Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Trust your (taste) buds

The Navigator and I invited some chardonnay drinking friends (CDFs) over for a blind tasting. We always taste “blind.” Your taste buds should determine your favorite wine and nothing else.

A recent study by Sonoma State showed when wine buyers shop, they considered the variety of the grape first, then the price and then the brand. Thirty-eight percent base their decision on how attractive the label is. This is why we bag the wines.

We tasted three chardonnays. After seeing, swirling, snorting, sipping, swishing and swallowing (or spitting), notes were taken. We went around the table and gave our opinions and ratings of the wines.

Wine No. 3 was the winner and No. 2 came in a solid second. Before revealing the wines, I announced that one was a $40 wine, one a $20 and one a $5 wine. Tasters voted and to no surprise they guessed the prices correlated with the tasting scores.

They were wrong. Yes, the $40 wine came in first place. But the $5 wine came in second, not the $20 wine.

Base your wine selections on taste, not price, not fancy labels or famous brands. Trust your palate. Note: The second-place wine was Turning Leaf Chardonnay.

What’s on our table

I’m not a huge fan of California chardonnays. Good ones are hard to find. Many are over-ripe and over-manipulated. The fruit and acidity tend to be overshadowed by oak and butter.

If you’re looking for a well-balanced, food-friendly chardonnay, try the 2012 Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay. It has a bit of oak, a touch of cream, flavors of stone fruits and enough acidity to get you salivating for the next bite.

The wine is well worth the hunt. The suggested retail price is $25, but can be found for a few dollars less.

The Meiomi Pinot Noir has made our table several times. It’s a California fruit-forward pinot with the SRP $22 but stores sell at $18. It is a blend of Santa Barbara, Monterey and Sonoma Fruit.

The 2013 vintage scored a 93 from a wine mag and is readily available in all markets.

The big news is that Constellation Brands just bought Meiomi for $315 million, and that doesn’t include any real estate. The label is attractive, but $315 million? Hey, that’s enough to meet the Dodgers payroll, with some left over to buy participation trophies.

Meanwhile, September is California Wine Month. Check it out at