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.
This week, there is a tangential relationship in that each of the bottles here have suggested retail prices somewhere north of $50, which is far more than the $12 average price per bottle in this country. Thus, these wines I would consider “special occasion” wines, while other people I know (who have requested to remain anonymous) call these “Fancy Pants” wines (although they provide no objection to sample these wines with me).
2015 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Retail $60. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. One of the iconic brands of Napa Valley, stemming from the Judgment of Paris back in 1976. This wine is rich and full with dark red berries (blackberry and cassis), mocha, and traces of black and green bell pepper. On the palate, plenty of fruit (the cassis rules the roost), but also black tea, spice, and a lengthy finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Château Montelena Chardonnay Napa Valley: Retail $58. There are certain Wines that I get excited about no matter the vintage: Clos Pepe Pinot Noir, Domaines Ott Rosé, and Dom Pérignon are three that come to mind. This wine is another. The 1973 vintage of this wine won the Judgment of Paris, the now almost mythical blind tasting that pitted the best French Wines against wines from the fledgling American market. It was a shocking result. This wine pays proper homage to its ancestor of 42 years with stone fruit and hyacinth gently oozing over the rim. Bright yellow apple joins in on the palate with touches of orange peel and even some ginger. There is oak, but it is well in its place and well-integrated. A wine that has yet to let me down. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Calistoga, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $40. 100% Zinfandel. While the tariff alone here might not render this worthy of the “Fancy Pants” label, it is likely on the upper end of retail costs for the variety, and coming from a winery that stands with few peers in the history of Napa Valley, I thought I could stretch the still undefined rules. I have driven by Chateau Montelena countless times, but I have never ventured in, but I vow to revise that assertion at the next possible opportunity. Fairly light in color when it comes to Zin, but rich in black fruit on the nose along with pepper and licorice–both also black. The palate starts with a burst of fruit, but then quickly alters course to highlight the dark spice on the mid-palate, which mingles nicely with tobacco, tar, and bacon. Yeah, bacon. The dark “theme” continues on to the finish, with blackberry jam and black pepper coated with delicate, dry tannins. Oh so delicious. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Tongue Dancer Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River Valley: Retail $50. James MacPhail is never one to shy away from making a big wine, which is certainly the case here. Plenty of oak on the nose and palate, but the fruit is the main story for me. Lemon meringue, pineapple, vanilla. Whoa. This is not for the Anything But Chardonnay crowd—but I am proudly not one of them. Rich, full-bodied, but impeccably balanced, this easily challenges the big names in Sonoma Chardonnay (and wins). Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir ‘Pinot de Ville’, Putnam Vineyard Sonoma Coast: Retail $65. I would have to review my notes to see how many Tongue Dancer wines I have tried, but I know for certain it has been quite a few. I was a little late in hopping on the James MacPhail train, but when I did, I did it with gusto. James and his lovely wife Kerry have become two of my favorite people I have met on this crazy Drunken Cyclist journey, and I just learned on my last trip to Sonoma that we all share the same birth year. Pretty crazy. All that aside, James once again crushes it here. Initially, it is fruity. Really fruity. On the verge of over-the-top fruity. Well, as with many of James MacPhail’s wines, particularly when consumed early, a bit of patience is virtuous. After some time open, a panoply of aromas on the nose (black cherry, cinnamon, clove), and plenty of flavors on the palate (tart cherry, a bit of white pepper, and hints of tannin). This needs some time, but it is plenty fantastic now. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.