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Had a posse of friends over last night and put ’em to work tasting 11 wines, blind…all the wines were those everyday value wines we see around, priced in the $10 range, but just for fun I threw in a $70 bottle to see if anyone might notice.  Everyone had to rate each wine—the scale:

1.       Swill

2.       I’d cook with it.

3.       Decent.

4.       Superior, a wine I’d be proud to pour.

5.       Rockstar—tastes like an expensive fancy pants wine.

Top Three Whites

MOST HIGHLY HIGHIEST RATED WHITE WINE: Martini Prosecco, $14, average score 4

This one was a crowd-pleaser as it rated highest amongst our whites. Most sippers liked this for its easy, delicate taste. A simple pleasure to enjoy, not getting too complicated or fussy. There are probably better Proseccos on the market at this price, but Martini is an easily recognizable brand and hence easy to find in a pinch.

Woodbridge Brut, $10, average score 3.5

There were more than a few surprised sippers when we uncovered the Woodbridge label—most everyone characterized this sparkler as pleasantly bubbly and refreshing with some citrus and apple on the nose. At this price it’s certainly a nice party pleaser to spike with some cranberry juice for a holiday cocktail or just enjoy alone.

The sippers take this job seriously.

Martini Sparkling Rose $13.99, average score 3.5

With its soft pink hue this is a lovely wine to look at and to taste.  Not overly heavy or moussy for a sparkling wine…sippers liked the peachy taste and citrusy kick this wine had.  Perfect to serve as guests arrive for the evening, or to toast in the New Year.

Top Three Reds

MOST HIGHLY RATED OVERALL:  Budini Malbec, 2009 $13, average score 4.5

This Argentine malbec was the most highly rated wine of the evening, getting lots of love from sippers for its chocolate and dark cherry notes.  Soft approachable tannins (many called it ‘smooth’) and a lengthy finish gave it big points too.  A steal at this price.

Mirassou Pinot Noir, 2009, $12/ average score 4

Bright red fruits and strawberries were the big notes in this wine. Crafted by one of California’s oldest winemaking families, this is a classic pinot noir. Soft, light-bodied and drinkable before dinner and during the meal, pair it with a roasted salmon or lamb.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage 2009, $11, average score 4

The only blend of the evening this wine is comprised of the five classic Bordeaux red varieties: cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, malbec, cabernet franc, and merlot. Sippers found this wine balanced and enjoyable with tastes of black cherry and velvet—pour this along with the Budini at your next big party and everyone will be happy.

Oh yeah and what did our $70 wine (who shall remain unnamed for reputation reasons) score in the game?  The most expensive wine on the table scored right down the middle, (average score 3) with most tasters either loving it or just hating it.  Big and bold, it tended to be just too much for a cocktail party and overall it scored the lowest of the reds.