Well this board has completed the first year of the Tasting Across America (TAA). It began as an idea back in February 2002 and the first Board Tasting was held in March 2002. For an explanation of how the TAA works, click this link:

Explanation of TAA

It has had its ups and downs. The low point had to be Kybo's handling of the TAA in August (sorry Kybo). He picked 2 wines and could only get 4 different members to participate. However, Stemor rebounded the very next month with the largest member participation for a TAA (27 members). The best wine the members tasted was the most recent choice by GATC (the Leitz Riesling) which scored a 90.1. We have tried wines from 7 different countries and 11 different varietals.

Here are the results:

MARCH
Wine: 2000 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone Villages
Country: France
Participants: 19
Average Score: 86.1
Average Price: $9.50
Host: Vino Me

APRIL
Wine: 2000 d'Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz
Country: Australia
Participants: 10
Average Score: 88.8
Average Price: $16.00
Host: Vino Me

MAY
Wine: 1999 Fopiano Petit Syrah
Country: USA-California
Participants: 25
Average Score: 86.4
Average Price: $16.00
Host: King of Hearts

JUNE
Wine: 2000 David Bruce Pinot Noir Central Coast
Country: USA-California
Participants: 20
Average Score: 85.2
Average Price: $16.50
Host: Pinot Envy

JULY
Wine: 2001 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc
Country: New Zealand
Participants: 12
Average Score: 88.2
Average Price: $9.00
Host: Dave Mci

AUGUST (there were 2 wines this month)
1st Wine: 2000 Antinori Guado al Tasso Vermentino
Country: Italy
Participants: 4
Average Score: 89.25
Average Price: $20.00
Host: Kybo

2nd Wine: 2001 Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc
Country: South Africa
Participants: 1
Average Score: 90
Average Price: $9.50
Host: Kybo

SEPTEMBER
Wine: 2001 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Voigner
Country: USA-California
Participants: 27
Average Score: 87.2
Average Price: $9.75
Host: Stemor

OCTOBER
Wine: 2000 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee
Country: USA-California
Participants: 14
Average Score: 84.6
Average Price: $13.00
Host: JBembry

NOVEMBER
Wine: 2000 Justin Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
Country: USA-California
Participants: 24
Average Score: 87
Average Price: $20.00
Host: Gigond Ass

DECEMBER
Wine: 2000 Chateau Faugeres St. Emilion
Country: France
Participants: 9
Average Score: 90
Average Price: $38.00
Host: Revlis

JANUARY
Wine: 2000 King Estate Pinot Gris Reserve
Country: USA-Oregon
Participants: 8
Average Score: 87.4
Average Price: $17.00
Host: Board-O

FEBRUARY
Wine: 2001 Josef Leitz Riesling Rudesheimer Magdelenenkreuz Kabinett
Country: Germany
Participants: 12
Average Score: 90.1
Average Price: $12.25
Host: GATC

I hope everyone who participated found this entertaining and informative. Information on the current and future TAA's can be found here. The results of Year 2 are also at that link. If you haven't participated yet, there is no better time to start then now.

VM

[This message was edited by Vino Me on Apr 29, 2003 at 05:00 PM.]
Original Post
Eric,

Your wish is granted. I've included average prices for all the wines. They may not be completely accurate because not all members included price information when they posted.

VM

[This message was edited by Vino Me on Feb 20, 2003 at 05:44 PM.]
Yes. Thanks VM for your efforts, and those of all the other worthy hosts. I have participated as often as availability has allowed. I looked in earnest for each and every one of these, but alas, I'm in a no shipping state (for now...Freethegrapes.com)

Now for some sobering thoughts (no pun intended). If we assume that these Boards had an average of 2,500 members per month for the past year, and 13 wines were tasted, that means that there was the possibility of 32,500 people/tastes. (In other words, if all 2,500 people participated in each of the 13 wines, there would have been 32,500 notes and opinions.) Instead, by my count, there were 184. This is one-half of one percent of the possible total.
We've been at this for a year, and it is time to evolve. There are just too many active members who love wine to have a TAA wherein only 15 people play along. Either this is an idea that most people are not interested in, in which case it should die, or it should be altered to assure broader participation. I'm hoping for, and voting for the latter.

To all: Please sound off on whether you want this to continue, and if so, should rules be changed to broaden the level of participation. Or do you like things the way they are. Some changes worth considering:

* We have focused on new releases that haven't been reviewed. Great concept, but assures the lowest level of availability. Since most of us carp about WS ratings anyway, why do we care if the wine has been on the shelves for 3 months and rated? Try it anyway.

* We have all complained about wine prices. But the reality is that decent wine rarely comes in $12 bottles. It's great to find ones that do. But how many people have skipped the TAA becasue they knew going in that the wine chosen just wasn't for them? Take a look at the "What are you buying" and "What are you drinking" threads. Most of the members here are buying and drinking $20+ bottles with regularity. Will it really offend anyone if we use the TAA to look for a $27 gem?

FWIW, I'd like to throw in a couple of new twists to try to get participation up over 50 people per month. If anyone has any ideas on how to do this, please chime in.

[This message was edited by JimmyV on Feb 20, 2003 at 01:55 PM.]
JimmyV,
These points always seem to come up every month. To be honest, if you can not find a good drinking under $20 wine, you are not doing your homework. Seriously, there are a lot of good QPR wines out there. No more than 9 people participated in the December TAA, despite the fact the bottle price was over $35 for most of us and it was a highly regarded 2000 Bordeaux. The TAA doesn't have to be a knockout $50-100 wine.

The biggest problem with participation is the lack of availability. Georgia folks can't get the same wine as Chicago folks who can't get the same wine as California folks. The Pine Ridge CB-V had the highest participation level because, IMO, of the availability.

I would agree that the rule regarding a reviewed wine needs to be lifted or lenient. The fact that we limit to non-reviewed wines for the TAA has a direct correlation to availability. I think allowing a Parker reviewed wines is appropriate, where as maybe a WS reviewed wine is banned?

Your approach to the 2500 member thing is ridiculous. A better statistical breakdown would be to look at the participating members of the board. But, that number is difficult to know. Who knows how many people participate, but don't feel comfortable posting?
You missed my point. Of course one can find good wine for less than $20. But finding a SPECIFIC wine selected for the TAA is what's at issue. When the host has to choose an unreviewed bottle that sells for less than $20, the field gets narrowed to the point of useless. Now, if the TAA were done by category instead of specific wine, things might be different. So if everyone were to try an Aussie Chard that they bought for less than $20, then we might get alot of participation, albeit, reviewing numerous wines.

With respect to your point that my rant comes up every month, well, that sort of is my point. If these ideas come up so often, why don't we do something about it?

And lastly, with regard to my numbers being "ridiculous", they are what they are. I'll admit that I was guess-timating at the 2,500 member number, but if I actually think that is low. And what is an "active" member. To me, it is someone who has registered and scans the posts somewhat regularly. There are now over 4,500 registered members. To think that 2,500 of them are "active" is not a stretch. But even if you drop the number to 1,000 my point is still solid.

I would ask that you think about my earlier statement:
"Either this is an idea that most people are not interested in, in which case it should die, or it should be altered to assure broader participation."

The average participation is 14.1 people per wine. Do you think there is general apathy toward the whole idea, or should something be changed? Answer this question first, and then jump down my throat.
Jimmy......I started a thread some days ago suggesting that greater participation in what is one of the most pleasant exercises in these forums might be better if we raised the potential limit of the wine prices (after all, wine prices rise too), and remove the restriction that the wine should not have been reviewed. The reviews that may appear prior to the selection of a TAA wine should make no difference to us anyway.

Dick
Dick: Sorry if I missed your post. Glad to know that others agree. I don't pretend that changing the TAA is my idea, or even a new one. I just thought that VM's one year anniverary thread might be a good place to re-visit it.

So count Dick and Jimmy as 2 votes for getting the average participation up over 14.
Do you think there is general apathy toward the whole idea, or should something be changed?

Since you asked, I'll answer this first. I'll also add that I'm not trying to pick a fight, I'm just bringing up some points I feel are valid. Which you are also doing.

Yes, I think there is general apathy toward the idea. For a few reasons:
1) Availability - enough said.
2) Variatel - Some people just don't care for or aren't familiar with certain types of wine. I wonder if this played a role with the King Estate?
3) California - The most participation has been for wines of a CA origin. Consistently, they receive the most participation. I wonder if there is a general lack of excitement for Old World Wines?

"Either this is an idea that most people are not interested in, in which case it should die, or it should be altered to assure broader participation."

IMO, any participation is better than no participation. Less than 50% of voters actually vote in public elections, that doesn't make the elections worthless. If people don't want to participate, then they don't have to participate.

So if everyone were to try an Aussie Chard ... then we might get alot of participation, albeit, reviewing numerous wines.

True, that would be an interesting idea and maybe we could all try that in April. Set it up JimmyV.

Finally, you're just making up numbers. As I look at the boards now, there are 123 people on here (58 registered, 65 not). That's probably 1/3 of the overall "active" participants on the board. I have 4 years of experience managing, analyzing, and monitoring internet message boards. Message Boards provide a lot of traffic to a site, but the traffic is from a small segment of people.

Nevertheless, whatever the number, it would be great for more people to participate in the monthly TAA. I think 25 is a solid number.
Thanks for your honest and well-reasoned response. And like you, I am not trying to pick a fight here. I agree with you that variertal selection plays a role here. But I think that most visitors to this site are adventurous enough to try something new, if they can find it, and if it doesn't break the bank. The Foppiano was my first-ever P. Syrah.
I guess I just disagree on 2 points. First, I am not "making up" the numbers. The number of registered members is a known value. It exceeds 4,500. I didn't make that up. You assert that 58 is 1/3 of the "active participants" (Remember, you can't post if you are an unregistered lurker). So you believe that there are no more than 174 "posters". I simply don't believe it.

And I disagree with the conclusion that 25 out of 174 (or as I believe, many times that number)is a solid number. But this is opinion, and not empirical, so we'll leave it at that. While I don't have the time to cross-check, I'd love to know how many unique posters have commented on the '99 Isosceles. This is a much more expensive, and much less available wine than the TAAs noted above. Or better yet, how many people have expressed opinions on the '97 Tapestry, or the WS Top 100, or the WOTY award, or Dress Codes. [EDIT: I just checked. 81 unique users posted on the Dress Codes thread. This was when membership hovered around 2,000 people] I'd take half that level of participation for a wine tasting of global proportions.

Maybe I'm just a dreamer.
JimmyV- The dollar limit has already been changed in response to Dick's post last month. If you click on the "TAA Explanation" link in my original post you will find that the limit is now $30. However, I personally think a higher price will lead to less participation. Notwithstanding this fact, I would like to see 1 or maybe 2 TAA's in the $30 range per year even if fewer participate because it (1) appeals to those members who do not participate because lower priced wines do not interest them and (2) higher priced wines should be of better quality and therefore it is more exciting. However, extra care should be taken to assure that these higher priced wines are truly worth a TAA selection.

I would also point out that the preference that TAA wines not be reviewed has also been relaxed. Although unreviewed wines are better, in my opinion, a Host may pick a TAA wine that has been reviewed. It is up to them.

Lastly, I will say that in my opinion a good turnout is 20+ members. If a host wanted to really increase participation he/she should do the following:

1) Pick a wine with VERY high production but then quality will suffer.
2) Keep the TAA thread at the top of the page as a reminder.

VM
We have many new members on the board who ask questions each month and yet do not participate. Naturally, there is a reluctance among new members and "lurkers" to commit themselves in writing about what they taste out of insecurity. I suspect that many of them do buy and drink the TAA wine. They need to be encouraged to chime in and keeping the TAA post visible will help. I remember the trepidation with which I posted my first tasting note, afraid that someone would rip me apart especially since my tastes were just beginning to awaken. I was surprised and encouraged that everyone simply posted their notes and ratings without being critical of each other's opinions. I have been shut out of this month's TAA by a retailer who did not produce the bottle he promised. That can be a problem, but there are many TAA "lurkers" out there who find the TAA a great idea and need to be encouraged to participate.

As time goes on, my hat tips deeper to VM for a brilliant idea.

Dick
Let me start by saying I have only been on these boards a short time and have never participated in a TAA, so I think I am your target audience and this is just my two cents.

I think we need to look at this as we would a business owner trying to increase the sales of his or her product. The key is generating interest and excitement around the product in order to create the demand. If I look at VM's summary it looks like the average scores from the forumites is around 86-87. That is OK, but it's not anything that really gets me excited to participate. The two exceptions that had any real participation were the 2000 Chateau Faugeres St. Emilion @ 90pts for $38 and the 2001 Josef Leitz Riesling Rudesheimer Magdelenenkreuz Kabinett @ 90pts for $12.25. As far as the Chateau Faugeres, is concerned, it is apparently a nice wine, but at $38 I wouldn't call this a great QPR. The Josef Leitz, on the other hand, seems like a great QPR and makes me wish I had participated.

My point is that in a year of the TAA, the only time I really feel like I missed something was the Josef Leitz in February. If we are looking for mass appeal and want to generate participation, we need to establish a reputation for tasting high quality wines at good prices. Everyone is looking for the next great QPR and that should be our focus.

Beyond that, the host needs to "sell" and "market" the wine to generate enthusiasm. If a host doesn't have a wine that fits the bill he should pass to a host that does. If the host thinks he has a wine the forumites will love, let us know. Promise us we won't be disappointed and that participation will be worth our while!

Granted, everyone's palate is different and what I'm suggesting places a lot of responsibility on the host but I think it is necessary if you want to develop a following.

We can argue about rules, but in the end I don't really matter think they matter (although availability is clearly an issue). In my mind, the formula is simple... good/great wines with a good/great QPRs (and don't be afraid to call your shot!)… no more, no less. If we do that, I guarantee participation will increase.

Easier said than done, I know.
VM:
Your points are well taken. I guess the reality is that 20+ may be the critical mass. Raise the price, and for every person you add, you might subtract one. Keep the price low, and you chase people away who are "afraid" of an 86 pt wine (although for the life of me, I'll never understand this. IMO, it's worth the price of admission just to participate in the experiment).
My only quarrel with your position is that if the host selects a huge production wine, quality will suffer. As Brian points out, most TAAs have scored about 86-87 pts. A host could pick an entry level Beringer, a Meridian, a base level Ch St. Jean or a Simi and get the same scores. Virtually everyone would be able to find and afford these. But I admit, interest would be limited.

Brian: The TAA can never promise to be a 90+ wine that sells for $18. The whole point (I think) is to try out a wine that has a better than average track record, is affordable, and is available. If it proves to be better than expected, then it's a winner. The TAA also serves as an educational experience to allow a broad base of forumites to opine on and rate the same wine. I also like the metaphysical notion that as my wife and I sip the wine, we know that 50 others are doing the same thing at the same time. But if your expectations are solely that the host has scoured the earth to find a hidden 90 point gem that no one has rated, and no one else knows about, it just ain't gonna happen.
While it is true that it is difficult, check that, impossible to guarantee a 90+ point wine, my point is that selling the TAA with some conviction is absolutely key. In the month I have hung out on this forum I have found a number of great wines that I would have never heard of, let alone thought about trying, had it not been for the conviction of the poster. I believe the hysteria created by JMT's Post "Cooper Garrod George's Vineyard Cabernet 1997: FANTASTIC!" is the perfect example. He made a believer out of me and I bent over backwards to secure my 7 bottles. Apparently, I wasn't the only one because well over 50 of us jumped on the bandwagon paying between $26 and $35 a bottle (plus shipping), and that's just the one's who posted! Over 20 people posted their tasting notes and it wasn't even a TAA!

Another example is the Solanera. Gene wrote "If You Read Only One TN in 2003--MAKE IT THIS ONE!! 2001 Castano Solanera Vinas Viejas". The forumites piled on and I was in line to buy both the Hecula and the Solanera. Granted, Parker had review this one, but who cares???

I could give more examples in the last month, but I think I have made my point. There are a number of great wines out there. You can't guarantee 90+ points, but I think if given the challenge, a number of forumites would step up to the plate. Maybe I'm wrong and maybe I'm a dreamer. After all I've only been here for a month. But I think you might be underestimating the people who dwell here.

We just need to challenge these hosts to step up to the plate!

One question that would be interesting to know is what is the average score of the host? Is it over 90? If not, then we already have a problem. If the host doesn't love the wine, why should we?

Not trying to argue, only trying to offer the opinion of a nonparticipant. Hopefully we can raise the bar and have the TAA live up to its potential.
Jimmy....I couldn't agree with you more. I don't think the purpose should be to discover a great wine for a great price, but rather a good wine that we can all drink together vicariously and chime in together with our notes. Perhaps as the critical mass of people grows the bar can be gradually raised a bit. Perhaps a designated month, say, December, could be dedicated to a more premium wine. Not only do I see nothing wrong with using wines that eventually score out in the mid to upper 80's, I believe it is the only way to ensure participation on a price basis. Gracious, tell me we all drink 90+ point wines all the time! The discovery of a 90+ wine within our price range that everyone has not already had is a daunting task, considering the many reviews available to us.

Dick
I really like your idea. If we collectively plan out TAAs well in advance, people will have lots of time to find the wine, and will know NOT to post notes in advance, as VM has suggested in his other post. We can still have a monthly host who makes the final decision, but if the host has (pardon the pun) a host of wines to choose from, and some ready feedback on availability, we could blow the lid off this thing.
These are good ideas....but just a note of caution. Let's not throw the baby out with the bath water. Some initial changes such as raising the monetary bar a bit and removing the "no previous review" restriction need to be evaluated. I think that these changes, good publicity, and good wine selection will be helpful tweaks. I do like the idea of selecting a bottle months in advance, but on an occasional basis.

Dick

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