WINETASTER WITH 30 JUDGES AND 24 WINES BASED ON RANKS, IDENT=N Copyright (c) 1995-2000 Richard E. Quandt

FLIGHT 1: Number of Judges = 30 Number of Wines = 24
Result of The Tasting: California Vintage 1996 wine rank ranksum 1. E & J Gallo Winery, Sonoma County 1 228.5 2. Screaming Eagle Winery 2 245 3. Dalla Valle Vineyards, Maya 3 262.5 4. Harlan Estate Winery 4 269.5 5. Chateau ST. Jean, Cinq Cepages 5 322.5 6. Ridge Vineyards, Monte Bello 6 325.5 7. Forman Vineyards 7 345 8. La Jota Vineyard Co. 8 349 9. Staglin Family Vineyards 9 350 10. Pahlmeyer Winery 10 352.5 11. Araujo Estate Wines, Eisle Vineyard 11 354.5 12. PlumpJack Winery 12 370.5 13. Opus One 13 383 14. Clark-Claudon Vineyards 14 393.5 15. Swanson Vineyards 15 400 16. Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, SLV 16 409.5 17. Leonetti Cellars 17 422.5 18. Frog's Leap Winery, Rutherford 18 431.5 19. Oakford Vineyards 19 446 20. Ridge Vineyards, Lytton Springs 20 455 21. Arietta 21 466 22. Vineyard 29 22 467.5 23. DeLille Cellars, Chaleur Estate 23 468 24. Liparita Cellars 24 482.5 The minimum ranksum that a wine could have is 30. The maximum ranksum that a wine could have is 720.


The California Wine Challenge: Judging the Top California Cabernets Again (And the Winner is a Shocker Again!)

Orley Ashenfelter

A year ago our friend Dennis Foley organized a memorable and historic tasting of the world's greatest wines made from the cabernet sauvignon grape. Using Reidel crystal 32 judges tasted 47 of the world's greatest wines blind (that is, without knowing the identity of each wine). Dennis and I both were interested in whether the tasters, all of whom were serious connoisseurs, and many of whom were California's greatest winemakers, would be in significant agreement. Neither he nor I have much faith in the tasting results accorded to young wines. Much to our surprise, the results of this immaculately organized tasting established two incontrovertible facts: (1) These tasters did agree on which were the best wines at a level impossible to assign to random chance, and (2) these tasters had an extremely strong preference for California cabernets over challengers from France (or anywhere else!) The big surprise was that the overall winner of this competition was the wine made by Tom and Laurie Clark, a long time Napa couple who had been tending vines for two decades, but making wines for only two years! The complete set of results is available in Report 20. The occasion for this event was a charity dinner sponsored, in part, by San Francisco philanthropist Gordon Getty in the spring of 1999. It was such a success that Foley decided to repeat it in the spring of 2000, in the same venue at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, with the 1996 vintage. This time, however, the French wines were left in the cellar for another occasion. Again, the judges were an extraordinary group, and included Ric Forman, Doug Peters, Greg O'Flynn, Bob Bath, Oren Michels, and totaled some 30 of California's finest palates. The winner? Well, hold onto your hat-it was E&J Gallo's Sonoma County super premium cabernet sauvignon! The Gallos have put an incredible amount of energy (and cash) into the family's new Sonoma operation, and this performance shows that effort has paid off. For decades the Gallo name has been a source of derision among connoisseurs, and these results should stand to vindicate both the Gallo effort and the quality of wines now being produced in Sonoma County. The complete results are displayed below (where the ranks are based on a simple aggregation of the "points against" for each wine-a wine ranked 1 by a taster counts as one "point against," while a wine ranked as 2 counts as two "points against," and so on). There are three remarkable features of these results. First, in order, following Gallo, the wines placing second through eighth were Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle Maya, Harlan, Chateau St. Jean (Cinq Cepages), Ridge Montebello, Forman, and La Jota. These are among the very top rated wines in California's auctions, and Screaming Eagle is so difficult to obtain (and expensive, typically from $600-$1,000 per bottle) that most people have never even seen a bottle, let alone tasted it! This, of course, validates Gallo's stunning victory. Second, as in last year's event, the agreement amongst the tasters is quite extraordinary. A commonly used measure of concordance (Kendall's W) reached a level of .126, which would occur by chance with only a trivial probability (less than 1 in 1,000 occasions). Thus, Gallo's victory should not be attributed to the natural chance variation in all wine tasting results. Finally, 15 of the 24 wines in this tasting represented the work of the same wineries as in last year's event. This naturally raised the fascinating question of whether it was the same wineries that performed well in both vintages. The answer to this question is a resounding "no." This year's winner placed 11th among the 15 wines last year, while last year's winner placed 10th in this year's event. (Spearman's rank correlation coefficient is a small .075, but it is positive.) It is, of course, hard to know what to make of these tasting results, but one thing is certain: Foley should do it again next year!
View Report 20, a previous "monster"tasting

Return to front page