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East End Wine Pros to Go Palate to Palate, Again

Six industry wine experts will blind-taste a selection of provocative wines at an Aug. 13 competition, dubbed a "smackdown," at Roanoke Vineyards with “Judgement of Paris” author George Taber moderating the contest.

George Taber, the only journalist at the legendary 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting, will moderate an August 13 “blind” tasting at Roanoke Vineyards in Riverhead that will pit six Long Island wine industry professionals in a challenge to determine whose palate is best.

Tasters participating the in the Riverhead event, called the Summer Smackdown, will test their gustatory and olfactory senses before a crowd of wine aficionados, expected to total about 100, to determine the wines they are drinking, their origins and their vintages. 

“Some people are really good at this, others are not,” said Roanoke creative director Scott Sandell, who organized the event, the latest in a series of so-called smackdowns at Roanoke.

In a blind tasting the tasters don't know what wines they are tasting until the end of each group of wines.

The panel will be split into international and American teams. The international team includes Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate Vineyards, Sagaponack, Grapes of Roth, Sag Harbor, and Roanoke;  Miguel Martin, winemaker at Palmer Vineyards, Riverhead; and Pascal Zugmeyer, a certified sommelier from Toulouse, France, now living in Southold.

The Americans include Christopher Tracy, winemaker and partner at Channing Daughters Winery, Bridgehampton; Louisa Hargrave, co-founder of Hargrave Vineyards — the first vineyard on Long Island — and now a writer; and Michael Cinque, owner of Amagansett Wines and Spirits and partner in Brooklyn's Red Hook Winery. 

Cinque, who is participating in a smackdown for a second time, said, "After 30 years in the business you never know enough about wine. I hope to put myslef and my palate on the line to test myself and learn."  He added that events such as this, help promote Long Island wine.

Wine educator Tracy Ellen Kamens of Grand Cru Classes of Mattituck, will be referee and scorekeeper.

The competition will feature esoteric or sold-out vintages from important wine producers chosen by Sandell with assistance from wine blogger Lenn Thompson. 

“We’ve got wines that are going to provoke controversy, which is going to be fun,” Sandell said.

The selections will include “quintessential, high-alcohol fruit bombs from California juxtaposed with elegant, 12 percent wines from places we know and love,” Sandell said. The tasteoff is designed to illustrate contrasts in winemaking philosophy, style, and climate.

Wines at previous smackdowns were rated at 90 points or higher by the Wine Spectator or the Wine Advocate.

“This will be the best [smackdown] yet,” Sandell said.

Taber, a California native now living in Providence, R.I., and the author of three wine books, will “break up any fights,” Sandell said. He’ll also be signing books that will be given to audience members. 

Taber’s books include “Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine,” a book that describes the Paris blind tasting nearly 30 years ago at which French judges blind-tasted a group of top-quality chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon wines from France and California. To the surprise of many, California wines rated No. 1 among both reds and whites and the U.S. wines dominated the competition's top 10 finishers. The story was the basis for the 2008 movie “Bottle Shock.”

Admission to the smackdown, sponsored by Luce & Hawkins Restaurant, is $75 a person and includes food and a book. Reservations can be made by calling Roanoke (631) 727-4161.

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