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Chardonnay Deathmatch

Last year I posted results of some informal wine tasting and determined that—to our unsophisticated palates at least—more-expensive wines taste better. Subsequent tests all produced the same result, so we stopped comparing. A couple of clarifications are in order. For one, we restricted our tastings to wines on the low end of the price scale (under $20). It wouldn't surprise me if the results were different for premium wines. In other words, we might end up preferring a $40 bottle over one that cost twice as much. Of course, we'll never know the answer without the help of those lottery winnings. The other point is that even though we preferred the more-expensive vintage, we were perfectly content (with a few exceptions) guzzling the cheaper stuff. I knew what I was missing, but it didn't bother me.

When we were testing, we always compared two wines of the same type (Merlot vs. Merlot), of course, but otherwise didn't attempt to match any other characteristics such as vintage year. Last week Anne spotted two almost-identical Chardonnays that inspired her to try just one more test.

In one corner is a Clos du Bois 2003 Chardonnay (our “house wine” when nothing is on sale). The challenger is a Clos du Bois 2003 Reserve Chardonnay that cost $2 more. The judges included Anne and me and Anne's parents who were staying with us for a couple of days. We all could easily tell the difference between the wines and everyone except Anne preferred the Reserve. She could tell one from the other; she just didn't express a strong preference. Frankly, I was happy drinking the plain Chardonnay, too. Very happy.

The Clos du Bois web site revealed that the Reserve is made from the grapes of a single appellation, the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, while the other is a blend of Chardonnays from “prime vineyards in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino and Solano Counties.” It's no wonder they taste different.

While it's fun exploring the appellation trail, this latest test reaffirmed our current default strategy of just buying whatever is on sale.

One more thing. In case anyone is wondering, we haven't seen Sideways yet.

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