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BlindA vintage change was the only thing different about the Luigi Buadana Chardonnay hailing from the Langhe in Piemonte that I sipped and spat at a Tuesday Chardonnay tasting, rediscovering a wine that had been good to me in the past. I had last tasted the 2010 vintage with the importer at my retail post, finding it particularly attractive for its freshness and bright flavor profile, before experiencing the latest release (2011) in a blind trial with my group.

Buadana It rounded the table cloaked in a double paper bag, deep in the lineup (number five of seven Chardonnay we would taste), that immediately struck me with its vibrancy of fruit on the nose and palate. Chardonnay isn’t an aromatic varietal, but this Italian white was bordering on medium-plus intensity with a youthful bouquet of lemon curd, citrus blossoms, tropical nuance and underlying salinity (mineral quality). From the perfume to the palate the wine was exciting and it made me break form, asking if the rest of the group was similarly affected. Met with a stoic response, I carried out penning my notes—possessing a medium body, medium alcohol (well integrated), medium-plus acidity, medium-plus flavor intensity that followed the tantalizing scent, carrying long (medium-plus finish) with its strong aromatic presence.

While we tasted many nice examples of Chardonnay, globetrotting from New to Old World benchmarks, I was astounded, again, by the quality and liveliness of Luigi Buadana’s Chardonnay. Best yet, was that it was in the blind tasting setting, free from influence of label or region, that the wine conveyed its merit. Hands down my favorite Chardonnay of the night.

I had a random Saturday off work and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to host a miniature blind tasting. Taking further advantage of the anomaly, I would fuse my wine and burger interests and pair the group-decided winning wines with a burger joint of my guests’ choosing. All the while thinking this would be an interesting way to subtract some more bottles from my Countdown-to-500.

The criteria for the event was that each guest bring a bottle of wine under $12—an affordable bracket to encourage a greater turnout—and cloaked in a bag in order to protect identity. Not everyone followed protocol.

Eight people arrived with five bottles; some of my friends did not receive the memo. I was shooting for uniformity when it came to the bags, hoping to play five bottle Monty with the attendees’ concealed seven-fifties, to obfuscate my buddies and sever their attachments to the bottles they brought. It was not in the cards though, each bottle came wrapped in odd, misshapen bags or not wrapped at all, it was up to me to find five bags that better served my purposes—I was caught unprepared.

I decided to arrange the tasting by maximizing my glassware—a bottle of wine would round the table, to be smelled and sipped, extracting all we could before moving on to the next in the series. Rinsing our glasses with the next wine and dumping the wines (as opposed to finishing all of them) to keep our palates sharp.

The first wine was interesting; the deep hued garnet juice was tinged with notes of vanilla and muddled blackberry and it had more fruit than oak on the palate. By contrast the second wine was an oak bomb; everyone had decided that the smokiness and 2×4 action in the glass was overwhelming, except for one, who said that it reminded him of a peat-laced Scotch. We transitioned into the third glass of wine, noticing a huge difference in flavor from the first two wines and too much residual sugar to be labeled dry. Most of us elected to pour the contents of the third glass into the cuspidor and simmer for a while before moving on to the penultimate wine in the tasting.

We caught up on things, discussed movies and stroke victims (the young lady on the news after the Oscar’s…) while Wes Montgomery’s album “Goin’ Out of My Head” played in the background. After the chitchat we got back to tasting.

The fourth wine in the set was poured and we performed a collective sniff, detecting blackberry jam, potpourri and some herbal, almost bell pepper characteristics. The panel was immediately taken with the wine, claiming that it was extremely drinkable. It was vying for top seed.

Lastly, the fifth and final wine made it around the table and the juxtaposition against a crowd favorite wine could not be more extreme. The last wine of the set gave off too much funk to handle on the nose, revealing some not so enjoyable odors (the adjectives were a little to coarse to mention). We quickly deduced that the wine was corked thus taking it out of the running.

We revisited the two favorite wines at the table—#1 and 4—to determine which would reign supreme. We were at a deadlock until someone left the group and pulled in his own direction, favoring the “Smokey, oaky from Muskogee.” And so it was time to unveil them, from last to first place, they were:

5.) 2002 Rosemount Merlot  – Corked; Wine # 5

4.) 2009 Challis Lane Cabernet Sauvignon – Wine # 3

3.) 2006 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon -Wine # 2

2.) 2009 Redwood Creek Malbec – Wine # 4

1.) 2008 Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon – Wine # 1

After exposing the wine, it was time to pull the winners from the bunch, flask them, and take them to George’s Burgers on Lincoln, in Santa Monica.

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