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A Mystery Wine that Stumped Us All

Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Santo Spirito 2007
MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: December 2, 2010

“Mystery wine” is a favorite game among the tasting and editorial staff at Wine Spectator. A decanter of wine appears, and we all sit around and try to guess out loud what we’re drinking. It’s a humbling, fascinating and fun exercise.

Recently, a group of us were out for dinner at Oenotri, an exciting new Italian restaurant on the west end of downtown Napa. Instead of one of us picking the mystery wine, we let sommelier Sur Lucero pick a wine from his list.

He picked a red that he said would go particularly well with the house-made salumi platter we were enjoying, and it ended up being a terrific match with the salty, dried meats. It was also delicious on its own—light-bodied and aromatic; the dried lavender and rose petal notes reminded me of a Pinot Noir at first. But there were plenty of juicy red fruit flavors and a peppery note, too, which made my colleagues and me think it might be a Grenache-based wine.

When we were out of guesses, Sur showed us the bottle, and we were still stumped even after looking at the label. It was the Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Santo Spirito 2007 from Sicily (about $70 on the wine list), a blend of two indigenous grapes, Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Even without having a reference point for the wine, I enjoyed its elegance and grace, and found the aromatics and mix of flavors balanced and with plenty of length. I rated the wine 91 points, non-blind. members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Santo Spirito 2007 (89, $40).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated reds from Sicily.

Member comments   6 comment(s)

Brad Kanipe — GA —  December 4, 2010 11:12am ET

Who wrote the original blind TN? JC??

Greg Flanagan — Bethel CT —  December 4, 2010 12:19pm ET


I am jealous of your freedom to taste blind at a restaurant! I would not have the nerve. Just wondering how do you go about the blind tastings as mentioned in this blog? How many at the table drinking the wine? I assume you set a price limit for the sommelier? Do you pay for the bottle or is it a freebie b/c they know you are the staff of WS? What do you do if you dont like it? (not that its a corked/shot wine---you just dont like the fit with the food) What did/do you start with? What did/do you transition to? I am jealous. Sounds like you guys have a great time.....

Brennan Anderson — Napa, CA —  December 6, 2010 4:09pm ET

Congrats to Sur for the outstanding wine list and the entire back of the house staff at Oenotri for the consistently great food. Oenotri has quickly become one of my favorite spots in Napa.

Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA —  December 8, 2010 2:07pm ET

Brad--JC stands for Jo Cooke, a former colleague of ours that used to review some of the wines of Italy.

Maryann Worobiec — Napa, CA —  December 8, 2010 2:20pm ET

Greg--Whenever I have a sommelier pick out a wine for me--mystery wine or not--I always give them a price range. If I'm not comfortable saying the number out loud, I'll just point to something similar on the wine list and say to stick to that range.

We always pay for our own bottles of wine. I've had very good luck with professionals picking out wine for me--after all, they know their menu better than I do. There have been a couple times that I thought a bottle might be off or flawed, and outside of a few rare cases, this is usually handled gracefully.

To answer your other questions, that night there were six of us. We started with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and finished with a Napa Zinfandel.

You're right that we had a good time. I'm very lucky that my coworkers are also wonderful dinner companions, who share a love of food and wine.

Greg Flanagan — Bethel CT —  December 13, 2010 12:03pm ET


Thanks for your response.......hum....a Zin to close? guys are good!

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