You can taste his personality’; ‘I can’t even look at them now!’ and ‘You took us to another planet!’ — all reactions by writers, Relais & Châteaux sommeliers and the buyer from London’s flashiest wine shop as the bottles they’d just blind-tasted were uncovered. The ‘Judgement of Our Times’ occurred at The Vineyard, Stockcross, a hotel famed for its North American cellar and mural commemorating the 1976 ‘Judgement of Paris’ when top USA wineries prevailed over their French counterparts.
Over five rounds, similarly priced American wines were compared but one vineyard elicited a particularly strong reaction: Trump Winery, the largest in Virginia. Being ‘small and upfront’, its jelly and chocolate matchstick Viognier was likened to Dolly Parton, while the wine merchant noted ‘it died in the glass’. However, The Vineyard’s sommelier preferred it to honeysuckle Donelan Family ‘Venus’ from the Sonoma Valley.
Officially billed as ‘truly all-American’, Trump’s NV fortified (18%) Bourbon barrel-aged ‘CRU’ Chardonnay may be made to convert Kentuckians to vino. Reeking of gloss, the blonde bombshell drew attention but fewer points than the Benovia La Pommeraie (Russian River). Of Trump’s reds (‘limit two bottles per customer’), though ‘having no sense of place’, the Cabernet wore a now familiar stubble-burning-meets-Hubba-Bubba scent, nonetheless tasting refreshing against Alexander Valley’s Ferrari-Carano, hence here Trump triumphed for me. Only one pair came close to a draw: Trump’s Blanc de Blancs fizz got three points versus the four for leaner Schramsberg, a Napa estate favoured by Nancy Reagan.
Fortunately for The Vineyard, which also owns Peter Michael winery in Sonoma, California, L’Esprit des Pavots took all marks for its swanky pour, over Trump’s confected New World Reserve flagship. Anticipating Trump on hearing his winery lost every round, a hitherto silent writer raised a placard: ‘Fake tasting!’