Monday, July 28, 2008

Reflections on 89 points

Like many people who review wine, I use the 100 point scale. It's not because I think this is the best system -- and I've proposed alternatives -- it's just the current industry standard. When I was invited to write here, my first thought was to just get my latest review from my blog and cross-post with some additional detail on why I rated the wine 89 and not 90. But in looking back, I see that 89 has become a more popular score for me so I wanted to reflect on why for my first post here at The 89 Project.

Let's look at my pair of Rieslings from Wine Blogging Wednesday 45. Both earned 89. Why? Because I liked them both about the same. They were tasted side-by-side over a couple days and I couldn't pick one over the other. But why not 88 or 87?

To answer that, I have to go back to the mechanics of how I score wine. When I somewhat reluctantly adopted the 100-point scale a few years ago, I looked at how Robert Parker did his reviews. He helpfully posts this on his website. So I follow this same process with each element rated on it's own, then a total score tallied afterward. In a large tasting, this final score does not get calculated until after all wines have been tasted. In the case of the Rieslings, both wines scored the same amount of total points but the individual elements were different.

So is this a precise science? No, but I do try to keep my scores as consistent as possible when tasting a group of wines. But what makes a wine a 90 and not 89 is probably a more interesting question. And the answer is, "something extra."

Let's face it, there are more very good wines on the market today than at any time in history. Between modern winemaking and viticulture techniques there has been an equalization in quality across the world. Great wines are coming from the old and new world at almost every price point so no country has a lock on wine quality (branding, however, is another story). So with that as the backdrop, I interpret "something extra" as going beyond just well made, varietally correct, nicely balanced wines. It is definitely a subjective judgement but you know it when it's encountered.

So I guess this is a long way of saying that the difference between an 89 and a 90 is not an objective calculation but a subjective judgment. But you probably already knew that...

The Boom is in the Bottle

From Walla Walla Wine Cellar Blog and


Ah, Boomtown Chardonnay! We’ve decided to feature this delicious, refreshing, delectable wine on our homepage. Chad and Corey at Dusted Valley have always been great to work with, producing vintage after vintage of kick butt wines. And now there’s a whole new line of Boomtown wines that are so ridiculously priced it feels almost like giving away gold.

Scoring 89 points this Chardonnay is on the threshold. This is such a great place to be, really. You know it's good, but it's affordable. No guilt if you want it NOW instead of leaving it cellared for any period of time. It is well made, structured, and has the acidity to pair wonderfully with food. I love the crisp, citrus and fuji apple experience of this Chardonnay.

For those of you who made our Bling & Wine event, you were able to try the stuff. We sold through our entire stock that night. Now we’ve got more on hand and have placed it in a most prominent position. Front and center. Loud and Proud!

As you can see, Wine & Spirits listed Boomtown as one of the top 100 value brands of 2008, for what it’s worth. We’re not huge into the numbers game here. But we (the Wine Cellar team) agree that this wine is a great buy.

89 points. What would be the tipping point? All I know is that, sales and numbers aside, I love this little surprise. Dusted Valley is relatively widely distributed, so do try it. I'll hope for a Monday afternoon on the back patio, sipping Boomtown Chardonnay, soaking up sunshine and drinking in wonder.

And I'd love to discuss why the Chardonnay scored 89 and the Syrah scored 90. Hmm... interesting. Very very interesting...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec 2007

From 2 Days per Bottle.

89 Points, Jay Miller/ #174, Dec 2007.

Mendoza, Argentina
13.8% alcohol

As the little wooden guy is pointing out, this came with a screw-top. He didn't mind. he really liked this wine.

From the bottlenotes:

Wines under my Crios (offspring) label display ripe fruit flavors, excellent balance, and are meant to be enjoyed in their vibrant youth. This rose is produced using the traditional "saignee" method, a blending of the lightly - colored juice from the skins of my fermenting old-vine Malbec grapes at just the right time to generate a brilliant red color. Old-vine Malbec grapes create a richer, spicier wine than most other roses from around the world, wich gives the wine memorable flexibility to pair with a wide fange of foods. And like my own crios, this Rose of Malbec is extremely lovable and fun to be around.

The color was bright translucent pink, the color of cranapple juice.

The nose was sweet, strawberry, candied cherries and some spic, maybe cloves and ginger. It was full-bodied, a true child of the juice and the skins, rather than just the juice, with the skins in the role of a distant uncle. The palate opened with sweet fruit, strawberry and cherries, but a firm midpalate of smoke, cloves and ginger said this was a serious wine. Then it got playful again, ending in candied fruit and ginger, like a fresh holiday fruit cake.


Close your eyes and take a sniff- is that a glass of wine or am I in a room full of strawberries? Nope, not just strawberries, there are some Ruby Red graefruit here, too, and cinammon.

Sip it. Strawberries first, just like the nose, a touch of cocoa powder that reminds you it comes from malbec grapes, then the same Ruby Red grapefruit and cinammon from the nose. Some of the cherries from night one join for the finish.

This is a good rose. It is bright, acidic, fresh, and even just slightly tannic. This is a rose that reminds you it really does come from a red grape, not just a tinted white.