Recently (ok, a few weeks ago now) I was invited to participate and help host the Los Angeles area version of a nationwide blind wine tasting. This event was put together by WineTwits, a huge online wine centric community that focuses in and around the Twittersphere. The aim of this night was for us to host a blind wine tasting on behalf of Yellow Tail Reserve. Yellow Tail is absolutely not a brand that I reach for, own, or ever call for in a restaurant or bar. My history with the brand was that it was simply a lower end supermarket (aka mediocre) level wine and nothing special. This all said, I knew this was a blind tasting and I’d have to put my palate to the test rather than my perceptions of a brand.
In the Los Angeles area, we had 10 total tasters join us for what turned into an awesome, educational, and overall a lot of fun evening. The way the event worked was pretty cool. The day before the tasting, we received a box with tasting notes, turnkey instructions for hosting, 4 tasting bottles of Shiraz that were both wrapped in foil as well as brown bags, few other bottles of other Yellow Tail offerings to kick off the evening, and of course a cheat cheat to be used for the final reveal at the end of the tasting. We got lucky and had the good fortune of having Pourtal in Santa Monica host our tasting. Pourtal is an amazing wine bar down by the beach. The owner went above and beyond setting up the patio for our tasting, complete with large notebook computer, speakers, wine glasses, and anything else we could dream up to ask for. Being that this tasting was happening live across 20 other cities in the US, the Los Angeles crew opted instead to start a few hours later and simply watch the tasting via a video feed loop. The event was lead by Doug Frost, a Master Sommelier and Master of Wine, and Yellow Tail owner John Casella. They were both on-hand at the Boston tasting, and through the magic of video, this live tasting was transmitted in real time to all other markets that were tasting at the time.
Overall the event was excellent with a few expected hiccups with video feeds and audio quality. Our group, like each of the other groups, tasting on our own, referring to and viewing the video feed as we progress from bottle to bottle in turn. Like all good tastings, we compared notes, debated flavor profiles, and in the end voted on which we preferred.
In the end, we tasted four different Shiraz -
- Wine No. 1 – 2007 Archetype Shiraz - $15
- Wine No. 2 – 2008 Marquis Philips Shiraz – $13
- Wine No. 3 – 2006 D’ Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz - $60
- Wine No. 4 – 2008 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz – $11
In the end, my two favorite wines of the evening were #2 and #4. Yeh, I know, Yellow Tail was in the final as one of my top picks – who knew? The Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz was overall very drinkable, had a nice full body, and was a mix of darker fruits and pepper. Overall, at only $11 I think its totally worth grabbing a bottle for a mid-week glass of vino. Wine #3, the Dead Arm, was a nice Shiraz, but at $60/bottle I can see no chance that I would ever pay that for it. If I’m spending that kinda money on a bottle of wine, its going to need a lot more character that this simple Shiraz.
In the end, while I know I probably am not going to run out to the store to buy a bottle tomorrow, I was very impressed with the Yellow Tail Reserve product and can see the extensive amount of effort that they are putting into the brand (and more importantly the end product).
If you’re into Shiraz, give it a try and let me know what you think.
Cheers, Doug !