It can be a lot of fun to taste two wines side by side to compare their flavors and pick your favorite. A great way to do this is when they are from the same wine maker but of different vintages or from different vineyards.
We recently had a chance to taste two bottles of Pinot Noir when we dined with Sally's parents and Jeff's parents at the Beach House Restaurant in Laguna Beach. Both bottles were from Barrel Fence Cellars, a small winery in Dundee Hills, Oregon. One, called 45 North, was from their Oregon vineyard. The other, called 45 South, was from their vineyard in New Zealand. We had acquired them by chance on a November trip to Willamette Valley, Oregon.
A lot of people might open one bottle and then the other, but tasting them at the same time allows you to appreciate their subtle differences and pick a favorite. Our server brought each of us two wine glasses and poured a taste in each one.
The table ended up split over which was the best. When you do a side by side tasting over dinner, people generally pick their favorite and continue drinking that wine with their meal. A split is a fortunate result since the wine can be more evenly divided.
Our challenge with these wines was they both kept getting better and better the longer they were open. We all ended up pouring a little more from each bottle over the course of our dinner. Good thing we had a third bottle (another 45 South) on hand when our glasses got low!
The next time you have two great bottles of wine, try sharing them with friends or family by doing a side by side tasting. Don't be afraid to bring them with you to a favorite restaurant if their corkage policy (and local liquor laws) will allow. It's a great way to have a fun night out and you won't have to pay wine list prices!