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There are lots of ways to enjoy wine with friends but when you want to add some twists and turns put the wines in a paper bag and try to identify or rank them.

Try a night of all one varietal or from different growing region. My small wine group, frequently referenced on this blog, has played about every wine game in the book and made a few others up.

Back in December three of us tasted three, small production, Oregon Pinot Noirs and ranked them. All three wines were from the much-praised 2014 vintage. Youngberg Hill‘s Natasha Block, Ghost Hill’s Prospector’s Reserve, and Alloro‘s Estate Riservata were the three Pinot Noirs. Alloro was our favorite. Here is that blog post.


Tom Fitzpatrick, Alloro

All three tasters that night were pretty experienced wine drinkers and big Pinot fans. We repeated the exercise April 8 with a group of 8 regular wine drinkers. We had three wines from the same wineries but different bottlings: Youngberg Hill Jordan Block, $50, 87 pts Wine Spectator; Ghost Hill Bayliss-Bower Pinot, $42, 91 pts Wine Spectator; and Alloro Vineyards Estate, $35, 93 pts Wine Spectator. The marketing firm had sent me an additional small-production wine, Lenne Estate’s whereI have previously visited. We included the Lenne Estate Pinot, $45, 92 pts Wine Enthusiast, in our Sunday night tasting.


These four wines represented the Willamette Valley AVAs McMinnville, Yamhill-Carlton, and Chehalem Mountains.

We tasted the four wines, and made comment, in a random order. Then we reversed order and tasted again. I would describe the group as three very serious wine drinkers, including myself, who have consumed their share of Oregon Pinot, two more guys who have tasted great Oregon Pinot but probably not quite as geeky, and three guys who are new to the geeky side of wine.

We ranked the wines simply by personal palate preference. Lenne was a strong new entry to this round. When all was said and done, our bigger group picked Alloro as the clear cut favorite for the second time in a row. I might add the four new tasters didn’t know the results from our first effort. And another note, as the wine writer here, I agreed with the ranking both times. But it was tougher this last batch


Steve Lutz, Lenne

Alloro and Lenne were the picks with seven winos picking one or the other as the best with Alloro having a fairly sizeable margin of victory. Ghost Hill picked up one first-place vote. Youngberg Hill was one of the wines most debated.


There are a couple points to be made here. First, my palate or any of my friends’ palates have nothing to do with your wine choices. If you like it, it’s great wine. But we all rely on recommendations, particularly from friends. Second, these are small to very small production wines and are not easy to find outside of Oregon with a few exceptions.

The bigger point might be if you travel to any wine country leave time on your schedule to seek out a few of the really small wineries. You’ll find great choices and those little guys really appreciate your business. Most personnel tasting room employees are anxious to share recommendations. I’ve found some great wine by asking “who else should I go see?’ in Oregon and Napa.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: I’ll have comment from all four of these winemakers, plus Vidon Vineyard’s Don Hagge, in a couple of upcoming newspaper columns. Of course, those columns are always posted here as well.