The last wines we compared were Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley, which complemented a marinated ribeye. The steak was sprinkled with a caravan of spices, so it needed big wines to cut through with flavors remaining intact, which both readily accomplished. My wine authority companion found the first to be “finer,” subtler, with notes of “blackcurrant, plum and tobacco.”

I knew what he meant, but was won over by the other’s fuller bouquet and complexity, plumy with fruit, tannic yet with a light accent — vanilla? I had no idea for which I should pay more, but judged that second one to be the more expensive.

And yes, a bottle of this 2004 Rombauer would go for $100 on the Fleming’s 100-choice wine list, compared to $60 for the 2005 Hess. Yet both were marvelous.

The lesson learned? Common sense confirmed, actually. Trust your own taste, since that’s what has to be satisfied. And pay close attention within each sip; be ready to notice flavors as they step out from behind one another — even if none of them audibly shout pomegranate, toffee, or tobacco.  

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