What I’m Drinking: A Round of First Quarter (Almost) Sample Favorites

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Sample Reviews

What I’m Drinking: A Round of First Quarter (Almost) Sample Favorites – Sample Reviews

I found myself behind (even more so than usual) on another sample column for a few reasons.  The first is that my paying gig exploded a bit – I transitioned from project consulting work to three acting Chief Marketing Officer positions, which have been a blast and allowed me to really immerse myself in these businesses and make a difference.

The second is that I got even more unsolicited samples than usual.  As a former PR person, I have a mantra that I will try every wine that I receive (even if it takes me six months).  Only one fourth of the wines made the cut today.  If you are counting, you can calculate how many came through the doors that I reviewed. A personal plea to PR people …. please don’t send me any bourbon barrel-aged red wines, I know there is an audience and I appreciate bourbon and barrels, just not together.  And, please don’t judge some of the holiday settings, we can all use a little sparkle in the Spring.

Let’s talk about the highlights.



2017 Castello di Ama ‘Purple Rosé’ Toscana IGT – a dry rosé with notes of cherry, strawberry, watermelon with a nice minerality and a little spice.  This was a great match with our cheese plate.

2017 Ferraton Père et Fils Samorëns Rosé – this dry rosé has a great minerality with notes of cherry, strawberry, rose petals and rosemary.  It’s lovely and was the first wine to go at the party that I brought it to.

2017 Prophecy Rosé Vin De France – a very easy drinking rosé with strawberries, citrus, hibiscus and herbal notes.

2018 Rocca di Montemassi Renaissance Rosé IGT – dry with notes of strawberries, rose petals, red fruit and white pepper.  Stands up to a meal or can be enjoyed alone.

NV Jolie Folle Rosé – this rosé is sourced from vineyards in the IGP Mediterranee and Cotes de Provence in France.  It’s presented in a 1L bottle and is dry with notes of strawberry, raspberry, white stone fruit and rose petals.  It’s a crowd pleaser and great for Summer parties.



NV J Vineyards & Winery California Cuvee Brut Sparkling – this is a fabulous sparkling wine with lots of nuances.  I tasted tropical fruit, orange blossom, pear, honeysuckle, citrus and baked bread.  J is always a great choice for a sparkling for me and I highly recommend it!

NV Scotto Brut Rose Sparkling – It was fun to see the Scotto Family branch out into sparkling and I enjoyed the Brut Rosé version.  I tasted red apple, cranberry, stone fruit, raspberry and rose petals.   It was an easy to drink, aromatic sparkler.



2016 Chehalem Inox Unoaked Chardonnay – this was a delicious wine and bursting with notes of tropical fruit and flowers.  I loved the minerality and Old-World style of this wine.  It’s in small production wine, but if you see it, grab it.

2017 Flora Springs Chardonnay Napa Valley – creamy is a good word to describe this Chardonnay.  I tasted apple, lemon, honeydew, tropical fruit, oak, vanilla, butterscotch candy and almond.

2017 Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc – this wine was unique, and I really enjoyed it. Notes of stone fruit, lemon, oranges, honeysucker, tropical, apple and flowers.  It was refreshing and reminded me of a Loire Valley French wine.

2017 Ferraton Père et Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns Blanc – -notes of white fruits, flowers, peaches, pears, green apple and citrus.  This is a blend of 35% Rousanne, 30% Viognier, 25% Grenache Blanc, 5% Clairette, 5% Marsanne with a nice minerality.

2016 Panther Creek Pinot Creek Willamette Valley – this was a crisp wine that had a nice minerality with notes of apple, pear, citrus, melon and flowers.  It was a perfect Spring sipper.

2017 Fragrant Snare by Tooth & Nail – this blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Albarino and Muscat kept you sipping to find the next flavor you tasted.  The answer is that it probably will differ with each sip.  I tasted mango, melon, citrus and this wine was very aromatic.

2017 Famiglia Pasqua Passione e Sentimento Bianco Veneto IGT – notes of stone fruit, almonds, dried apricot, citrus and tropical fruit.  This wine is meant to tell the love story of Romeo and Juliet as Veneto is the home of both the love story and the winery.  It’s a more intense wine.

2017 Ferzo Cococciola Terre di Chieti – this refreshing white has notes of lemongrass, mint, citrus, herbs and a nice minerality.  It was a match made in heaven with grilled salmon.



2016 Talbott Vineyards Sleepy Hollow Pinot Noir – this rich Pinot Noir was complex and nuanced.  I tasted notes of cranberry, cherry cola, mushrooms, cinnamon, herbs, baking spices and cassis.  A delicious wine from the Central Coast.

2016 Edna Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir – a lighter Pinot Noir with notes of blackberry, violet, black cherry and spice.

2017 Toad Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir – I tasted lots of red fruit, violets, black tea, black cherry, earth, dried fruit and cassis.  It was a nice expression of Pinot at a great price point.

2016 Wairau River Pinot Noir Marlborough – lots of earthiness with notes of cherry cola, spice, raspberry and cassis.  I had not delved too far into New Zealand Pinot Noirs, but this one was impressive.

2017 Benziger Monterey Pinot Noir – this sustainable wine has notes of blueberry, blackberry, earth, spice and violet.  This is a winery dedicated to making the planet a better place while making wines that deserve a spot on your table.

2016 Carmel Road Monterey Pinot Noir – I tasted notes of ripe red fruit, tea, vanilla, earth and violets.  This wine was not in my SIP certified shipment that I discuss below but is a wine that meets those criteria.

2014 Arrowood Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – this wine, which showcases the Knights Valley AVA, has notes of cherry, currant, blackberry, black cherry, tobacco, mocha, spice and herbs.  It’s a nice Cabernet at an even nicer price point.

2015 Justin Isosceles – this is one of the quintessential wines of Paso Robles. It’s a complex wine with notes of black currant, black cherry, cassis, licorice, cedar, baking spice, mocha, vanilla and herbs.

2013 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa – Freemark Abbey is one of Napa’s original producers of Cabernet Sauvignon dating back to 1886 and Winemaker Ted Edwards has had one of the longest tenures. This rock star wine was intense and needed some time in the bottle.  I tasted blackberry, black currant, baking spice, tobacco, leather, black pepper, chocolate and plum.

2015 Feudi di San Gregorio “Rubrato” Aglianico Irpinia – notes of blackberry, licorice, lavender, spice, earth and herbs.  I have always enjoyed every wine I’ve tried from this producer. I loved how the wine alternated between fruit, flowers and earth with each sip.

2015 Franz Haas Lagrein – notes of blueberries, cranberries, raspberry, chocolate, leather, earth, tobacco and herbs.  It’s a fun and sassy red.

2015 M. Chapoutier Chateauneuf-du-Pape La Bernardine – how much fun is it to get a bottle of fabulous French wine along with The French Brasserie Cookbook, that Winemaker Michel Chapoutier regularly prepares for his family over the course of the year.  And while my husband is the cook in our family, this is truly a special wine.  I tasted raspberry, Asian spice, black cherry, strawberry, licorice, mocha and cassis. It’s a gorgeous wine that showcases the region.

2013 Pasqua Famiglia Pasqua Amarone Della Valpolicella – notes of cherry, blackberry, cedar, plum, tobacco, orange peel and leather.  This wine displays all the characteristics you want in your Amarone – delicious!

2016 Scheid Vineyards Stokes’ Ghost Monterey Petite Sirah – this is a rich wine with notes of blackberry jam, plum, chocolate and oak.  It needed some time to open, but it was complex and layered when it did.

2016 Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Vines Zinfandel – notes of raspberries, cherry, mocha, black pepper, chocolate and cassis.  It’s a balanced and tasty Zinfandel.

2015 Dry Creek Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel – notes of blackberry, cranberry, cherry cola, herbs, chocolate, Asian spice, cardamom and spice.  This would be an awesome wine to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner.

2014 Dry Creek Vineyards The Mariner – the Bordeaux blend has notes of blueberry, cherry, licorice, mocha, black pepper, vanilla, herbs and oak.  It’s a wine that you want to put down as you know it will age beautifully.

NV Dave Phinney Locations TX6 – this collaboration with McPherson Cellars focuses on Rhone varietals from the Texas High Plains AVA.  It is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah, Carignan and other Bordeaux varietals. I tasted lots of red fruit, herbs, earth, dried fruit and spice.

2017 Ventisquero Grey (Glacier) GCM – this was my first experience with Ventisquero wines and it will not be my last.  It was a mesmerizing wine with notes of cherries, cassis, raspberry, strawberry, spice, cinnamon and vanilla.

2014 Trivento Eolo Malbec – I tasted blueberries, plum, blackberries, chocolate and black pepper.  It’s a structured Malbec that has finesse and drinks well today.

2012 Laus Vitae Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP Riserva – brilliant wine from the top of the largest co-op winery in Abruzzo.  I tasted cherry compote, blackberry, violet, baking spice, cocoa and almonds.

2013 Carosa Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOP Riserva – this wine is made from Old Vines and is big with notes of blackberry, cassis, tobacco, wood and spice.


Two Old Dogs

My friends at JACK Winery introduced me to the wines of Herb Lamb Vineyards.  Herb Lamb has been a small boutique grower for the past 25 years and wine producer in the foothills of Howell Mountain in St. Helena and wow, I am impressed.  This fruit graces some of the most well-known wines out there including being the sole source of Colgin Wines.  In 1997 they produced their first 50 cases under the name of HL Vineyards with Winemaker Michael Trujillo at the helm.  And the price points are amazing for the pedigree.

2018 Two Old Dogs Rosé – this is one dry rosé that you keep sipping because it’s so easy to drink.  But don’t confuse easy drinking with simple as this is a complex wine that you could easily pair with dinner.  I tasted ripe strawberries, stone fruit, watermelon, rose petals and spice with a great minerality.

2018 Two Old Dogs Sauvignon Blanc – I could not put this wine down and it was gone way too fast.  It is floral and fruit and earthy all at the same time.  I tasted pink grapefruit, tropical fruit, citrus, lemongrass, tangerine, melon and stone fruit.

2015 Two Old Dogs Cabernet Sauvignon Napa – I brought this to a dinner party and my companions did not have high expectations. Boy, did they take notice when I poured the first glass.  This wine is an incredible cabernet for under $40.  It had notes of black cherry, cassis, spice, raspberry, blueberry and vanilla.


Sustainability in Practice Certified Wines

I also had the chance to try 12 wines from an amazing program dedicated to making our world a better place.

Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Certified helps farmers and winemakers demonstrate their dedication to preserving and protecting natural and human resources.  SIP Certified is a multi-step sustainable vineyard and winery certification committed to standards based on science and expert input, independent verification, transparency, and absence of conflict of interest.

The program’s award winning rigor and integrity have earned it the reputation of being the gold standard for sustainable certification. I’m writing about my favorites (I did have a chance to try two wines from 2016 and 2017 from one winery that I am categorizing here due to the opportunity):

2016 Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay – notes of tropical fruit, pear, citrus and vanilla.  Easy drinking and balanced.

2016 McIntyre Chardonnay – notes of baked apple pie, pear, almond, tropical fruit, green apple and citrus.

2017 Opolo Roussanne Central Coast – this was a great expression of Rousanne with notes of lemon, peach, grass, lime and herbs.

2016 Tangent Sauvignon Blanc – notes of green apple, lime, grapefruit, lemongrass and grapefruit with a great minerality.

2016 Zocker Gruner Veltliner Edna Valley – great minerality with notes of honeydew melon, tropical fruit, spice and herbal notes.

2017 Baileyana Firepeak Pinot Noir – I tasted notes of blueberry, blackberry, black cherry, roses, cherry cola, earth and spice.

2013 Fiddlehead Cellars Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir – notes of pomegranate, cherry cola, pepper, vanilla, spice and cherry. You can taste the sense of place and this is a great expression of Pinot Noir.

2017 McIntyre Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highland – it was fun to compare the 2017 and 2016 Pinots.  This was a bigger one with notes of cranberry, raspberry, black cherry, eucalyptus, mushroom and cedar.

2016 McIntyre Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highland – this was still big and elegant, but I tasted more strawberry, blackberry and spice.  The fruit came through more than the herbal notes.

2016 Castoro Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – notes of red cherry, black fruit, caramel, tobacco and smoke.

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