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).
2014 Concannon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles: Retail $20. With some time open, this really developed a candied red fruit nose and a nice juicy palate. When I first popped this, as I seem to be saying frequently these days, the wine did not show much, but with time? Yeah. It works. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not a rock-your-world-ready-to-move-into-the-vineyard kind of wine, but it is a ton of fun and a wonderful quaff. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay RRV: Retail $35. I have made no secret of the fact that I been fond of Gary Farrell wines for some time now. Why? Good question. For me, I feel like there are few California wines that embrace the Old World mentality of restraint while celebrating California fruit better than current Farrell winemaker Theresa Heredia. Sure, there is lemon and lime rind with a dash of green apple, but the fruit does not come close to dominance. Balance is the key and it is here in spades. I would argue that this wine could use at least another year (or more) in the cellar, but there is no arguing that it is Outstanding now. 90-92 Points.
2014 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir RRV: Retail $45. I fell in love with Gary Farrell Pinot close to two decades ago and although Gary has long left the winery, my admiration has not waned (although there was a brief stretch there that I was actively questioning the relationship). This Pinot is a great example why: luscious fruit (tart cherry and ripe blackberry dominate), that wonderful eucalyptus that I find in many a Californian Pinot, and just a splash of vanilla. On the palate, the spice rack opens a bit with nutmeg, cinnamon, and even clove. Yes, with all this spice, this is your prototypical Thanksgiving wine, but it is also so much more—I paired this with grilled salmon and sautéed broccoli and it was fabulous. Sure, $45 is a bit steep for a Thursday night, but this wine warrants adulation, no matter the day of the week. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2014 Markham Vineyards Merlot Napa Valley: Retail $25. 83% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Syrah, 1% Petite Sirah, 1% Cabernet Franc. An inky dark hue as it swirls in the glass, with aromas of blackberry and vanilla oozing over the rim. Quite rich on the palate, this is almost a meal on its own. The fruit is thick and unctuous, coming off as sweet, with a bit of depth through the mid-palate and on to the finish. This is a juicy, ripe wine that needs a fireplace just as much as a barbecue. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 Troon Vineyard Black Label Vermentino: Retail $29. I did a bit of a dumb thing: I popped this while watching Game 7 of the World Series. Why was it dumb? Well, I paid a lot more attention to the game than I did the wine. I remember thinking that the wine was not all that interesting, but as the innings passed, the wine started to wrestle more of my focus away from the screen. By the top of the fourth (tied 1-1 at the time) I paused the DVR. The once cool wine was just shy of room temperature at that point, which many would consider too warm. I would argue, however, in true Goldilocks fashion, that it was just right. Wafting from the glass were aromas that not many would associate with a white wine: subtle black cherry, ginger, and a touch of cinnamon. Crazy. Good weight and brilliant acidity lead to a lengthy and tantalizing finish. This wine requires two things: a warmer than usual temperature and undivided attention (yes, even during Game 7). Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay Livermore Valley: Retail $15. Even though Livermore is but a short drive from my brother-in-law’s house, I still haven’t visited the region since my Bay Area bike racing days way back when. Given the history of Wente Vineyards and the role that it has played (particularly the Wente Chardonnay clone), I need to make it there the next time I am in California. Fresh citrus with just a dab of oak, this wine really delivers particularly given its price. Nice initial acidity and a bit of chalkiness on the palate. You know, you could do a lot worse for an under $20 Chardonnay, but why would you? Very Good. 87-89 Points.