Some may have been surprised, others secure in their knowledge and the rest perhaps a little bit tipsy, but the more than 100 people who turned out on Saturday night at in Riverhead got more than they bargained for: an accomplished winery event, erudite and thoughtful commentary and the chance to taste some of the best wines of recent vintages coming out of three, competing yet distinct, regions: the East End of Long Island, California and a little place called Bordeaux.
The event was thea not-so-subtle take on the "Judgment of Paris," a 1976 blind wine tasting that finally put Californian wines on the same plane as the celebrated vintages of the Burgundy region of France, where the whites focus on chardonnay, and the cuvées of Bordeaux, whose reds are made, for the most part, of cabernet sauvignon blends.
The conceit was simple yet accessible. Nine experienced wine tasters, all involved with Long Island Wine Country, tasted nine white wines and nine red wines rating them on a scale of one to 20, with 10 being a "highly adequate wine." The guests, which included members of the Roanoke wine club as well as members of the Long Island wine community and press, tasted the same wines as the judges, and their conclusions were collected after the judges' were presented in dramatic postings of the scores on the walls of the tasting room.
Among the mix of nine whites were three from Long Island, three from California and three from France. The reds had the same breakdown. This totaled 18 wines.
So, what happened?
To tease you a little more, a few of the judges—notably James Christopher Tracy, winemaker and partner in in Sagaponack and Kareem Massoud, winemaker at in Aquebogue — said the California wines stuck out like sore thumbs, mostly due to their high alcohol. However, especially among the reds, many on the panel found it hard to determine the difference among the wines from France and the wines from Long Island.
And as judge Tom Schaudel, chef and owner of restaurant in Mattituck, said, for him, wines from California were like Pam Anderson, with blue eye shadow, big breasts and Daisy Dukes, while the wines from Long Island and Bordeaux were like Elle Macpherson — long, lean and in a black dress and pearls.
"But both would be a hoot to hang with for a night," he said, to laughter from the audience.
Schaudel's comment did not go unnoticed by women in attendance, who were all well aware of the panel's only having one woman — Long Island wine pioneer Louisa Thomas Hargrave.
But alright already — who won? Here we go, the top three in each category:
1. With 149 points was the 2007 "Vinter's Pride" Chardonnay, made by audience member Russell Hearn
2. With 145.5 points was the 2008 Chardonnay Reserve
3. With 144.5 point was the 2008 Chateau Montelena Chardonny, made in Napa Valley
1. With 153 points the 2007 Detert Family Napa Valley Cabernet
2. With 153 points the 2007 "Blend One" Cabernet Blend
3. With 151.3 points France's 2004 Léoville Poyferré
Go to http://www.roanokevineyards.com/ for the complete results.