When I started writing this blog, I never really though about the whole sample thing until they slowly started showing up. My first thought? “Hey cool! Free wine!” The next immediate thought was: “So what do I do now?”
I know I am going to sound like a schmuck when I say that getting free wine is not all that it is cracked up to be. At least for me. I figure that if people send me wine to review, I need to provide the time and attention to write an honest, clever, thoughtful post (I like to think I usually get at least one of the three in each article).
Well, it is often hard to dedicate that kind of time, given the demands of my two rambunctious boys, my lovely wife, and, um, oh yeah, my job.
A few weeks ago I was sent a few samples from Mira Winery in St. Helena, and the wines sat in my cellar waiting for me to get my act together. I needed to sit down with them and pay them their proper attention. Finally, I decided to take them with me out to California (I wonder if Mira has ever had any of their wines leave the state only to be carried back to the place of their birth) and try them with my father-in-law; he likes wine and I might get an added benefit–it might help him think that my blog was more than just a hobby.
I also had a few days in wine country planned and Mira Winery, being right there on Zinfandel Lane in St. Helena, was firmly in my cross hairs. Mira is a relatively new winery (established in 2009), but in landing the former head red wine maker at Mondavi, Gustavo Gonzalez, certainly put the winery on the right track.
In all, Mira sent me four wines: 2012 Rosé, 2011 Stanly Ranch Pinot Noir, 2009 Hyde Syrah, and the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.
2012 Mira Winery Rosé of Pinot Noir: Retail $27. Pale salmon color with a muted nose with hints of strawberry sneaking through. On the palate the wine is very bright with some subtle peach and even some melon. A bit thin on the mid-palate, but the acidity comes screaming through on the finish. Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2011 Mira Winery Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch: Retail $42. I have had a fair amount of wine from Stanly Ranch, one of the legendary vineyards in Carneros. An inviting nose of eucalyptus and Bing cherry, I would classify this as a classic Stanly Ranch–great fruit up front with depth and balance. Impressive finish. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2009 Mira Winery Syrah Hyde Vineyard: Retail $42. Yet another remarkable vineyard source in Carneros, this Hyde Syrah was brooding and unctuous with dark berry fruit and spice. On the palate it was impressively rich and full, paired with balance and depth. Sure, this is a bit big but it is also oh so good. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2010 Mira Winery Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $52. This 91% Cab (with 5% Cab Franc and 4% Syrah) comes from primarily Rutherford fruit and is aged for 20 months in 60% new oak. The nose was a bit tight initially, but with some time revealed blackberry, pepper, and tobacco.On first sip, I found this a bit thin but it steadily improved. It is rather clear this needs some time: I would love to revisit this in 3-5 years (or more). Very Good to Outstanding now (88-90 Points), but this has the potential to be quite a bit more. I expect with some patience, this would hit 91-93 Points rather easily. [Note: This was vastly better on the second day, which only reinforces my feeling that this needs time—and I would bump this up to a 90-92 Points now, and potentially 92-94 Points in a few years.]