One day last month one of the staff came to me with a bottle of Kendall Jackson chardonnay and said “I haven’t had this in a really long time. Can we chill it down and taste it?” Doing my best to repress both my gag reflex and my pompous chortle, I said “Sure. In fact, let’s chill down a few chards and taste them blind.” Thus began the great Memorial Day Blind Tasting Adventure of 2010.
I grabbed three other inexpensive bottles of chardonnay. I wanted to throw a more expensive ringer in there but didn’t want to overdo it. So the four contestants were: Lindeman’s Bin 65 (Australia, $4.99,) Hogue (Columbia Valley, $8.99,) and Novellum (vin de pays, $10.99.) I tossed them in the quick chiller, laughing to myself at the inevitable result: One of us would pick KJ over the “better” choices. Once they were cold I put each in a brown bag and opened it, removing all the foil so the staff wouldn’t cheat. I had another person mix them up a bit, then I went back and, knowing the wines but not the order, numbered them 1-4.
The three senior wine consultants agreed that none of them was altogether impressive. But of the bunch, the fourth was the least offensive overall, with the second coming in a very close second. The first bottle was ok but not special, and the third was just terrible. We also invited the MOD, the customer service reps and our cigar guy to play along. Most agreed with the wine staff’s original conclusions.
When I revealed the bottles, a hush fell over us; then a terrified and embarassed scream rose up as we realized we’d chosen the KJ. How could this happen?! Going back and retasting, desperately hoping to catch a flaw or two, we confirmed that it was indeed the best of the four. It was driven by fresh apple and pear flavors, with a little spice, nice toasty oak and a gentle refreshing lift at the end. It was nicely balanced and overall a better than average glass of wine. The Novellum was the runner-up, with many of the same characteristics but just not enough personality. Hogue was a distant third because of its lack of flair, and the barely tolerable, apple jolly-rancher infused Lindeman’s was everyone’s least favorite.
So, Jess Jackson, if you’re reading this– I am terribly sorry. I am sorry I talk shit about your wines all the time. I am sorry I disrespect your chardonnay. I am sorry that, even after our experiment, I won’t go out of my way to recommend your products. I’m sure you’re a nice man; but the thing is, I hate monopolies and you’ve clearly got enough money. But I can promise I will no longer laugh at customers that snatch up cases of your chardonnay when it’s on sale. It might be one of the better ten dollar options in the chardonnay aisle.
Next time I’m hoping to dethrone the great Santa Margherita but who knows what might happen….