Blind tastings can be a lot fun because they’re easy to set up, they allow you to sample a variety of wines at one sitting, and they often provide you with interesting results.
This happened to me at a blind tasting with friends earlier this month. We sampled six viogniers during the evening and the group favorite was — surprise — a $9 bottle from Sonoma Valley’s Pepperwood Grove. The wine easily beat out five other competitors from Europe, California and Washington — some of which were priced as much as $30 a bottle.
I have to admit that the Pepperwood Grove was at the top of my list. I noted that it had lovely floral and peach aromas, gentle apricot and peach flavors and a slightly creamy finish.
To see if this was just a fluke, I later tried the Pepperwood Grove 2005 Pinot Noir (also about $9) and the wine turned out to be another winner. It’s packed with red currant and strawberry flavors, good acidity and a slightly spicy finish with a touch of vanilla. Very nice.
The cool thing about Pepperwood Grove wines is that they’re widely distributed, meaning you’ll have no problem finding them in the wine section at your local grocer. Another plus is that the wines are frequently on sale — usually in the $6 to $7 a bottle price range, which I think makes them an incredible value.
Don’t be a wine snob. Sometimes an inexpensive wine can be comparable to one that’s two to three times the price. But you’ll never know until you give it a try.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at www.danthewineguy.com.