Sagrantino tasting panel with industry pros and collectors in Sonoma

Written by Ken Wornick

Backed by 20+ vintages and many dozens of wines produced, Ken is a Sonoma-based wine consultant and founder of Hydeout Sonoma and Dysfunctional Family Winery.

October 15, 2022


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Setting up for a blind tasting of Sagrantino

Wine is to be enjoyed and everyone gets to decide exactly what they like. Wine labels, the setting, the food, the mood, everything influences how we feel about a particular wine.

But a truly blind tasting is the closest we can get to really measuring one wine against another. And even then, the order of favorites can change – if the tasting is done before lunch or at dinner time, on weeknights or weekends, even the mood of the group, or just one small whispered remark, can re-order the evaluation and the results. Still, it is educational to taste wines blind, as we did here with these Sagrantino wines:

In this windowless cave under a spectacular private estate in Sonoma, we set up a blind tasting of Sagrantino wines.

The wines were bagged and numbered for complete anonymity.

Then, to assure strict adherence, all of the wines are poured in careful numbered order into wine glasses in advance, before the tasting panel entered the room

The panel was seated. And the hard work began. We tasted the wines one by one, making scrupulous notes along the way. It takes concentration and focus to really evaluate each wine carefully. The wines were judged on the basis of color, aroma, viscosity and mouthfeel, tannin structure, and finish.

The participants: When we were done tasting and making notes, the data was collected and tallied and force-ranked. Then, we revealed all the wines and had a free-wheeling discussion over the results. The professionals were quick, efficient, and showed great certainty.

From left to right, clockwise:

  1. Liz Thatch, Master of Wine and Distinguished Professor of Wine – click: Liz Thatch
  2. Graham Smith, CEO and wine collector – click: Graham Smith
  3. Anne Mieling, French-born wine expert – click: Anne Mieling
  4. Ingrid Reyes, CEO, M&A Creative Agency – click: Ingrid Reyes on LinkedIn
  5. Jennifer Arie, Director of Customer Success, Comm7 eCommerce platform – click:
  6. Ken Wornick, winemaker, Sonocaia Sagrantino and Dysfunctional Family Winery – click:
  7. Don Sebastiani, Sr., our host  – click:
  8. Steve Bush, former bio-med devices CEO, restauranteur, wine collector – click: Steve Bush
  9. Jon Curry, owner of Landers Curry, former board chair of Sonoma’s Int’l Film Festival – click:
  10. Kelly Nice, CEO/Founder, Nice and Co. Ad Agency – click:
  11. Keith Casale, local Sonoma CFO – click: Keith Casale
  12. Cynthia Wornick, Dir. of Marketing, Sonocaia and DysfunctionalFamily Winery – click: Cynthia Wornick

Note: our host for this event was Don Sebastiani, Sr. (#7 above). A true gentleman, host extraordinaire, smoker of fine cigars, lover of fine wine and food, fluent speaker of at least five languages, a true Sonoma native, and so modest you’d never know any of this about Don unless someone else told you.

A total of eight wines were evaluated – seven pure Sagrantinos from Umbria, Italy, and our 2020 Sonocaia (just-bottled estate reserve Sagrantino from Dysfunctional Family Winery at the Hydeout Ranch here in Sonoma).

Wines revealed – here are the 8 wines revealed after the blind tasting:

I was floored that our inaugural, very young, and not-yet-released 2020 Sonocaia Estate Reserve Sagrantino earned a strong third place, especially against these world-renowned Umbrian all-stars.

First through third place were tightly bunched, the next wine was a very distant fourth.

  1. Arnoldo Caprai 2003 Collepiano Sagrantino di Montefalco (99 pts)
  2. Arnold Caprai, 2016 Montefalco Sagrantino, 25th anniversary edition (97 pts)
  3. Sonocaia, 2020, Sonoma Valley, Sagrantino, Estate Reserve (94 pts)

The full lineup of Sagrantino wines – seven from Umbria and one from Sonoma

After the tasting, the panel retired outdoors to the patio for discussion and a perfectly curated lunch hosted by Don Sebastiani Sr. and prepared and served by renowned Chef David Bush from Oso Restaurant in downtown Sonoma. If you have not yet visited OSO, please do; it is a wonderful, locally-operated delicious family-owned restaurant.

Chef David Bush has a storied track record of amazing stops on the culinary trail, but certainly his restaurant Oso in downtown Sonoma is his crowning jewel, so far! Find it here: OSO Restaurant in Sonoma

The “Sonocaia” estate Sagrantino vineyard during a particularly lovely sunset in early September. Harvest is not expected until mid-October.

But wait, there’s more, another blind wine tasting event: Hydeout Consulting client “Quail Run 2020 Estate Cabernet”, just bottled, competes with older Cabernet wine country legends and comes out a winner!

We are the consulting winemakers for the Quail Run estate Cabernet. Just a couple of weeks ago, we delivered the 2020 vintage to the client. The wine was bottled after 23 months of oak aging. The client organized an inaugural blind tasting and invited a knowledgeable group of friends and neighbors to participate. I admit I was a bit nervous knowing this newly bottled inaugural vintage (and possibly my career) was about to go head-to-head against some of the finest Cabernet’s in my client’s formidable wine cellar!

Quail Run 2020 was tasted against Stone Edge Farm 2014, Repris 2018, and Stag’s Leap 2019…

The contestants in this blind wine tasting event.

At the winery, Quail Run estate Cabernet clients Jan and Patrick (right) tasting their developing 2020 estate Cabernet in August 2022 just prior to bottling.

And fresh off the bottling line, the Quail Run estate Cabernet, Sonoma Valley.

A good friend of the client, Austin Texas expert wine educator Jim Bushee, wrote a blog post about the Quail Run blind tasting. To see the results, read here: Click here to read Jim Bushee’s blog post

The client also wrote a blog post about her version of the tasting: Quail Run estate Cabernet blind tasting blog post

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1 Comment

  1. Laura Stanfield

    Great photos!! Looks like everyone is having so much fun ! Especially Ken! Thanks for the Jack London Park shoutout 🙂


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