Purple Star Wines

There are many things that I like about living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

  • Compared to many other cities on the East Coast (New York, Boston, Washington D.C.) Philly is quite affordable.
  • Philadelphia is a great community for cyclists. Even though I do not race nearly as much as I did before having kids, there are group rides to be found every day of the week that leave essentially from my neighborhood. In the summer, these rides can easily swell to 50 riders or more.
  • There is a great restaurant culture that we try to take advantage of regularly.
  • The history of this country is perhaps centered on Philadelphia. While it can be a pain in the neck dealing with tourists, I think it is kind of cool to live in a place that people want to visit (I grew up in a suburb of Detroit–not exactly a “hot” tourist destination).
  • Despite all its problems, we feel relatively safe in the city and, at least for now, it seems like a great place to raise our two boys.

It is not all balloons and birthday cake, however. There are some rather big negatives, too:

  • Our older son got into the best public school in the state, but outside that school, the public schools in Philly are a train wreck.
  • Being a wine lover in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is on the verge of unbearable.

I have written about that last point quite a bit, so I will not revisit any of my past diatribes. So why do I bring it up? Amy Johnson, one of the proprietors at Purple Star Wines in Richland, Washington (between Yakima and Walla Walla in the Eastern part of the state), read on my blog one day that I was heading out to California and wondered if she could send me some wine to sample while I was visiting the in-laws. I readily agreed–I had exchanged emails with Amy before once I found out that 15% of the proceeds of Purple Star to Seattle Children’s Hospital (as many of you know, my wife works at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).

While I was grateful for Amy’s gesture, I was equally struck by the asinine wine laws in Pennsylvania that even prohibit the shipping of wine for review purposes. As a result, I have considered moving across the bridge to New Jersey (OK, I have never really considered that, but the wine situation in PA is that bad).

Enough ranting–it’s not even Friday. On to the wines…..

54681_3-4_12SauvignonBlanc2012 Purple Star Sauvignon Blanc: Retail $11. Not your “typical” Sauvignon Blanc–there is quite a bit of citrus on the nose along with some peach. A rather rich mouthfeel–just short of a lemon custard pie (likely due to the extended period [3 months] sur lie). All in all, it is a pleasant quaff, one I would not mind to drink again. $11? This is a no-brainer. Very Good. 86-88 Points.

PurpleStarSyrah2011 Purple Star Syrah: Retail $18. Upon pouring, a bit dark and opaque, and rather tight–not much on the nose even after an hour in the glass. Some nice fruit comes through on the palate, thins out a bit, and then finishes well. Given some more time, this only gets better, and although few would confuse this as a $40 wine, there is some great value here. Throw in a bit of flesh from the barbecue and you will have no problem with the $18 price tag. Very Good, on the verge of Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

PurpleStarCab2012 Purple Star Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $18. Loads of blackberry and cassis on the nose–and that fruit is certainly up front and center on the palate (without being huge), it thins out just a bit after the initial burst of flavor, and the acidity kicks in. On the finish there are some mellow tannins, indicating there might be a bit of benefit to some short-term aging, but honestly, it is drinking so great now…. I just really like this wine. Very Good. In a year or two? Maybe Outstanding. 88-90 Points.

[Note: While I loved the wines (great value here folks) I am not a fan of the labels. I guess I am a bit of an old school guy.]

Along with the three Purple Star Wines, Amy Johnson (half of the Purple Star team, along with her husband Karl) sent me a couple of bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon from their premium line, Native Sun. The coolest thing? It was a mini-vertical–the same wine from different vintages (I realize that perhaps only wine geeks like me that think that this type of thing is cool).Native Sun

20140528-091326.jpg2010 Native Sun Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain: Retail $50. In the glass, this is dark but still translucent. There was plenty of cassis and raspberry with a bit of heat on the nose and some really nice fruit on the palate. Even big fruit, but balanced with acidity and tannin on the back-end. This is a ten-year wine easy. Outstanding. 91-93 Points. 

2009 Native Sun Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain: Retail $50. Initially this seemed fruity. Even really fruity. Maybe even overly fruity. When compared to the 2010, it was no contest, the younger wine crushed this one. As the night wore on, though, this developed some secondary aromas of earth and soil and the fruit calmed down considerably. After that first glass, this ventured all the way to fantastic. This was one of the most dramatic transformations of a wine I have ever experienced. If you have a bottle of this, do yourself a favor and decant it for a good hour beforehand. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.

One more positive about living in Philly: Purple Star Wines are now available at two local restaurants: Tria (a fun wine bar that we have enjoyed, that has two locations (18th and Sansom as well as 12th and Spruce) and Bliss (we have not made it there yet, but soon will to have some Purple Star! –220 South Broad Street).

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Washington, Wine and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Purple Star Wines

  1. The wine/liquor laws in PA are the one thing I hate about Philly! I’m sure if Philly was making their own laws, they would be completely different, but alas, that is not the case. I am still completely baffled when I walk by liquor stores that are closed at 7, as well as a slew of other things that I’ve come across here.

    Also, glad you mentioned Tria! It’s been on my list of places to try forever, so now it might be bumped up the list a little bit.


  2. Thanks for the intro, Jeff. WA state definitely has some nice wines. Appreciate your sharing news of your Purple Star finds.


  3. Jeff,
    First I have to tell you that your hometown is a hotspot these days for food and drinks, maybe they were just waiting for you to leave (just kidding) with new restaurants still coming into the town and the downtown area is expanding it seems. As for the Purple Star wines, I agree with you about the labels, and if I saw them I might have not even given them a second glance, but I shall look for them.


    • I have read several of your posts about your trips to Plymouth and it is good to hear! Although, my family was far from being foodies, so had I stayed, I doubt I would appreciate it! Hideous labels. Hideous.


  4. Theresa says:

    Completely agree about the wine label graphics. In fact, on first glance, I wondered if the winemaker was a Dallas Cowboys fan!


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