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Wine Medals, Ratings and Reviews and How..

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Ratings, wine competition medals, and wine reviews can be important reference points that can influence people to select and buy one wine over another. If these ratings, award medals and reviews are unbiased and fair, these “persuaders” can serve as a good indicators of what the wine lover might experience when drinking the wine that was rated and reviewed.WIne-Rating-250X194 Additionally, These “reference points” also help establish the economic value of the selected vintage.  

But all of this begs a question: Are current ways of reviewing, rating and awarding medals an absolutely unbiased and fair way of doing what they are supposed to do? Or are they simply a manifestation of the personal taste and subjective opinions of those who care enough to write up their reviews? Are the medals assigned to a wine by esteemed wine-tasting judges and experts awarded according to consistent standards or can it be said that they are awarded rather randomly?

I think it is important for me to acknowledge that as far as I am concerned, wines fall into two main categories: First, there are the wines that I want to enjoy. The wine does not have to be a medal winner, it just has to please my palate and pair well with the particular dish I am eating. Second, there are wines that I might regard as an investment: Wines that I think will appreciate in economic value, or wines with such hefty price tags that I have to wonder how they will appeal to my palate. Will they really offer exceptional aroma, superior taste, greater pleasure?which wine should i choose In an earlier article I wrote about Penfolds' $108,000 offering:  http://www.signaturewines.com/blogger/sir-may-i-have-a-drop-of-wine-maybe-two-possibly-three-please. What signatures did this wine possess that rendered it worthy of such an exalted price? 

I have a great many friends and acquaintances whose knowledge and experience far exceeds my own and who regularly serve as wine judges and wine critics. So I’d like to ask them this question: How do ratings, wine competition medals and wine reviews impact the value of wine? Can these correlations be standardized or explained empirically? 

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Lightheart Cellars 2012 Santa Clara Colombard

Lightheart Cellars 2012 Santa Clara Colombard

Colombard is one of those wine varietals that isn't talked about a whole lot. It's not a familiar grape to most Americans, and there are only two wineries in California that even produce a Colombard wine! Having tasted the Lightheart Cellars release, though, that small production and relative anonymity should change immediately!

Colombard, as a wine, is not something I have tasted a lot of, so it's hard for me to judge this wine against the hallmarks of the varietal. I can only go off of what I've read about its normal characteristics. In the case of a wine I'm not familiar with, I'll always check out what Karen MacNeil says in The Wine Bible, which is my go-to tome for studying wine basics. Seriously, my copy that I bought used for $6 on Amazon is so full of highlights and notes and notecards that I studied for my sommelier exam, it's a miracle the thing still holds together. However, Colombard doesn't even appear in the pages! We have to go to the Oxford Companion to Wine or Jancis Robinson's Complete Guide to the varietals to find information on the grape. Or, you could take a shortcut and go to Wikipedia. All that will tell you, though, is that Colombard is used as a structure-lending blending wine in California, has dry and sweet variations, and has a nice natural acidity.

While that's helpful, it's WAY more fun to drink the wine than dwell on my lack of knowledge about the grape!

I had this wine with my boyfriend and his housemates during their housemate meeting the other night, and it was great to hear their comments on it mirror my own thoughts. It has a gorgeous acidity (as Wikipedia promised) as well as great Honeycrisp apple and heather flavors. The body is rich and reflective of the deep goldenrod color, but that acidity and light sweetness allow it to stay refreshing instead of bogging you down. There's a reason California producers use this wine to lend structure to their Chardonnays--it's rich and textured, without making the wine a chore to drink.

My favorite comment, though, was from my friend Ross, who is more of a beer and whiskey kind of guy. We both loved the wine's pronounced smokiness. It was so cool to see a white wine mirror Scotch characteristics while maintaining its "wine-ness" that it brought the whole experience to another level. The smokiness coupled well with the honey and heather to make such a decadent and refreshing glass that we were sad to see the bottle empty.

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Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

Lightheart Cellars Pinot Noir

Last night, I had my second chance to taste Lightheart Cellars' 2011 Carneros Pinot Noir. I'm going to keep this review (and all my wine reviews) simple, since I think the best way for anyone to learn about wine is to drink it themselves, not read about what others thought!

This wine is from a "rough" vintage in California, though you'd never know it judging by this wine. The color is light orange-red. not as pink as most California pinot noir, and there's a hint of cloudiness to the liquid (which you can see in the photo). It has a lot of blood orange, raspberry jam, and cherry jelly to the nose--there's a lot of interplay of tartness and fruitiness here, which I find really refreshing. I'm a huge fan of acidic wines (if it feels like it's going to burn a hole in my tongue, I want more!) but this is nicely tempered with the bold fruit. There's a hint of toasty vanilla and rye bread, which is surprisingly strong on the nose, considering that the wine was aged in neutral French oak. A little bit of smokiness and salinity add depth to the wine and speak to the Thompson Vineyard in Carneros, where the grapes were grown.

I enjoyed a glass of this sans food, which was quite enjoyable. This wine shines without the need of a dish to complement its flavors, but would also be great with a salad with some bitter or acidic elements, such as goat cheese, arugula, or pomegranate seeds. Because of its light body and great acidity, this is not a pinot you want to serve with salmon or white chocolate (two classic pinot noir pairings), but it would be great with tilapia and mango salsa or lots of lemon juice.

Lightheart Cellars is a great example of a small-production winery--I attended their Holiday Party a couple months ago, and got to taste through their portfolio of wine, mead, and cider! The tasting room is wonderful, and I'd highly recommend a visit; there's a great likelihood that you'll meet the winery managers and winemakers, and the entire experience is delicious!

For more information on Lightheart Cellars, please visit their website at www.lightheartcellars.com.

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