A Blind Wine Tasting of Four Cabs

blind wine tasting cabernet sauvignon
I recently conducted a blind tasting of four Cabernet Sauvignons. Which one do you think had the highest ratings?

Even before starting Grape Juice Mom, I’ve been fascinated by blind tastings. I like it because (1) it requires a lot of focus to identify why you may or may not like a wine and (2) all those snooty wine drinkers can’t see the label and brag about how “phenomenal” a wine is. Since I wouldn’t be doing this blind tasting with any snooty wine drinkers (because I try not to drink wine with people like that anyway), it would be fun to have a completely unbiased tasting and learn a little more about my preferences. 

My friend Tonya and I have been brainstorming about this tasting for months now and decided that we would narrow the tastings to only Cabernet Sauvignons. By focusing on a single varietal, we could identify specific characteristics that were appealing to us. Oh yea- and we knew from the beginning that one of the wines would be a boxed wine. We thought it would be fun to include that mystery and see what we thought without the bias of knowing which was the boxed wine. 

4 glasses
We chose to use four glasses per person in order to allow for comparison after the initial tasting. I’m glad we did because after tasting four strong Cabs, there were times that our palates were exhausted!

I’ll list the results below but first, I want to tell you our process so that if you want to replicate something like this in your home, you’ll know what you need!

Our supplies included:

(1) Three bottles of wine and one box. Our method was to have a box of wine, a $10 bottle, a $15 bottle and a $30 bottle.

(2) Four carafes. My husband pre-poured the wines into the carafes and had a “cheat sheet” to the side for when we were ready to unveil the wines. You might be concerned that he was biased in his tasting…don’t worry, he was drinking before the blind tasting so before it was time to taste, he’d already forgotten which wines were which.

(3) Wine glasses. If you have enough glasses to have four per person, that is ideal. It’s nice to have each pour in a different glass for comparison purposes.

(4) Water glasses. We noticed that our palates felt a little confused in between wines without a sip of water.

(5) Notes sheets. I created a few tasting sheets at the last minute that included five categories per wine: look, smell, taste, think, overall rating (1 to 5). 

(6) Some sort of markers for the wines. I use these wine glass markers which wash off very easily and are elegant for writing on glasses. (affiliated link)

(7) Snacks. Optional but highly recommended.


4 carafes
Allowing younger red wines to breathe, especially higher tannic wines such as Cabs, can help with some of the extreme fruitiness or acidity that you may experience right out of the bottle.

We allowed the wines to breathe in the carafes for about 30 minutes before tasting in hopes of allowing the cheaper/younger wines to catch up a little to the higher end wines. We then poured a taste in each person’s four glasses and got on with the show!


jen #1
I like to use wine glass pens to mark names on wine glasses. They wash off easily and look classy! Plus, you don’t have to have a ton of little jewels or wine glass rings around for everyone to forget which was theirs!

Okay so here’s the results: 

Our four wines were:

  • Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon ($24 but averaging $6 per bottle)
  • Robert Mondavi Bourbon Barrel-Aged Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)
  • Chateau St. Michelle Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
  • Justin, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($30)

Overall, everyone liked the Justin. I can’t blame them – that’s a good wine!

In second place was the BOXED WINE! What?! The unanimous opinion was that the smell was artificial and almost smelled like plastic – maybe from the bag? I’m still shocked that it came in second.

In close third was both the Mondavi and Chateau St. Michelle. Upon further thought, I wouldn’t include such unique cabs such as a bourbon barrel-aged or a Washington-produced. These didn’t really contribute to understanding our wine palates. So next time, we’ll stick to more classical representations of the varietal.

Here are the ladies of the tasting! From the left is Lisa, me (Jen), and Tonya (and baby Gia).

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