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….
2014 Adler Fels The Eagle Rock Pinot Noir: Retail $28. 76% Santa Barbara County, 24% Sonoma County. A blend from two of the meccas for California Pinot Noir, this is the latest of the variety that I have tried that comes in south of the magical $30 price point. Having just completed my cellar, entering it into Cellar Tracker (if you have signed up to Cellar Tracker, click on the link and you can see what is in there), I realized that 25% of my wines are Pinot, and 75% of those are American. So while I am no Prince of Pinot (Hi Rusty!), I do like to think that I have at least a tenuous handle on West Coast iterations of the variety. This wine? Black cherry, cranberry, and a black olive/earthiness that provides a bit of spunk. On the lighter side of Pinot (which is fine by me), there is a lovely tartness and just the slightest grip at the back-end. I started thinking that this was a bit too delicate for me, but I am coming around—in fact, it might be one of the best sub-$30 Pinots I have tried in a while. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Adler Fels The Eagle Rock Chardonnay: Retail $20. Like the Pinot, this is a blend of wines from two of California’s top Chardonnay regions (50% Russian River Valley, 50% Monterey), and while I have spent far more time in the former, if you have never been to Monterey, it really should be on your bucket list. I was there several years ago with my girlfriend (she is now my wife, so just pump the brakes a bit) and we were amazed: the geography is stunning and the towns are charming. The wine? While certainly full-bodied and rich, it is far from over-bearing: tropical notes with subtle oak accents, this tastes like a Chard closer to twice its price. My advice? Buy a few bottles and open early in the week for a bit of weekend hedonism, which will get you over the hump. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2013 m2 Petite Sirah Viñedos Aurora Vineyard: Retail $24. Dark as one would expect with some funky sulphuric aspect on the nose. On the palate, however, nice fruit and roundness, with a hidden acidity keeping all in check. Slightly, tannic on the finish suggesting some aging potential, but this is good to go right now. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Muret-Gaston Red Blend Red Mountain Washington: Retail $28. 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Syrah, 28% Petit Verdot, 9% Grenache, 2% Counoise. The Muret-Gaston label is a new venture from the makers of Purple Star Wines, one of my favorites from the state of Washington. Dark and fruity with red berries, mocha, and forest floor. On the palate, fruit comes in fast and hard, but then quickly subsides, revealing considerable depth and just a hint of tannin. The makers of Purple Star have done it again, an immensely quaffable wine, that also has an introspective aspect, without costing a fortune. Well done. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2012 Muret-Gaston Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain, Yakima Valley: Retail $42. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot. Dark and inky in the glass with dark berry fruit and plenty of earth. Initially rich on the palate, but very well-balanced throughout. Luscious red fruit initially gives way to some depth and grip on the mid-palate. The fruit is there on the finish, too, but it is here that the tannins really take over, suggesting considerable aging potential (5-10 years). Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2012 Muret-Gaston Syrah Red Mountain, Yakima Valley: Retail $42. 96% Syrah, 2% Counoise, 2% Grenache. I am a huge fan of the winery (Purple Star) and their ability to deliver high-quality wines at really reasonable prices (I have told them that they actually do not charge enough, but luckily for the consumer, they have not listened yet). This is another example of their habitual under-valuing. Sure, this is more expensive than their other brand, but Wow, this delivers. Rich dark berry fruit with pine needles and spice—classic Syrah. This instantly engulfs the palate with luscious fruit and just a touch of tannin. there is a hint of mocha at the back-end, but dare not pair this with chocolate, for if you do, I will hunt you down. This wine either needs a bit of animal flesh or a romantic fire. Seriously. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.