As a “seasoned” wine writer/blogger, I get offers to sample a bevy of different wines. Often it is a single bottle, or even a handful of wines that are either from a single producer, the same importer, or a particular region.
The wines cover the gamut of relatively inexpensive wines to those that sell for well beyond what would be my budget. To me, since I drink (and still buy) wines from all price levels (OK, I rarely spend over $60-ish for a bottle, although there are a few champagnes that have broken that tendency), I agree to sample wines up and down the cost stratum.
Many other wine writers have questioned that stance, saying that they have longed stopped accepting samples that are, say, less than $30/bottle retail. To me, that makes very little sense as the average cost paid for a bottle of wine in this country is somewhere between $10-15/bottle.
Thus, when the kind folks at Ironstone Vineyards contacted me and asked if I would like to sample a few of their wines, I said “sure.”
They sent me a boatload of samples. Under the mantra that “inexpensive wines need to be reviewed, too” here are my thoughts on the wines (yes, there are only 8 [I thought there was a case], but I am blaming the missing wine on my wife, or my father-in-law, or…).
The first few wines come from one of Ironstone’s other labels, Leaping Horse, which I found to be well-made and really good bargains.
2017 Leaping Horse Vineyards Pinot Grigio, CA: Retail $11. Under screw. Fairly light color in the glass, even for a Pinot Grigio, but a lively nose of lime and tropical fruit. The palate has nice acidity and a fair amount of body. I am usually not a fan of Grigio, particularly at this price point, but this is a very nice quaff. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Leaping Horse Vineyards Chardonnay, California: Retail $11. Under screw and uncomplicated with floral and pineapple notes on the nose. The palate is, well, lovely: good fruit, bits of butter and hints of oak. You know? Solid. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Leaping Horse Vineyards Red Blend, California: Retail $10. 46% Zinfandel, 40% Merlot, 14% Petite Sirah. Under screw. An interesting blend of mostly Zin and Merlot, with a splash of Petite Sirah–three wines that one does not see as a blend all that often. Dark in the glass (as one might expect, given the blend) with jammy blackberry and plum dominant on the nose. The palate is big and fruity, a bit extracted, with some smokiness on the finish. This is certainly a crowd pleaser, particularly for the price, as there are plenty of flavors and fruit. Decent acidity, but not much tannin on the backend, thus this is for short-term consumption. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
The remaining wines come from the “mothership,” the original label from Lodi (the winery is now about an hour and a half East of Lodi).
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Chardonnay, Lodi, CA: Retail $12. 90% Chardonnay, 5% Viognier, 5% Chenin Blanc. Somewhat rare (?) to see Chard blended with other grapes, but this seems to work, particularly at this price. Lemon curd, vanilla, and oak on the nose, with much the same on the palate. For 12 bucks, one would be hard pressed to find a better Chard. Sure, there is oak, and sure, there is butter, but it all seems to work and is far from over the top. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi, CA: Retail $12. Under screw. I have oft indicated that Sauvignon Blanc is not my favorite variety. Why? Well, most of them are either overblown grassy and tart, or not very interesting and on the verge of character-less. Neither is the case here. A bit of citrus and minerality lead to good fruit, a hint of sweetness, and slight astringency. This will not change your life, but it is another solid effort and proves that Ironstone is a leader at this price point. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Pinot Noir, Lodi, CA: Retail $14. Fairly light in the glass, with black cherry and black pepper notes on the nose. I have long been an adherent to the theory that “good” Pinot starts at around $30/bottle, so a wine for less than half of that causes me pause. While this wine, again, will not change your life nor cause you to renounce Burgundy as an overblown, overhyped, overpriced region, it is actually quite good. Nice fruit, a bit of depth, and a spicy, above-average finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Ironstone Vineyards Merlot, Lodi, CA: Retail $15. Merlot (75%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Tannat (10%). Candied black raspberry, smoke, even some licorice. Fruity and jammy, almost sweet, this is certainly not my style of Merlot, but it has its place. A bit on the extracted side. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.