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 Mercer Sharp Sisters Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley Washington: Retail $25. 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah, 18% Merlot, 14% Petit Verdot, 10% Grenache, 2% Carignan. A real kitchen sink type of blend with Bordeaux and Rhône varieties living in harmony. Certainly fruit focused (blackberry and plum), but plenty of acidity and secondary flavors: clove, mint, sage. Really well done and meant for short-term consumption. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Mercer Malbec Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley Washington: Retail $25. 78% Malbec, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon. Near inky dark, a deep purple in the glass with dark, brooding fruit on the nose as well with a little vanilla and anise thrown in. Quite fruity up front, this is all New World style—the fruit is mostly cassis and blackberry with more decided evidence of vanilla. A fruity, fruity drinker, that will likely be a hit in many a crowd. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 La Pitchoune Chardonnay Sonoma Coast: Retail $48. This is a wine made by Andrew Berge, also the winemaker at Spell Estate. This is clearly a throwback to old school California Chardonnay with tropical fruits overshadowed by a distinct influence of oak. I have to admit, that I am a fan of those elbows-to-the-wall, hi-octane Chards that were popular around in the 90s and Aughts. While this is not on the “Cougar” level, this is no shrinking violet. Pineapple, lemon, and a touch of vanilla followed by luscious fruit, acidity, and plenty of oak. Plenty of oak. This is not for the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) crowd , but I likey. A lot. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 La Pitchoune Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast: Retail $48. I have to admit that on Day 1, I was not all that enthralled with this wine: it was fruity, perhaps overly fruity, and well, it was fruity. After about 24 hours, though, this wine is singing a decidedly different tune. There is still plenty of fruit (dark berry fruit, mostly), but on Day 2 there is also spice (black pepper and clove, mostly), and earth (think forest floor, mostly). On the palate it has evolved as well, with that rich red fruit, plenty of depth through the mid-palate, and a medium length, spicy finish. I have turned a good 180, mostly, on this wine–be sure to decant in the short-term, but perhaps better to wait a few years. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 La Pitchoune Pinot Noir Holder Vineyard, Russian River Valley: Retail $68. This is a wine made by Andrew Berge, the winemaker at Spell Estate, a relatively new producer in Sonoma County, that already has a solid reputation. Quite dark in the glass, particularly for a Pinot, and dark on the nose: blackberry, back cherry, coffee, and mint–a ton going on. On the palate, plenty of fruit, acidity, and verve. This is a tasty wine that might benefit from some more time in the cellar, but it is oh so tasty now. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Troon Vineyard Blue Label Sangiovese, Varner-Traul Vineyard, Rogue Valley, Oregon: Retail $40. I have said before in this space that Southern Oregon is poised to be the “next big thing” in U.S. wine and Troon is leading the charge. Surprisingly candied nose with sweet cherry and vanilla predominate. On the palate, subtle fruit, and more than ample acidity, this is a delicate, food wine, not a block-buster fruit bomb. And I like it. The wine is nicely balanced with earthy nuances right behind the fruity first impression. This will not make you forget Brunello or even Chianti, but it is a wonderful New World expression. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Troon Vineyard Blue Label Grenache Rogue Valley, Oregon: Retail $25. Pinot-esque in translucence, but a tad darker, the nose is gangbusters: cherry, mint, and even a hint of milk chocolate. On the palate? Look out: fresh red berries, hints of spice, a dash of cinnamon, and oodles of verve. Yup. I give it a “gangbusters” and even a Whoa. Not overpowering by any stretch, but nuanced and sexy. Yeah. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Troon Vineyard Black Label M&T Reserve, Southern Oregon: Retail $60. 60% Tannat, 40% Malbec. Although I have never visited Troon (despite driving within a few miles of the winery a couple of years ago), but I have tasted through their lineup for several vintages now, and the M&T Reserve has always been impressive, and this is no different. One of the darker wines I have tried recently with loads of black and red fruit, vanilla, pepper (black and white) on the nose. On the palate, silky smooth and fabulously rich, the fruit is the big story, but there is also great depth and a bit of tannic grip. This is a New World wine through and through with some time ahead of it, but if you like your wines big and fruit driven, this is a wine for you now. Outstanding. 91-92 Points.