by Fred McMillin
for November 23, 1998


How To Fool The Tasters


The grape variety of table wines is seldom obvious, even when the wine is made entirely from one varietal and it is tasted by highly- experienced tasters. For example, only 20% of a U.C.-Davis panel identified the Chardonnay wines correctly.

...Prof. Vernon Singleton, U.C.-Davis

The Rest of the Story

Since even the experts have such difficulty identifying wines, I put two bottles of the same wine in a blind tasting of 26 white wines. There were 6 more expensive bottles and 18 less expensive. Prices ranged from $6 to $31. The panel did not know, and still does not know, that two bottles of the same wine were present.

Here's the range of results, showing the top and bottom three of the 26.

Top Three Rating Bottom Three Rating
90.6 69.4
90.3 67.3
88.1 61.9

What spots did the two bottles occupy in the 61.9 to 90.6 spectrum? Fortunately, I have saved all the ballots for anyone to examine, because... the two bottles were the TOP TWO OF THE TASTING, the only two to rate in the 90's.

The Winning Wine

Orville Nagoon
Orville Magoon
1996 Reserve Chardonnay, Genevieve Magoon Vineyard
Guenoc Winery, Guenoc Valley, CA.
Head Honcho—Orville Magoon, whose mother was Genevieve. Some years ago she suggested that they try planting some vines on the 23,000-acre ranch. Orville soon picked up some cuttings in France, and the rest has been all downhill.
Vineyard—There's a small block of glorious grapes that have been used for the Reserve Chardonnay since 1984.
Awards—Latest flash: Florida Fair awards a GOLD.
Contact—Karen Melander-Magoon, Co-winegrower, (707) 987-2385.
Price—$25 range

Further Info:
See last month's Oct. 13 WineDay titled, " Happy Birthday, Lily."


With two degrees in Civil Engineering (Stanford M.S.), Orville specialized in marine matters, garnering many awards for work on coastline preservation, biological effects of dredging, etc. This was followed by his success with the grape. Hence, the clever title for Jeff Morgan's Wine Spectator article,"From Water To Wine."


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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