Tonight we hosted a vertical wine tasting with friends and fellow wine appreciators Louise (Brander Vineyards), Janeen (Tre Anelli and Consilience), Jim (Tre Anelli and Consilience) and Jennifer (wine lover by marriage). A vertical tasting is one where different years of the same wine, from the same producer are compared. Our vertical consisted of vintages 2001 – 2005 of Eros, a Bordeaux-style blend made by Sunstone. We also had a bonus wine to compare (thank you Louise), a 2002 Brander Bouchet, which is also a Bordeaux-style blend. The vertical format draws attention to differences between vintages, which can be quite dramatic. These can be attributed to many things – including differences in weather, to a change in the levels of fruit thinning, to barrel toast modifications and everything in between. It is helpful to have the winemaker’s release notes for each vintage during the tasting because they’ll often shed light on the factors which helped shaped a particular vintage. Often winemakers will mention the weather, how the grapes fared during the season, conditions of the harvest, the ripeness of the grapes and much more. It is best to start tasting with the youngest wine and end with the oldest wine, that way your palate is more likely to be able to pick up on the complexities in the older vintages.  It is also important to give the wines plenty of time to breathe. We found that the 2001 Eros tasted best three hours after it was decanted. After all the Sunstone wine was evaluated, there were two Eros vintages that the tasters preferred over the others, 2001 and 2005. The 2001 was appreciated for its balance of fruit, spice and oak whereas the 2005 stood out with its intense dark berry flavors. The 2005 went especially well with the cheesecake and brownies we had for dessert. When we voted on our favorite single wine of the evening, it was unanimous – the Bordeaux blend from Brander, the 2002 Bouchet won.