Grape Madness Round #1: Sterling vs. Fetzer

 Grape Madness Round #1: Blind Tasting Grape Madness Round #1: Sterling vs. Fetzer
The next showdown in the Trader Joe’s bracket of the inaugural Grape Madness tourney was the (2) 2006 Sterling Central Coast Cabernet ($12) vs. the (3) 2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6).

Once again if you need a refresher on the rules you can find a recap here. The main one two keep in mind here, per the picture above, that these were tasted blind (again I know… single blind). Here is what I had on my mind before the bottles hit the table:

  • Sterling: This one was added as a grudge match. Back in December I had a blind tasting with some friends and a bottle of Sterling took down one of my much more expensive Cabernet’s. Let’s see how it performs this time around…
  • Fetzer: This one popped out given my recent experience with the Dynamic Vineyards offerings which are tied to Fetzer via Ceago Vinegarden. Fetzer calls themselves “The Earth Friendly Wine”, let’s see how they do with the palate…

With pregame covered let’s get to the action Here is the play by play from twitter:

jasonswineblog: Tip off in the #GrapeMadness TJ’s Cab bracket. Slow start (on the nose) for both the Fetzer and Sterling, tied 8-8 15:40 left in the 1st…

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Fetzer and Sterling both stuggling a bit in the mid (palate) court game. Late 1st, Fetzer up 33-31 with 2:50 left in the 1st.

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Sterlings pulls ahead with dry, tickly tannins expose Fetzer lack of depth. Is a nice simple structure enough? 9:11 left to go

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness The Fetzer pulls even with soft tannins passing off to a chewy finish. The Sterling must answer quickly. 74-74 with 2:48 left

jasonswineblog: #GrapeMadness Sterling ended up playing to tight and the simple straight forward structure of the Fetzer held them off. Fetzer wins 88-86.

This one almost headed to overtime before Fetzer prevailed as the clock expired.  Good thing as I am sure with more time (read years, not seconds) the Sterling would have proved a much tougher competitor.  I’ll finish with a quick review of each:

2006 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet ($6): Initially a muted nose.  On the palate you find red, sour fruit that shows a nice structure.  Within minutes you can see this is softening nicely with the tartness fading.  Not much depth here but shaping up nicely.  Again good structure hides some potential weaknesses and the almost chewy finish leaves you with pleasant thoughts.  That said it could use a little more fruit to balance it out. This one is made to drink now.  Rating: Buy It

2006 Sterling Central Coast Cabernet ($12): Little nose here and starts extremely tight.  On the palate you are greeted by light, tart fruit (cherries) that last throughout becoming interlaced with some mint and similar herbs.  Starting to loosen but still seems unbalanced.  The tart cherries lengthen and lead to a tickly tannin finish.  In the end, this one may need some years.  I’m not willing to spend the money to find out.  Rating: Pricey

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