It is time for another edition of “Random Samples”–I occasionally get samples from marketing agencies and/or producers, and these can often be grouped together into some sort of over-arching theme: Drink Them and It Will Come, Summer is Here, So That Means (More) Rosé, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.
Other times, I get just a bottle or two that do not have any apparent connection or link. Instead of holding on to those bottles until the “right” combination comes along, I decided to link all these “random” bottles together, making their own category (and, being the math geek that I am, “random sample” has a bit of a double entendre to it).
The first three wines come from Lodi, California, a region that is growing in both recognition and prestige–both merited and likely only to continue.
2014 The Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon Lodi: Retail $17.76. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese. Living in Philly, this bottle immediately makes an impression: Ben Franklin is on the label (for those of you not in the know–you can’t be in Philadelphia for even a half an hour without reading, hearing, or seeing good ‘ole Ben’s influence). I never met the statesman, but having lived in his city for the better part of two decades, I imagine he was much like this wine: big and fruity up front and all the way through. Black raspberry and cassis. Not all fruit, however as a bit of earth and depth come in on the finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 The Federalist Zinfandel Lodi: Retail $17.76. 93% Zinfandel, 7% Syrah. Another bottle that gets a lot of love from this (former) Philadelphian with the nation’s first President on the label (Philadelphia was the first capital of the U.S. in case you were asleep that day in History class). I am also a huge fan of Lodi, so this already had a leg up even before pulling the cork. This falls into the “big Zin” category with a lot of rich jammy fruit from beginning to end. There is a bit beyond the fruit, though, particularly with some time. I know people like the jammy style, and this certainly delivers that, but I feel with some patience, this could give more. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 The Federalist Honest Red Blend: Retail $17.76. Merlot, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. I opened this and tasted. Initial reaction? Not a fan. Overly fruity and even a bit syrupy without much depth to report. Abe Lincoln, my favorite president, who adorns the label, honestly let me down. Depressed, I put a cork in it and returned to the travails of moving: unpacked a few boxes, reminisced about certain items, and wondered why the hell I packed others (a broken towel rack? Really?). After taking a break from the never-ending chore at hand, I poured a bit more of the wine. Significantly a different story. While no world beater, this is still a solid effort after some time open. Blackberry and a bit of pepper tickle the nostrils while ample fruit and the slightest depth assuage the palate. Like Abe, this stops short of achieving its full potential (albeit for completely different reasons). In the end? While not worthy of a spot on Mt. Rushmore, it does deserve a spot on the table (mid-week–let’s not get too crazy). Very Good. 86-88 Points.
The next two wines come from a Willamette Valley icon, Elk Cove Vineyards. Adam Campbell, the second generation winemaker for the brand, started this second label to deliver more budget friendly wines.
2015 Pike Road Pinot Gris Willamette Valley: Retail $19. Fruity, but a bit hot on the nose (13.5% ABV). On the palate, this is lovely: tropical fruit (guava, papaya, and pineapple), brilliant tartness, a bit of sweetness, and a lasting finish. I have to say that this wine is a delight. For the price? I would buy a couple of cases of this and enjoy them. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Pike Road Pinot Noir Willamette Valley: Retail $19. Under Screw cap. I would like to see more wines under the screw, really, Not just the inexpensive ones, either. I think the wine industry needs to really examine the whole cork taint issue more aggressively. I know I am not the first to think this, but the time has come. Wonderfully fruity all around, with some heft and some intrigue on the mid-palate. Short of gangbusters, but a fine quaff. I would have no problem plopping this down on my table. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
Finally, two wines from Troon Vineyard, in Southern Oregon. I wrote about Troon and a few of their wines a couple of months ago, and the wines continue to impress.
2014 Troon Vineyard Red Label Zinfandel, Applegate Valley: Retail $20. Zinfandel with traces of Carignane and Primitivo. Beautiful red berry fruit with some plum and rhubarb leads to a luscious wine with spice and depth. While this does not hit you over the head, it may tap you gently on the scalp–tasty and full stopping short of overbearing. Delicious. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Troon Vineyard Malbec Rogue Valley: Retail $29. Dark, but a little bit tart on the nose with some tobacco and spice. On the palate, surprisingly subdued as the acidity reigns. Some fruit but rather singular in its focus. Needs time to round out. Very Good. 87-89 Points.