The invitation from the Gaylord Texan was intriguing.  A blind tasting of Napa heavyweight wines led by Rene Schlatter, president and owner, and Sean Foster, VP of wine production and head winemaker, of Merryvale Vineyards and Starmont Winery.  As a former Golden Gloves boxer (yes, don’t ask), I felt the competitive spirit coursing through my veins. 

When I arrived at the hotel, things seemed amiss.  In fact, the electricity was out giving new meaning to “blind tasting”.  But under the watchful eye of Vice President of Food & Beverage Saddiq Mir and Executive Chef Joanne Bondy, the show must go on and the 40 plus people who showed up were ready to try some of the biggest names in Napa.

Sean, me, Rene

Before the tasting began, I had a chance to talk with Rene and Sean and they told me about the different characteristics and blends of the 06 to 08 Merryvale Profile.  They were right – the wines were very different. 

The first flight featured five wines from the 08 vintage of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Cakebread, Caymus, Duckhorn, Joseph Phelps and Merryvale.  I was surprised how different my rating and the group rating for favorite wines differed.  Let me say that there is no way, in my opinion, that the Merryvale Cabernet should have been rated in fifth place.  I’m sure that Sean and Rene were less than thrilled.

So, the group favorites were as follows:

  •        Caymus
  •        Cakebread
  •        Joseph Phelps
  •        Duckhorn
  •        Merryvale Cabernet

My favorites were as follows:

  •        Merryvale Cabernet
  •        Caymus
  •        Joseph Phelps
  •        Duckhorn
  •        Cakebread

We then moved on to the second group of 08 Napa first growth proprietary reds including Merryvale Profile, Opus One,  Joseph Phelps Insignia, Caymus Special Selection, Dominus and Quintessa.  Again, my opinion differed.

The group favorites were as follows:

  •        Opus One
  •        Caymus Special Selection
  •        Joseph Phelps Insignia
  •        Dominus
  •        Merryvale Profile
  •        Quintessa

My favorites included:

  •        Quintessa
  •        Merryvale Profile
  •        Opus One
  •        Joseph Phelps Insignia
  •        Dominus
  •        Caymus Special Selection

I was surprised at some of my own ratings as I’ve always been a big fan of Caymus, Dominus and Insignia.  But this certainly shows how blind tastings definitely even the playing field and I commend Rene and Sean for taking a big risk.  And, for the record, Merryvale came in first and second in my personal preference.