Before I get started, a very Happy Birthday to my younger son Sebastian, who turns eight today!
On Wednesday, I published an article about one of the best online tastings I have had in a while. Well, today I present another online tasting that was pretty darned good. I have to admit that saying that freaks me out a bit. As I mentioned on Wednesday, I have not always been a fan of the genre: online tastings, in my opinion, often denigrate into a bunch of wine writers bloviating about the virtues of the wines and asking the same questions every week.
I think you might be able to answer that question yourself: if you trash the wines that are sent to you for (essentially) free, well, those people might look elsewhere when the next such opportunity comes around, but I probably should not go down that rabbit hole.
So why does it freak me out a bit?
I think I am starting to actually like the online tasting.
So what explains this apparently sudden change?
Well, quite simply, I started doing my homework. I was always loathe to do extra work in high school, but once I got to college (and subsequently grad school) I realized that putting in the effort was not only required, but it made classes much more interesting. Thus now, before a chat starts, I actually research the winery, winemaker, and grower so that I might actually have something more interesting to ask than “What is the percent alcohol of the wine?” or “How much does this sucker cost?” (Usually, answers to both questions can be found on the winery’s website if you really want to know.)
(It also helps that now with a bit of “seasoning” in the wine blogging world, I am asked to join chats with considerably better wines.)
Such was the case a couple of weeks ago with an online tasting featuring a few wines from Murrieta’s Well. The property, which has been owned and operated by the Wente family since the repeal of Prohibition, was originally planted in the 1880’s with cuttings from Château d’Yquem and Château Margaux in Bordeaux.
The Murrieta’s Well brand was established in the early 1990’s and its two most well-known bottlings, the Spur and the Whip, were created in 2010, for the 20th anniversary of the brand.
On a personal note, this was officially my first online tasting in Houston. There were countless such affairs while I lived in Philadelphia, many of which were conducted on my stoop, with neighbors dropping by to “help” me with the bottles (we both knew that they were only there for the free booze, but that was just fine with both of us). Well, Houston in July is not really “stoop weather” as sitting outside in 95° heat with 123% humidity does not make a whole lot of sense. So we loaded up the bottles and proceeded over to a friend’s house (another Philly transplant) for the tasting–it seemed like a suitable transition until the weather here makes more sense to be outside (and they also have a really nice pool).
2014 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Chardonnay Livermore Valley: Retail $44. The team approaches this wine acre by acre lot–each acre is farmed and vinified as its own entity. All Wente clones are used (which makes perfect sense as it is the most planted Chard clone in California and, well, Wente owns the brand). Pale yellow in the glass with citrus and vanilla, and sourdough toast coming through. Nicely balanced between a racy acidity and lemon meringue pie type fruitiness, while the oak here is certainly noticeable, it is far from chewing on wood chips. In fact, this is a wine I would not hesitate to suggest to even the most discerning aficionado. Well done. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Murrieta’s Well The Whip: Retail $24. 29% Semillon, 27% Chardonnay, 18% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Orange Muscat, 8% Muscat Canelli, 6% Viognier. Screw top. Really fantastic aromatics, driven no doubt by the Muscats, with the Viognier playing a supporting role. Quite tropical with papaya and guava at the forefront, with hints of white flower and peach. That fantastic fruitiness continues all the way through to the finish, coupled with a bracing tartiness that whets the appetite, particularly for shellfish or Asian fare (this would slay with my wife’s Korean seafood pancakes!). Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Murrieta’s Well Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon: Retail $58. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot. Licorice, black currant, and oak on the nose. Abundant dark berry fruit with plenty of spice, verve, and balance. This is one of my first forays into Livermore Valley, and hopefully not the last. Just short of a Whoa. My only gripe? This is a B.A.B. (a Big A&$ Bottle) and it does not have to be to merit its worth (the heavy bottles serve no purpose other than to give the appearance of quality and jack up fuel costs for transport–I am an environmentalist at heart after all). My ramblings aside, this is a fantastic wine regardless of the packaging. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Murrieta’s Well The Spur: Retail $30. 40% Petite Sirah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec. The blend changes but will always be Petite Sirah driven since it “screams California.” Dark and inky in the glass, with a shy nose of predominantly cassis yet plenty of heft. On the palate, it is big, but not over-bearing, balanced, but definitely fruit driven. This is not a sipping wine, nor is it a hot afternoon patio wine. But it is a barbecue, ribs, pulled-pork kinda wine. And it’s yummy. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.