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Is it Worth The Money?

Friday - 4/8/2011, 5:56pm  ET

Is the taste or pleasure perceived of the wine influenced by price? It is a mystery similar to the chicken and the egg. Does the wine taste better because it costs more or does it cost more because the wine tastes better?

Here's a simple way to try this at home. Ask your friends to bring a bottle of the same varietal of wine - California cabernets for example - at differing price points. Make sure that they're wrapped in a brown paper bag without any identifying features exposed. Number the bags, then taste and rate the wines. In addition, ask everyone to guess the price of the wine. Reveal the wines and compare notes.

I did this yesterday with a group of enthusiastic wine consumers and here are the results…

2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon, Central Coast ($15) The 2008 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon offers up-front aromas of ripe red fruit, followed by similar vibrant and rich berry flavors. Silky but firm tannins lend excellent structure, while maintaining a soft approachability reflective of Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.

2007 Chateau Sourverain Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley, CA ($30) The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley is another very good value. Ripe black currant, herb, and spice box aromas are followed by a medium-bodied, attractive, fruity Cabernet with good texture, depth, and richness, and no hard edges. It should drink nicely for 7-8 years.

2007 Neal Family Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA ($45) This cabernet features dark fruit flavors, very well balanced acids and tannins, and beautifully colored wines. This vintage is packed with intense fruit aromas of cherry, blackberry, cassis and sweet oak. The resulting character makes this a great vintage for enjoying now as well as aging 2006 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages, Sonoma County, CA ($60) Cinq Cépages is the flagship wine of Chateau St. Jean.

Each year, Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren selects fruit from the finest Bordeaux variety vineyards to craft a wine that showcases the best of Sonoma County. The primary grape sources for the 2006 vintage are Alexander Valley, Knights Valley and Sonoma Valley. The Alexander Valley grapes highlight bright berry with back notes of dried herbs, while the Sonoma Valley fruit is from our home vineyard - the St. Jean Estate Vineyard - and brings black and dense mountain fruit to the blend. The Knights Valley fruit adds boysenberry flavors and elegant tannins.