I'm sure all of you have heard or read stories about wines that taste like they cost more than they do. Such as a $25 bottle that tastes like a $50 wine. I From my tasting experience, I have found that to be true sometimes. And I have run across overpriced wines. But I have found most wines to be quantitatively in line with their prices.
To test this theory, I put on a blind tasting of three Washington Syrahs, one costing $25, one $55 and one $85 at the last PAWS (Perfectly Aged Wine Sippers, a seniors tasting group) get-together which Lynn and I hosted. Tasters were asked to rank the wines, all from the same vintage, in order of quality. First for the best wine, and so on. Here are the results, in order of ranking.
2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards "The Contender" Syrah, Walla Walla Valley ($85) - Ten out of fourteen participants ranked this the highest. I found it to be a rich, aromatic (truffles, lavender, violets), earthy, complex Syrah with a long finish. My score: 19.5/20 points. So here, you get what you pay for.
2013 L'Ecole No. 41 Syrah, Columbia Valley ($25) - This was a surprise second place (eight out of fourteen), an attractively priced Syrah with considerable balance, depth and varietal character. My score, 19/20 points.
2013 Long Shadows "Sequel" Syrah, Columbia Valley ($55) - If there was a direct correlation between price and quality, this should have been in second place (six did rank it second). I found it varietally correct, complex, but not highly so. 18.5/20 points.
I think the Sequel's placing third could be explained by its underdevelopment. In retesting it, I found it a bit closed in, without a lot of nuances. With a few more years aging, it will develop more complexity. The L'Ecole represents great value, but is nearly ready now and may not develop much more complexity.
This was an interesting exercise that, I think, shows that you do get what you pay for in wine to a considerable extent, but not completely so.
At the PAWS get-together, some more bottles were opened after the tasting. Here are the most noteworthy wines.
2012 No Girls Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, La Paciencia Vineyard - Made by Cayuse assistant winemaker, Elizabeth Bouncier, this was classic "Rocks" Syrah, rich, earthy and minerals, with notes of truffles, dried roses and dark fruits. 19+/20 points.
2012 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf du Pape - This Grenache-dominated Rhone was lovely, yet solid and vigorous, with thick, lavish red and blue fruits and a long, complex finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 Coté Nicault Red Wine, Wahluke Slope - Gilles Nicault's Rhone-style Mourvèdre-Syrah-Grenache blend was rich and flavorful, with lots of texture and spicy black and blue fruits and a long finish. 19+/20 points.
2010 E. Guigal Côte Rôtie, Brune et Blonde - A superb rendition of this North Rhone Appellation, from high terraced vineyards, this showed great depth and authority. 19+/20 points.