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….
2015 Bread & Butter Pinot Noir Napa Valley: Retail $15. When I see a Pinot from Napa, I cringe—Napa Valley is generally too hot to make a decent Pinot. And when I see a Pinot for under $30, I normally recoil a bit as well since it seems that it is difficult to make a solid wine from the variety at that price point as well. I might have to re-evaluate both positions after trying this wine. While it certainly not cause one to mistake it for a Grand Cru Burgundy or a wine from one of the more prestigious vineyards in the Russian River Valley, this wine has some smokey black cherry notes that paired fairly well with the salmon from the grill. Good acidity and a touch of depth on the palate—this is a solid mid-week quaffer, a daily bread and butter kind of wine (sorry, I had to). Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2014 The Federalist Zinfandel Mendocino County: Retail $20. In what seems to be at least a “mini-trend” in the industry currently, this wine spends six months in used bourbon barrels, which is twice as much time as any other wine that uses this technique. It is far more common for spirits producers to buy up used wine barrels, but there are now a few wineries who are scooping up barrels that used to house whiskey. So, what effect does it have? well, at best, that is a bit difficult to say. There certainly appears to be a bourbon-esque aspect to both the nose and the palate, but I am not entirely certain if that is psychosomatic or genuine. What is genuine is that I really dig this wine, and big-ish Zin are far from my norm. I think there is a huge market out there for this wine, particularly those who like hearty beef driven barbecue. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2013 Fields Family Old Vine Zinfandel Family Vineyard Lodi California: Retail $32. I guess at this point I could say that the winemaker at Fields, Ryan Sherman, and I go way back. I met him on my first press trip: a week in Lodi, back in 2014. He was one of the many winemakers I met that week, but I had been a fan of his wines for a bit and the more I tasted, the more I was wooed. This wine is a baby, for sure, but there is great fruit: blackberry, anise, and even some RC Cola. On the palate, great acid, body, and fruit. Bravo Ryan, bravo. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Pedroncelli Merlot Bench Vineyards Dry Creek Valley: Retail $18. 100% Merlot. Pedroncelli is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and clearly they have figured out how to make high quality wines at more than reasonable prices. This is a perfect example: great fruit (plum and dark cherry) and spice (pepper and cinnamon) lead to a lovely quaffing wine that is quite versatile. Pair this with a summer barbecue, roasted chicken, or even a slab of skirt steak. A hint of tannin on the finish, but this is a wine for short-term consumption. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Troon Vermentino Applegate Valley: Retail $20. OK, Right off of the bat I have an issue. I do not have an issue with the winery (I love what Craig Camp is doing up there). Nor do I have an issue with the region—Southern Oregon might be the next “it” region in the U.S. No. My biggest issue is that the winery chose to call this “Vermentino” instead of “Rolle.” Why? Well, quite simply, I am a French wine snob and this wine is labeled as “Vermentino” instead of the French “Rolle” but I have learned to “roll” with it. (Sorry.) Tropical, with significant banana on the nose, the palate is a bit round, with those wonderful tropical flavors and a bit of roundness. Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Troon G*S*M Rogue Valley Oregon: Retail 39% Syrah, 32% Mourvèdre, 16% Grenache, 13% Sangiovese. This is the second or third vintage of this wine, and this might be the best I have tried thus far: rich, luscious dark berry fruit with oodles of black pepper shape the introduction. More of the same once it slides past the lips–fruity and fun, but also with a bit of a dark side as intrigue sets in on the mid-palate and remains through the finish. This is a fun, utterly quaffable wine that would be a perfect match on a holiday dinner table. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.