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 to it).
2013 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Los Vascos Grande Reserve Carménère Chile: Retail $20. Given the price point, I did not know what to expect, but once I got a whiff of the nose I knew I was in for a treat. Mocha, dark red fruit and a hint of green pepper: all in my wheel house. On the palate, this is as solid as you could hope—give me a red wine lover and they will adore this wine. To paraphrase a recent pop song, this has “all the right junk in all the places.” There is plenty of fruit (the “junk”) but it is wonderfully balanced by the acidity and earthiness. This is yet another reason that I need to delve more deeply into Chile and eventually find a way down there. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Les Vignes de Bila-Haut: Retail $16. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. I think many would agree that the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region of France has the reputation of being a bit of the wild, wild (south) west. While nearly every wine region in France has some rather repressive regulations, the same does not really hold true in Languedoc-Roussillon. That allows talented winemakers and ambitious wineries to experiment and make some really interesting wines (the reverse is also true–there are some rather questionable wines as well). This wine, from the well-known Rhône producer, is wonderful. Good fruit on the nose and palate, but more in that reserved, old-world way. Fantastic balance and lengthy finish–a solid wine from top to bottom. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Ernie Els Big Easy White South Africa: Retail $17. 100% Chenin Blanc. Great Chenin nose of pineapple and melon. On the palate, the vibrant fruit is prevalent: mostly tropical (pineapple, gave, even banana). The acidity helps to balance out the wine and give it a bit of verve. Chenin might be my favorite grape variety, all else being equal (as far as I know there is not a Chenin on par with LeRoy Montrachet…), and this is a good example. It might be a bit flabby (lacking acidity), but those Chenin flavors get me every time. Very Good. 88-90 Points.
2014 Ernie Els Big Easy Red South Africa: Retail $17. 61% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache, 4% Viognier, 4% Cinsault. For me, having a wine associated with a well-known figure (in this case, a great professional golfer) really does not do much for me. But more and more celebrities are getting into the wine business it seems, so it would be better to just go with the flow a bit. My first impression? Fruit, fruit, and more fruit. If you like really fruity wines, look no further. There is a bit of earth and depth on the mid palate, but the fruit returns on the finish. This is not the wine for someone seeking out finesse, but if you like your wines full-throttle, this should certainly be near the top of your list. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Château Pilet Bourdeaux Blanc: Retail $11. 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Sémillon. Every time I taste a white Bordeaux, I always say that I should drink more, and this is no exception. While Sancerre is perhaps the benchmark for French Sauvignon Blanc, it is hard to dismiss Bordeaux, particularly at this price (and yes I know it is not 100% Sauvignon Blanc like the Loire legend, but the Semillon adds just a touch of roundness and considerable aroma that just works). Wonderful nose of Meyer lemon, a bit of lime and some white flower. Initially a bit soft on the palate, but that lasts only a moment before the acidity roars in, brightening up the wine considerably. Not exceedingly profound, but there is enough depth to grab the attention of many of the more discerning wine snobs out there. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Vaza Rioja: Retail $12. 100% Tempranillo. I have never been to Rioja, but as I have been sampling through some of the wines these last few years, it is clear that it must be a rather fascinating place. Few would argue that many of the wines from the region maintain, for lack of a better way of putting it, the more “traditional” approach to wine making: reserved, balanced, restrained. Then there are those that seem to have embraced more of a “new world” approach with more of a focus on fruit: a juicier style. This wine certainly falls more to the second camp as the blackberry and licorice leap out of the glass. The fruit persists all the way through, and after a bit of time open, some complexity develops on the mid-palate as the acidity presents itself. A fun wine, certainly. Very Good. 86-88 Points.