Schneider's of Capitol Hill Tasting
How can you get the most out of a major event like the huge tasting sponsored by the Schneider's of Capitol Hill wine shop on Saturday, Oct. 9, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where some three dozen importers and distributors were offering samples of more than 200 wines?

There's no practical way to taste them all, so your options are clear: Take a random walk, sampling whatever you encounter (not entirely a bad idea) ... or spend a few moments making a coherent plan before you dive in to the mob scene. I discuss my strategy for handing the Schneider's tasting in this week's edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor. Here are my notes on the two dozen wines at the tasting that I chose for closer analysis. Prices listed are the distributors' suggested retail; most of these wines were on sale for lower prices during the event:

Boillot 1996 Volnay ($35) - Ruby with an orange glint. Good, perfumed Pinot Noir fruit.

Rene Engel 1996 Vosne-Romanee ($50) - Light ruby, with good cherry aromas; fruity and tart.

Sparr 1995 Cremant d'Alsace Dynastie ($20) - Pale straw color, with a frothy mousse. Yeasty and rich; good peach fruit, crisp and very dry.

Feuillate Brut Premier Cru ($30) - Pale straw color, good frothy mousse. Citric, yeasty, perfumed fruit flavors, very tasty Champagne.

Feuillate Rosé Premier Cru ($35) - Pale salmon color. Light and fresh aromas; foamy, rich mouthfeel, delicate fruit.

Feuillate 1992 Palmes d'Or ($130) - Sleek in a pebble-grained bottle, this high-end Champagne, presumably being pushed as a Millennial quaff, was frankly a bit disappointing. Pale straw in color, it's full and dry, but didn't show me a compelling reason to pay more than four times the price of Feuillate's non-vintage cuvee.

Condado de Haza 1996 Ribera del Duero ($23) - The list showed that the newly arrived 1997 vintage would be on hand, but the previous year showed up at the tasting. It's still a delight, showing earthy "barnyard" aromas and ripe dark fruit.

Pesquera 1996 Ribera del Duero ($35) - Dark ruby, with delicious floral and black-fruit aromas and flavors, very forward and ripe.

Terrasses 1996 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) - Dark reddish-purple. Blueberry aromas and tight, closed flavors, oaky vanillins dominating the fruit. Doesn't show well in the context of the fine Spanish reds above, selling for a fraction of its cultish price.

Seña 1996 Red Table Wine ($60) - Billed by the salesman as "Mondavi's Chilean Opus One," this joint-venture Chilean wine shows earthy black fruit and ripe, structured flavors, accessible and pleasing despite firm tannins suggesting ageworthiness.

Penfolds 1996 Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz ($23) - Inky dark garnet. Delicious black-fruit aromas and a full-bodied, tannic flavor. Needs time.

Penfolds 1996 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) - Black in color. Tight and closed black-fruit and dill aromas; showing more on the palate than the nose, a load of rich fruit and substantial tannins.

Domaine de Cabasse 1996 Cotes du Rhone ($25) - Pretty ruby color, showing a load of strawberries in the aroma and a ripe bowl of fruit on the palate. Excellent wine, although a startling price for a Cotes-du-Rhone.

Calestra non-vintage Prosecco ($16) - Pale brass color, pours with a quick froth. Crisp, light and pleasantly sweet, fresh and quenching.

Domaine Pradelle 1997 Crozes-Hermitage ($20) - Bright ruby color. Ripe fruit and fragrant pepper on the nose and palate; a boatload of fruit.

Ch. Leoville-Barton 1994 St.-Julien ($60) - Dark reddish-purple, dark fruit and herbaceous aromas. Austere on the palate, clean fruit and ample tannins.

Clos Rene 1995 Pomerol ($40) - Dark garnet with an amber glint. Black fruit and lots of barnyard. Enjoyable.

Ch. Meyney 1995 St.-Estephe ($40) - Dark garnet, showing earthy fruit, tart and tannic. Good potential but not showing its best today.

Judds Hill 1996 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) - Inky ruby, showing dark chocolate and mint and deep black-fruit aromas, fresh fruit and tart acid on the palate.

Babcock 1996 Cuvee Lestat Syrah ($40) - Inky reddish-purple. Tar and smoke on the nose, licorice on the palate; dark, appealing fruit finally shows up in the finish.

Viberti 1996 Barbera d'Alba ($30) - Dark garnet. Black cherry and Northwestern Italian "tar" and floral notes. Mouth-filling fruit flavors, jammy fruit and aromatic smoke. Very nice.

Dogajolo 1997 Tuscan Red Table Wine ($20) - Garnet, with loads of cherries in the aroma, good structure and fruit on the palate.

Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old Tawny Port ($55) - Clear amber, with lovely stone fruit and pecan aromas. Delicious dried fruit flavors over a firm acidic structure. Delicious, accessible Tawny.

Andresen 1985 Port ($70) - Rosy amber color, very light for a Port, with no apparent sediment in the bottle. Delicious berrylike aroma. Full flavors follow the nose, ripe sweetness and lemony acidity. Despite its relative youth by Port standards, seems quite ready to drink.

Have you tasted these wines?
E-mail me your tasting notes,
and I'll consider adding them to this page.

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All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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