Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Watkins’

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

September 23, 2012

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.


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…


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.


Olive and Fig Spread


Olive Tapenade


Dope Cheeses

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


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.


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.


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



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)…


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…


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.


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,


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


Pinky Strength: The #RidgeVineyards Blogger Tasting

December 11, 2011

Full Disclosure:

1. I love Ridge Vineyards.  The first wine of theirs I ever tasted was the 2003 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon blend at Vintage Wine Bar in Reno, Nevada.  I bought that bottle about four years ago, and it will be sitting in my wine fridge for another 5 years or so.

2. This past Spring, I joined their Monte Bello Collector Wine Club within fifteen minutes of setting foot in their Monte Bello tasting room.  Their wine is THAT good.  And the tasting room is THAT rad.

3. Ridge Vineyards is the reason why I started this blog.

Let me explain…

Ever since I joined their wine club, I obsessively began to read up on all the different wines that they produced (and there are hella).  Through combing the interweb, I quickly came across 4488: A Ridge Blog.  It’s a beautifully written blog, hosted by Christopher Watkins (the Tasting Room Manager at Ridge Monte Bello, who also happens to be a fantastic poet… and is also as cool a cat as they come).

So… on June 9th of this year, I read this post on Christopher’s blog.  In his post, he was looking for wine bloggers to attend a private tasting at Ridge Monte Bello.  In reading the post, I thought to myself, “How f-ing cool would that be?”  The only problem was that I didn’t have a blog.


If your only problem in life is that you don’t have a blog, there is a very simple solution…

On June 11th of this year (two days later), I created Stay Rad: A blog about wine and all things awesome.

You may notice a few things about my blog.  One, is that the theme (the layout of the blog) is identical to that of Ridge Vineyards.  This is in tribute to the winery and the blog that got me started.  The other thing is that although I review Ridge wines every once in a while on this blog, I never give them scores.  This is because I am a member, and I don’t want that to effect the scores I give them.


Let’s move on.

Today is the six month anniversary of the day that my blog went live.

Also, guess where I went today (and for what purpose)?


The December Blogger Tasting at Ridge Vineyards!

Full Disclosure:

4. I’ve been fighting a cold for the last week.

5. Kara and I hosted a holiday party last night.

6. We did not go to bed until 3am.

7. I woke up at 8am feeling a little “under the weather”.

8. I would not miss this for anything.


9. This made me feel a whole lot better.

As I walked into the private tasting room at Monte Bello, I decided to start tweeting…

@JeffIsRad: Busted my cold in time to make it to the #RidgeVineyards #WineBlogger tasting.

As I looked around the room, I discovered a large screen tv that would be posting our tweets live…


@JeffIsRad should get a new profile pick.

While waiting for the last of the bloggers to show up, Christopher poured us some of the 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay.

Full Disclosure:

10. For the purposes of this post, I will be scoring all (most) of the wines.

11. If you don’t like it, you can sit on a tack.


Ridge 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay

Ridge 2008 Monte Bello Chardonnay:

Color: Golden Yellow.

Nose: Pear and vanilla.

Taste: Great acid and minerality.  Creamy.  Fantastic.

Score: 91 points

As everybody got settled, Christopher began the tasting by introducing the theme.


Christopher Watkins breaking it down.

For this tasting, we would be taking a journey through history.  After the Monte Bello Chardonnay, we would taste three of the Historic Vineyards single varietal wines, a vertical of three of the Santa Cruz Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon blends, and a mystery bottle donated by fellow blogger Allan Bree.  To take us back in time, we were each required to provide tasting notes for one of the wines using a manual typewriter.


The Lineup


The Historic Vineyards wines.

We were each provided with a fact sheet on the historic vineyards of Monte Bello.  You can read about them here.


My tasting notes and fact sheet on the historic vineyards of Monte Bello.

Oh yeah, and there was food…


Say cheese!


Once we got set up, we dove into the wines.

Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon in the glass...


Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon in the bottle... and a typewriter.

Ridge 2009 Klein Cabernet Sauvignon:

Color: Light ruby red.

Nose: Tires.  Mint.  Cocoa.  Butter.

Taste: Bright raspberry and cranberry fruit.  Mint and white pepper.  This was described by Christopher as being “Elegant”.  I agree.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon… It’s tasty.

Score: 91 points.


Ridge 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot

Ridge 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot:

Color: Deep purple.

Taste: Juicy leather.  Buttery.  Dusty.  Raspberry, blueberry, plum, and olive.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards 2009 Torre Ranch Merlot… Blueberry.  Plum.  And, yes, Olives.

Score: 90+


Ridge 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc

For the Ridge 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc, I decided to take my shot at the manual typewriter…


Wish me luck...

It took me a while to get used to the typewriter… You gotta hit those keys hard.

Here’s what I wrote…


From here on out, I will be building up my pinky strength...

Color: Bright ruby red.

Nose: Chalky mocha and mint.  Bike tires for days.

Taste: Powdery chalk.  Plum, blackberries, and green peppers.  The wine is great, but I’m having issues with the typewriter.

@JeffIsRad: #RidgeVineyards The 2009 Perrone Cabernet Franc was DOPE.  The typewriter made me feel like one.

Score: 92 points.

After struggling with the typewriter, I had to step outside for a break…


The view from the ridge.

When I came back inside, Christopher set us up with a vertical of the Santa Cruz Mountains Estate Cabernet Sauvignon blend from 2003, 2004, and 2005.


Santa Cruz Mountains in the bottle...


Santa Cruz Mountains in the glass...

Ridge 2003 Santa Cruz Mountains:

This is the same wine that I have in my wine fridge.  The wine that I bought in Reno.  The wine that got me into Ridge.

Color: Ruby red.

Nose: Cocoa powder and blackberries.

Taste: Blackberry and eucalyptus.  Dusty tannins.  Cranberries.  It makes me smile.

Score: 92 points

Ridge 2004 Santa Cruz Mountains:

Color: Ruby red.

Nose: Dusty rosemary and raspberries.

Taste: Cranberries and fine tannins.  Bright red fruit.  This is a thoughtful wine.  This is the type of wine that would go buy you a burrito at La Choza if you were hung over.

Score: 92+

Ridge 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Estate:

Color: Dark ruby red.

Nose: Blackberry and blueberry fruit.

Taste: Big and juicy.  Powdery tannins.

Score: 91 points

@JeffIsRad:  #RidgeVineyards Santa Cruz Mountains 03, 04, 05 Cabernet Vertical = Hella x 3

After the vertical, we were each poured a glass of Allan Bree’s mystery wine…

Color: Bricking red to orange on the rim.  There are these tiny, dancing, black speckles floating around in it.

Nose: Dusty blueberries.  Smells sweet.

Taste: Very juicy.  Becomes very dry on the tail end.  It reminds me a little bit of those chocolate oranges.

After some of the bloggers took their guesses as to what the wine was, Allen revealed the answer…


Ridge 1994 Monte Rosso Zinfandel

I knew it!

Too bad I didn’t speak up.

And with that, the final Ridge Vineyards Wine Blogger Tasting of 2011 came to an end.

@JeffIsRad: @RidgeVineyards #ThankYou for the #BloggerTasting


– Jeff

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