Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LW Panel Tasting Stage Set

It's that time...actually, it's later than 'that time'...for the bi-annual Local Wino Panel blind tasting this coming Friday night, April 2 at Page Wine Cellars in Yountville. It is the culmination of many months searching, tasting, discovering and traveling around wine country finding the next great lineup of wines.

This is when I organize local winemakers, Sommeliers, and wine proprietors (mostly much better palates than me) to assist in tasting all of the wines I've gathered to evaluate for the next round of catalogs and website updates. New labels, new discoveries, new vintages, and altogether new wines or categories to present to consumers direct. Make no mistake, it is a lot of work getting through 50 wines in one night...but I've assembled the right group to do it.

What is important here is the actual process that we've come about to narrow the field to these 50 or so from hundreds of wineries and well over a thousand wines tasted to then arrive at the final 24 or so for the catalog.

I first notify about 150 wineries that I have already visited and/or tasted regarding submissions of the wine(s) I feel are a good fit for our consumer offering. Of these, I narrow down to the top 50 overall wines that are represented by around 30 total brands organized by either varietal or wine category such as whites, reds, pinots, zins, blends, cabs, etc. The panelists and my job from here is to pick the top 24 wines that categorically are the best offering to consumers. We do not use a formal "point" scale (nor do we publish any wine scores), rather taste from the consumer point of view of what is approachable now along with its overall quality to value.

The criteria that we taste on involves (5) key consumer metrics:

1) Presentation & Appearance - the presentation of the label, bottle and brand all play an important part of the initial impression to the consumer.

2) Varietal category or group - how the wine fits within either their direct varietal (grape) group or a category (theme) that we've created specifically for certain groupings of wines.

3) Retail price point/value - based on the type of wine we're tasting, we review how that wine fares in direct relation to its consumer price point and the value it presents.

4) Exclusivity and/or availability - we primarily work with very limited production or non-distributed wines that rarely reach outside California and take in to account its specialty.

5) Overall taste quality-to-value and drinkability - in 'winespeak', how approachable is the wine early in its development in relation to the overall value and quality of the wine.

Value, it should be noted, in our case more refers more to how the wine compares to the quality of the wine you are getting in relation (proportion) to the price offered by category rather than just overall price. There are great value wines on the market for $10 and some for $100 and it is very subjective depending on numerous factors or your perception of value.

ALL of the wines we offer are not only good values, they are all great quality wines. We do our diligence to find all levels for people to enjoy from everyday wines to special occasion ones.

Stay tuned as we'll unveil the final choices soon along with video clips and pictures of the whole process for your enjoyment.

Chief Wino