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 Left Coast Cellars Right Bank Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $42. B.A.B. One of the top wines from one of the better wineries in Oregon when looking for good value in Pinot Noir. The wine is loaded with rich black fruit (blackberry and cassis), as well as some earthy forest floor. Easily the biggest wine I have tried from the winery, as well as the richest. Big, juicy fruit, plenty of heft, delicious. I just wish they did not feel the need to put it in such a wasteful, heavy bottle. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2016 MacPhail The Flyer Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast: Retail $50. The winery, started by James MacPhail, but sold to the Hess Family a few years ago, has been known for high quality (and high-octane) Pinot Noirs for almost two decades, and the red wagon that graces most of the winery’s labels is approaching iconic status. Light in the glass, even for a Pinot. Eucalyptus and red berry fruit with a touch of black pepper. Yum. The palate is much of the same. Big-ish fruit. Yummy earth. Lasting finish. Yowza, this is good. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Sera Fina Pinot Grigio, Sierra Foothills, CA: Retail $16. Whenever I see “Pinot Grigio” I cringe a little bit inside. While there are certainly some really good PG out there, many (most?) wines made in the Italian style are, well, either flavorless, insipid, or both. Is that a generalization? Perhaps, but when I see “Pinot Gris” (same grape, but made in the richer, Alsatian style), I am fairly confident that the wine is going to be much more to my liking. Well, I guess I might need a little growth in this area as this wine is pretty darned tasty. In my defense, though, it seems to bridge the gap between the two styles with its rich and somewhat round flavors (peach and pear) and wet rock. Yeah, this is more of a Gris than a Grigio, so I am going to put off that personal growth a little longer. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2017 Sera Fina Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Sierra Foothills, CA: Retail $16. I have only been to the Sierra Foothills for a heartbeat, and I really am familiar with only a handful of wineries in the appellation. Based on this wine, I might need to work to add Sera Fina to that list. I am no fan of Sauvignon Blanc. I mean, it’s OK, but other than the wines from the Loire Valley (particularly Sancerre), I usually find the wines rather unexciting. Not here. Fresh and fruity with tropical fruit (pineapple) and a bit of minerality/salinity. On the palate there is nice acidity, but it is in balance with the fruit and a subtle roundness. This is really good juice. $16? No brainer. My only issue? OK, two issues: I wish they would consider a screw cap and their website has not been updated for at least five years. Outstanding.91-93 Points.
2016 Tongue Dancer Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $50. James MacPhail is a study in contrast. Shy, quiet, and seemingly avoiding attention, his wines are big, boisterous, and in your face. This Chardonnay certainly fits with that description as it is rich, fleshy, and explosive. While there is oak, it is held in check, or perhaps more accurately, the oak is overwhelmed by the fruit. Golden in the glass with intense lemon curd oozing over the rim. That fruit is the story past the lips, but there is also ample acidity and depth. Whoa. While this wine could not be much further from James’ rather demure demeanor, it does more closely match his wife Kerry’s personality—bold but never brash, fun and fresh, but never flippant. Hmmm. Am I on to something here? Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2016 Tongue Dancer Pinot de Ville Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Retail $75. I consider myself lucky in many ways: my wife still wants to remain married to me, my kids don’t think I am a total idiot (yet), and I get to drink some incredible wines. This wine from the Pinot whisperer, James MacPhail, sells out pretty much on release, but I have received a bottle the last several years for review. Why is that? I really have no idea, but I am just going to shut my mouth and accept my good fortune. Whoa. Rich red fruit on the nose, with plenty of spunk, this wine screams: “throw your hair back, have a sip, and enjoy!” And I did. And then some. The MacPhails are some of my favorite people in Sonoma County, and this is without a doubt (one of?) my favorite Pinots. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.