raspberries compliment the good acidity to this one.

Wine E:

Color: Similar to that of D.  Light burgundy.

Nose: Lots of bloggers at the table were talking about the nose on this while I was still working on wine A.  The nose is that of pine trees, raspberry, and something that was so familiar it drove me crazy that I couldn’t recall what it was.  I’m looking forward to reading the notes from the other bloggers about this one.  Super different and interesting.

Taste: Off the bat, this wine tastes like a high alcohol Zinfandel.  It’s got candied fruit roll-up, leather, cranberries, and grapefruit.  Totally funky.  Totally fun.

Now…

As far as the wines go, they were all outstanding… And I’ve got the empty glasses to prove it…

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See!

My point spread was not anywhere close to as large as that of the critics in question.  My favorite wine of the day came in at a 92+, and my least favorite was a 90+.

Here’s how I ranked them in order from favorite to least favorite (along with my guess as to what wines they were)…

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B – A – D – E – C (Quick… Grab your guitar and see what that sounds like!)

After sharing our rankings, Christopher gave us each a taste of the 1995 Monte Bello while he crunched the numbers.  It was a fantastic wine with a good cloudy red color.  The funky good nose gave way to delicious blueberry and plum fruit and spice.  A tasty 92+ in my book.

Next, was the reveal…

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The Lineup

As it turns out, all of the wines were recently reviewed by Antonio Galloni.  I have them listed them in the order in which I liked them.  Galloni’s scores will be found in parentheses.

Wine B: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon (94)

Wine A: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Estate Merlot (90)

Wine D: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc (92)

Wine E: Ridge Vineyards 2010 Geyserville (88)

Wine C: Ridge Vineyards 2009 Monte Bello (98)

Now… Here’s what’s crazy…

Galloni gave the Monte Bello a 98.  I liked it, but ranked it dead last… and I wasn’t the only one.  I’m looking forward to seeing Christopher publish his data, but I recall him saying that 7 of us ranked wine C our least favorite.  He also revealed that 7 of us ranked wine B as our favorite.

So, here is where the idea of scoring gets a little crazy…

Galloni did not taste these wines blind.  When it came to the Monte Bello, he knew that he was tasting a wine that was tasting a $150 from a legendary estate.  He knew that he was tasting a wine that was meant to be laid down for 20+ years.

Is it a 98 today?  No way.

Could it become one?  Check back with me in 20 years.

When it came to the Geyserville, Galloni knew the history of that vineyard.  He has tasted several vintages of the wine.

Is the 2010 as good as other recent Geyservilles?  Probably not.

Is it better than most wines that I would rank an 88?  Definitely.

The reality is that scores will always be subjective.

Scores will always rely on the context in which the wine is served.

There will always be external variables that play a role in our perception of wine.

But…

At the end of the day, scores are what people want to see.

Scores are what people want to compare.

Scores are what people want to debate.

It is because of this that I will continue to provide scores in my reviews.

Stay Rad,

Jeff

PS – Since this tasting was done on a Sunday afternoon, I missed the end of the 49er game.  Could somebody tell me the score?

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6 Responses to “What’s the Score? – A Blogger Tasting at Ridge Vineyards”

  1. jeffeckles Says:

    What a fun and interesting tasting Ridge put on for you guys, as they always seem to do. Scores are always such an interesting topic. When I first started the TLV I was dead set against them, but I have been noting them in my personal tasting notes for a while now. Same reason you mention, because it’s a great baseline for myself. I am wrestling now with if I should start posting scores or not.

    Thanks for another great post, Jeff. Loved this one!

  2. jonnybrandy Says:

    Jealous as usual

  3. Martin D. Redmond Says:

    Sorry I missed this one! Totally agree wit you on the MB. Its not a 98 yet. Me? I like scores( then again I’m a finance guy;-) I think they’re a helpful as long as you use them as a data point feather than the end all and be all. Hope to see you at the next one. Stay Rad!

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