As noted here many times, blind tastings help calibrate your taste preferences (if you like it, it’s good, no matter what the experts say or how much it costs). This was reinforced recently in a blind tasting comparing wines from Napa and Paso Robles in four categories: Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Cabernet, and red blends.

The tasting was the 320th monthly wine event held by the Carmel Valley Wine Club, over the past 33 years. Prices ranged from $27 to $85; vintages from 2017 to 2020; alcohol content 14.1% to 15.3%.  Some 25 participants tasted the wines blind, voted for their top 3 choices, and had the results tallied by group founder, Jerry Feitelson. He distributed code-breaker sheets and led a discussion of the results, which is always a treat. As the French note, vive la difference!

The group, with a wide range of tasting experiences and different sensitivities, favored Paso wines for Petite Sirah and the red blends. In my comparisons, Napa wines prevailed in each and three Paso Wines ranked sixth, seventh and eighth. My favorites tended to have lower alcohol levels, part of my tasting DNA. Several tasters were fans of the bigger red styles and provided insights into their scoring, with good detailed descriptions. Here are my notes and the rankings (group/TG):

BV 2018 Maestro Cab/Syrah

A – Paso Robles 2020 J. Lohr Petite Sirah Tower Road ($27). Dark garnet, viscous (14.9 alc.); ripe grape, prunes, peppery, berry nose; mid acids; medium-full tannins; fat, grapey BBQ wine; hot finish. 16 UC Davis scale, 90 other scales. Group Seventh, TG Eighth.

B – Napa 2018 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah ($37). Dark garnet, viscous (14.4 alc.); ripe grape, cedar, sweet red fruit, berry nose; mid acids; medium-plus tannins; softening; long deep red fruit and wood finish. 16.5/91. Group Eighth, TG Fifth.

C – Napa 2018 Brown Estate Zinfandel ($49). Mid ruby, rim variation, viscous (14.5 alc.); herbaceous, floral, red fruit, wood nose; light-mid acids; medium tannins; nicely evolving; refined, balanced stylish finish. 17/92. Group First, TG Second.

D – Paso Robles 2017 J. Dusi Zinfandel Paper Street Paper Street Vineyard ($68). Mid-dark garnet, not sharp, viscous (15.3 alc.); sweet red fruit, mint, berry and wood nose; mid acids; medium-plus tannins; long, deep red fruit finish. 16.5/91. Group tie 3d-4th, TG Third.

E – Paso Robles 2018 The Farm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon lpf ($75). Mid garnet, viscous (14.5 alc.); herbaceous, red fruit, currant, wood nose; mid acids; mid-plus tannins; balanced; long semi-deep red fruit finish. 16.5/91. Group Tie 3d-4th, TG Sixth.

F – 2018 Heritage School Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga – Napa Valley Hannah’s Indulgence ($85). Dark, inky purple; viscous (14.6 alc.); ripe grape, prune, figs, peppery nose; mid acids; mid-plus tannins; rounding out; long semi-tight balanced finish. 16.5/91. Group Second, TG Fourth.

G – Napa 2018 Beaulieu Vineyard Maestro Collection Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah ($65). 69% Cabernet, 31% Syrah. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.1 alc.); herbaceous, cassis, black currant, mint, oak, light peppery nose; mid acids; mid tannins; long balanced stylish red and black fruit finish. 17/92. Group Sixth, TG First.

H – Paso Robles red blend (66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah, 5% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot) 2018 The Farm Winery The Big Game ($75). Mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.1 alc.); herbaceous, cassis, wood, mint, peppery nose; mid acids; medium-full tannins; deep red and black fruit on the palate; long hot chewy finish. 16-16.5/90-91. Group Fifth, TG Seventh.

The wines were purchased at Wine.Com and BV and The Farm wineries, excepting the 2018 Brown Estate Zinfandel, from Jerry’s cellar. The 2021 is available at

Napa Vs. Paso Robles Reds