Forget your Ps

As an avid wine drinker, I’m quick to assure people that I’m all about good, cheap wine. And I am. I have tasted a $75 and $9 bottle blind, and unwaveringly picked the cheaper bottle as the tastier wine. Yet, try as I resist, hefty price tags and Robert Parker’s rating scale still sway me sometimes. Last night, in preparation for my wine group’s Argentinean tasting, Chuck and I went out to Sam’s to pick up some wine. We had a pretty generous budget – $250 for 8-9 bottles of wine – and so we were toying with the idea of buying a really expensive bottle to drink. Interestingly – I do not know whether it was a result of the wine store’s stock selection or a reflection of the wine industry in Argentina at large – but the selection of wines on the shelves were for the most part, pretty evenly priced. There was only one bottle that was heads and shoulders above the rest in price, a Bodegas Colome Reserva Valle Calchaqui 2003, at a cool $90. The wine spectator had rated it 93 points. The estate, with vines over a century old, is the oldest working winery in Argentina and the highest vineyard in the world.

I was tempted, very tempted, to shell out that $90. After all, some wine expert somewhere had given it a thumbs up. And here was a golden opportunity to sample an expensive wine for cheap – with 20 members attending the wine meeting, I’d only have to pay at most $15 for a 9 bottle tasting (food included). I started finding excuses like how I needed to “research” whether a premium price and generous ratings is really indicative of a wine’s quality.

Just as Chuck and I began the complicated process of trying to fit a $90 bottle wine into our budget and still afford a total of 8-9 bottles, a Sam’s wine expert ambled by to offer his help. In response to our seemingly innocent question “Sir, what do you think of this bottle?” he staggered back and mouth agape, hands thrown in the air, fervently retorted, “Heavens no! That doesn’t make sense at all!” With that, he firmly grasped the bottle from our hands, thrust it back onto the shelf, and shoved another bottle at us. “Take this. It’s also a Bodega [Bodega Estate Red 2004], rated 91 points – if you do care about points – but much, much cheaper. Only $34.” Though he kept shaking his head in consternation, he couldn’t tell us why the former bottle had such a huge price differential. So in the end, because we walked away from the opportunity to purchase the pricier bottle, I still cannot honestly tell you whether the wine was delicious. But the point got drummed home: some experiences, are not worth trying. Forget the Ps: pricing and points. 

Bodega Estate Red 2004
According to the Wine Spectator: <em>“Exotic aromas of fig and hoisin sauce give way to a rich, creamy-textured palate full of dark plum, blackberry, coffee and chocolate ganache. Has solid grip on the finish, with a loamy hint in the background. Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. Drink now through 2008. Score: 91.”</em>

Separately, this weekend will be another test of my organizational abilities. Right after work, I want to try get in a couple climbs with Sandy, then rush home to bring extra wine glasses to Donny’s for DGS Argentina tonight, stopping by Borders along the way to reserve a copy of Harry Potter. DGS should last from 8pm to 12am – at least, I’m leaving at 12am – whereupon I will excitedly make my way back to Borders to pick up my book. Return home to read it cover to cover by 6am, then catch 6.5 hours of sleep before going biking. After biking, hit the bar for some drinks then go home to re-read Harry Potter / fall asleep. Wake up early Sunday morning to drive out to Devils Lake for some climbing. If that plan falls through, sleep in a little more then go out to VE for some gym climbing.

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