Brian Cain

Recent American Wine Society Judging Confirms my Price Bias

Brian Cain
Recent American Wine Society Judging Confirms my Price Bias

Recent American Wine Society Wine Judging

Confirms my Price Bias

That is, the less it costs, the better it tastes!


You’ve probably noticed from my notes on wines that I taste, that, I’ve never seen a wine that I didn’t like.   Even worse, I am convinced that I actually prefer inexpensive mass produced wines to expensive hand crafted bottlings.   A few years ago, my friend Steve Volkhardt put ordinary “grocery store” wines up against the finest wines shipped in from wine clubs of prestigious wineries.   Although most of the tasters liked the more expensive limited access wines, I much preferred the less expensive mass produced bottlings.  The other day, I was enjoying a 1999 Ch. Gruaud Larose, St Julien, then a 1999 Pichon Lalande, Pauillac (both costing at least $200 in today’s dollars) and followed them up with an $8 Malbec from Aldi and, you guessed it…….   As refined, complex, multilayered and classic Bordeaux nuanced as both of the Grand Cru Classe were, I have to say, the cheap Malbec was more enjoyable.   One might compare drinking wine to reading books.   I’ve never read War and Peace, but, I do read my share of very depressing books albeit well written and evocative that I just can’t put down in spite of recurring nightmares and guilty feelings from having lived such a sheltered life.  Profound, yes, but, I’d really rather be reading a ridiculous crime novel parody by Carl Hiaasen.

This tasting was “single blind” in that although we did not know the brand, origin or price, we did know that we were tasting Sauvignon Blanc.  None of the wines were what I’d call expensive, but, there was definitely a price range from about $5 to $25.   There were several duplicates and some of the same wine in a different vintage.  Here are the results in order of highest ranked to lowest.   Only the wines which have notes were ones that I personally evaluated.   The others are ranked based on the group score only.

First Place Wines in order of the group score

2018 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $9  A huge Sauvignon Blanc aroma of lime and green herbs followed by ample weight and mouth feel, it sizzles on the palate finishing long and fresh.

2017 Starborough Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $9 What a fine expression of rich melon, rosemary, and lemon with a zippy mouthfeel and a very long fresh after taste.

2018 Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $8  Talk about mass produced!   The scores do not lie.   A beautiful figgy, floral, melon tinged soft and fruity aroma carries through perfectly to the soft balanced finish.

2017 Matua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $10 (first bottle) Classic “cat piss”, clay and kiwi with rich ripe supple fruit feel in the nose and sliding across the palate stays bright though a little too soft and maybe lacking zip.

2017 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $13  Nice fresh yellow plum like fruit and subtle lemon-lime components greet the nose and palate.  It finishes dry with a slight minerality.

2017 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ  $16  Though well liked by the group, it was not a favorite of mine.   Matchstick and odd Mediterranean spices dominate the nose with worm wood dry vermouth-like spiciness finishing the picture.


Second Place finishers in order of the group score

2018 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley, CA $15

2017 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $10 (2 bottles, same score)

2017 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $9


Third Place finishers in order of the group score

2017 Henri Bourgeois (Sauvignon Blanc) Les Barrones Sancerre, FR $25

2015 Patient Cottat (Sauvignon Blanc) Le Grand Caillou Val de Loire, FR $10

2017 Matua Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $10 (second bottle)  Precisely what one expects from NZ Sauvignon Blanc; lime, apple, green herbs, rosemary and cilantro.

2017 Marland (Wyncroft) Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon Lake Michigan Shore, MI $20

2016 Trump Winery Sauvignon Blanc Monticello, VA $20  This was Alice’s favorite!   Would have placed higher if not for one judge who scored it 9 points out of 20.


Fourth Place finishers in order of the group score

2018 13 Degrees Celsius Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $9 

Non Vintage Barefoot Sauvignon Blanc California, CA $5  Can you use the word “classy” and Barefoot in the same sentence?  Here is a dandy wine with classic minerals, green leaves, oregano and fresh spice in the nose and a very pleasantly fresh palate.

2017 Trump Winery Sauvignon Blanc Monticello, VA $20

2017 Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc California, CA $10

2017 Toschi Vineyards California, CA $14


Fifth (last) Place finishers in order of the group score

2017 Los Cardos (Dona Paula) Sauvignon Blanc Mendoza, AR

 2016 Taonga Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, NZ $14  Fine mild bouquet of melon, fig and exotic spice; Bordeaux style.   Judges scores were both very high and very low.

2017 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc Charlotte’s Home Northern Sonoma, CA $11  Another controversial wine with some judges loving it and others, like me, who felt it had a very off putting burnt smell not unlike an electric drill that is overloaded.

2017 Pajarito Sauvignon Blanc Central Valley, CH $11

2016 James & Bell Sauvignon Blanc California, CA $11


So there you have it.  Starborough (Gallo) and Cupcake the big winners with several very solid wines also in the $10 range.   None of the higher priced wines were liked by very many of the wine judges.



Enjoy in Good Health,

A Brian Cain, the Michigan Vintner