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: Sauvignon Two Ways, Chardonnay Any Day, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.
2017 The Eyrie Vineyards Trousseau, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $35 (Sold Out). 100% Trousseau. Under cork. Trousseau comes from the Jura region of France, an area that many (most?) have never encountered. It is essentially, a sub-region of the Alps, but it is technically its own mountain range. It also has some of the most original grape varieties in France, including Trousseau. There is a bit of it in Spain and Portugal (where it is called Bastardo), but other than that? Pretty darned rare. That is exactly why I was excited to see this wine show up on my stoop from Eyrie in Oregon. Considerable funk on the nose initially, along with red and dark berry fruit, and a healthy dose of baking spices. The palate is driven by the zingy acidity, accompanied by plenty of fruit. There is a bit of funk here, too, but it seems to work well. Overall, a bit of an odd bird, but it is particularly well-done and a great food wine. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $27. DIAM 5 Closure. 100% Chardonnay. Aged in French oak, 20% new. Upon first taste, when my wife asked me what I thought? “It’s Really Good. Even Excellent. There is oak, but it is subtle and it works.” I stand by all of that. On the light side of color in the glass, barely a “brilliant straw.” The nose is quite shy, with hints (but only hints) of musk melon, white peach, and a flinty minerality that is more reminiscent of Chablis than the Sonoma Coast. The palate is lean and focused, driven by a slightly under-ripe, tart acidity–imagine a really crunchy white peach or Bosc pear. There are hints of creaminess and oak, but those are well in the background. I feel this is a wine that both Chardonnay lovers and the Anything But Chardonnay crowds could embrace. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Firesteed Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $16. 100% Pinot Gris. Under screw cap. Pinot Gris is fairly common in the Willamette Valley; despite Chardonnay’s increasing popularity, Pinot Gris remains the top white variety in the region. It is not popular, in fact it is illegal, in Burgundy, France making the comment on the back label that “this [is] a cool-climate, Burgundian-style wine” more than a bit puzzling. What is clear that this pale straw wine exudes ripe apple, pear, white rose, and jasmine on the nose. The palate is a bit fruity (and a bit disjointed) but with good acidity and just a touch of sweetness. Not a bad quaff at all.Very Good. 88 Points.
2019 Firesteed Pinot Noir, Oregon: Retail $17. Under screw cap. Oregon is known for Pinot Noir, but it is not necessarily known for “inexpensive” Pinot. For years, I have professed that, by and large, it is really difficult to produce a high quality Pinot for under $25-30 (the reasons for that are many, but the main one being that when Pinot is over-cropped, it becomes considerably less interesting—at least to me). While this is not a wine that will cause hours of introspection, it does offer tons of fruit, a mocha-esque aspect, and plenty of acidity. I knew going in that my socks would likely remain firmly on my feet with this wine, but it certainly has its place. Good. 86 Points.
NV Earl Stevens Selections Function Red Blend, CA: Retail $15. B.A.B. Earl Stevens is also known as E-40 and if you knew that and/or know who he is (his is a hip-hop artist), you are waaaay ahead of this tragically white guy. I looked all over, but could not find any of the varieties that go into this wine. Not one. I have a few guesses after tasting it, but well…. A pleasant nose of dark berry fruit, spice, and even some earth. The palate is fruity, really fruity. And jammy. Really jammy. And even a bit sweet (although not really sweet). Look, this is not my style of wine, but there is no doubt in my mind that there is definitely a market for this wine. I still struggle with the ridiculous weight of the bottle, though.Very Good. 87 Points.
2017 Tamarack Cellars Firehouse Red, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $20. 33% Syrah, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Grenache, 2% Counoise, 2% Sangiovese, 2% Petit Verdot. Wow. Nine. Count ’em nine varieties here and I am fairly certain that has to be a record for any wine I have tried (but I am equally sure it’s not–but it’s up there). Another peculiarity? I sampled the 2018 several months ago ahead of this 2017 (long story). My feelings about this wine mirror fairly closer its slightly younger sibling: great fruit, wonderful tartness, balance, depth. All of that for under twenty bucks? You must be joking. Seriously. Joking. Excellent. 90 Points.