On the Road with the Grape Guy

Report from - Nights 1 & 2 Baco Challenge (Feb 5/12, 2007)

14 Mar 2007
Night 1 – Feb. 5, 2007

The night was cold, the fire was hot and the barrel cellar was cozy, as 15 of us filed in for the first night of this four-night event.  Tonight was all about young, or regular, Baco Noir, 9 wines were selected from the 18 entrants into this part of the competition … picked and poured completely at random.  Mostly 2005 and 2004 vintage wines, with a 2002 thrown in for good measure.  In fact, 2 of the wines entered in this category pre-dated the 2004 vintage – a 2002 and a 2001.  These wines were split up between the two nights that hosted regular Baco.  The stipulation for all wines and wineries was that the wine had to be available for purchase as of March 2007, which meant that some entrants were barrel samples, while others had just been bottled and were released to us prior to going on store shelves.  All three major regions of Ontario were represented.  On this night, the line-up was:  Peller, Harbour, Hernder, Rockway, Vineland, and Caroline from Niagara; Black Prince and Sandbanks from Prince Edward County; and Aleksander from the Lake Erie North Shore region.

All wines were uncorked at 6:45pm, poured at 7:00pm and the tasting began at 7:30pm.  By 8:30 all the tasting was done and the votes and comments were put to paper (wines were rated for taste/nose and likelihood to buy, not knowing the price).  It was time for the price-reveal, where I told the tasters the price of the wine and asked them to judge the value with regards to the taste (the third criteria).  After all the scores were marked down, then, and only then, were the identities of the wine revealed.

Night 1 saw Vineland’s 2005 Baco Noir take home the highest rating for taste/nose, Sandbanks’ second bottling of their 2005 Baco Noir took the likelihood to purchase site unseen crown, while Hernder’s 2002 Baco Noir, on the strength of their best value status took Overall Best Baco of the evening.  Their bottle of ’02 is available at both the winery and the LCBO for a mere tuppence ($7.95).  Their value status may have vaulted them into first place but they also ranked high in the other two categories, placing 2nd for taste and 3rd in likelihood to buy.  Those in attendance could not believe is was so readily available, and so “cheap”.  Second place of the night went to Vineland’s 2005 while third was quietly taken by Peller’s Heritage Series Baco Noir ’05.

Night 2 – Feb. 12, 2007

A larger crowd assembled for this evening, no doubt word had spread and interest had been peaked.  This was night two of the young (regular) Baco category, with another 9 wines grouped at random.  Those in attendance the previous night commented that the tastes were more earthy in this grouping, while those from grouping one were more dark fruit oriented.  I assured them that the grouping was purely random and the tasting similarities were freak chance.  Night two’s scores were lower than on night one.  I attribute that to the larger crowd, hence more diverse opinions.  The procedure for wine opening, pouring and tasting was the same as described on night one.  As for the wines being poured, representing Niagara were Mountain Road, 20 Bees, Rockway, Konzelmann, Birchwood, and Henry of Pelham; Prince Edward County had Waupoos and Black Prince in their corner; while the lone Lake Erie wine was from Erie Shore Vineyard.

Once again, the scores were spread out over the three categories with no conclusive winner, number crunching was definitely in order.  Top rated for nose/taste was again one of the oldest entries, the Mountain Road Wine Company 2001 Baco Noir; likelihood to purchase site-unseen went to Henry of Pelham’s 2005, and the value win was notched by Niagara’s only co-op, 20 Bees – which was surprisingly the same price as Pelham ($12.95), yet took 6th for taste.  That being said, the top 6 rated for taste were only separated by .74, so it was a very close battle for the tastebuds of the samplers.  Night two’s overall winner was Henry of Pelham’s 2005 Baco Noir, squeaking by Mountain Road’s 2001 by .04.  Henry also took 2nd for taste, 1st for likelihood to buy and third for value.  Rounding out the top three was the 20 Bees 2005 offering.

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