Our welcome kit at the 2009 Wine Bloggers' Conference (here and here) included all sorts of goodies, from chocolates to thumb drives, and one half-bottle of wine, a Pedroncelli 2005 Dry Creek Valley Merlot Bench Vineyards.
The conference was a few weeks ago now, but we only just opened the bottle. We honestly did not know what to expect, but we were quite pleased with what we tasted. We were still more pleased when we learned the price. The 2005 we enjoyed is no longer available, but the 2006 retails for $14 (for a full bottle). We would not have been surprised to learn that it retailed for twice as much, or even more.
Two things set this wine apart. First, it tasted like a Dry Creek Valley wine. We have long enjoyed the wines from Dry Creek, although we associate it more with Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. We are now extremely curious to try Pedroncelli's versions of those wines, but this Merlot holds it own. What comes through as Dry Creek is a sort of dustiness, and perhaps some black olive.
The second thing that sets this wine apart is the spiciness. Not long ago we did an experiment with some bland wine. We took 10-oz. apple juice jars (empty), and filled them with the bland wine and a pinch of different spices from our cabinet, from ginger powder to Chinese 5-spice. We waited a couple of months to let the spices integrate into the wine, and then tasted them. Do try this at home--it's a great way to learn how to identify spice notes in wines.
Extremely large fennel bulbs
This Merlot had pronounced notes of clove and allspice, with a touch of nutmeg and even coriander, which we found delicious. Whether or not those spices appeal to you, they were fascinating in this context. And context is everything. For example, fennel is not our favorite spice in the world, and we are not huge fans of anise liqueurs, but we love an anise note in our wines, at least on occasion.
We look forward to trying more Pedroncelli wines, and encourage you to do the same.
(Reminder: as stated at the head of this post, the reviewed wine was a free, if unsolicited, sample.)