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.
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).
For this version of “Random Samples” I focus exclusively on Italian wines. Why? Perhaps it was my recent trip to Italy, maybe it was a resolution a few years ago to drink more Italian wine, but likely it is just a bit of dumb luck that I have recently received a bunch of Italian wines to sample.
The first few bottles come from a region that I have never visited, Sicily. While I am sure there are countless stories to be told from the island just off the toe of Italy’s “boot” I would just be repeating those stories second-hand (something I am loathe to do). One of these days I will make it down there and hopefully come back with a host of stories to tell. Until then, I will continue to enjoy sampling the wines from the region.
2015 Alessandro di Camporeale Grillo Vigna di Mandranova Sicilia IGT: Retail $23. Tart fresh lemon rind out of the bottle. The freshness continues onto the palate along with considerable minerality. It is wines like this that make me not only want to drink more wines from Sicily, but also make me want to book a ticket to the island as soon as possible. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Cusumano Shamaris Grillo Sicilia DOC: Retail $10. Initially, I was not all that impressed here as it was rather closed (not giving up much on the aroma front) and seemed a bit flabby (lacking acidity). I set it aside and when I returned, it was a completely different animal–bright citrus and white peach on the nose with fantastic flavors that transfer onto the palate as well. And then there is the tartness, while it was seemingly absent initially, it came roaring in on the second go around, leading to a solid finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
I have limited experience with Donnafugata, which has solely involved its Ben Ryé dessert wine, but it is completely fabulous. So when they asked me if I would like to try some of their dry wines, I jumped at the chance. Far from a leap of faith, though, as I figured they would be fantastic. I was right.
2015 Donnafugata Sherazade Sicilia DOC: Retail $18. 100% Nero d’Avola. Like many Neros that I have had over the years, this is a bit dark in the glass and starts out rather austere and acid driven. Most of those other Neros eventually mellowed out a bit, exhibiting restrained, but solid fruit and warranted the common assessment that these Sicilians are versatile food wines. While that is certainly true with this Donnafugata, it also clearly surpassed my recollection of those other wines. Rich dark berry fruit with a touch of vanilla and spice, noticeable depth, and plenty of “yumminess” (yes that is a technical term). This might be the single best Nero d’Avola I have had in recent memory. Despite the somewhat goofy label. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Donnafugata Sur Sur Grillo Sicilia DOC: Retail $19. This is easily the most Grillos I have ever tried over a three-day period, and I have to say that I am coming around to the idea of Italian white wines. Tropical fruit leaps out of the glass: guava, pineapple, and white peach (along with a host of others) are all there and they do not hesitate to come out to play on the palate. After that initial wave of fruit, the acidity chimes in, carrying all the way through to the lengthy finish. I don’t say this all that often, but I could drink a ton of this wine. At $20? This might be more than most would like to pay for an everyday wine, but I am telling you, it is worth it. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
N.V. Ferrari Brut Trento DOC: Retail $30. 100% Chardonnay. Well, I just got back from the Trento region, but Ferrari did not figure on the agenda. It was, however, omnipresent as it was on every wine list and just about every umbrella on all the terraces in Trento. This is not my first bottle of Ferrari (nor will it hopefully be my last), so I can say that this wine is incredibly consistent. I can also say that it is incredibly tasty. Great citrus, fine sparkle, a touch of brioche, and a brilliant tartness. Yeah, it seems to be everywhere. But it should be. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2011 Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino: Retail $80. 100% Sangiovese. One of my last acts before I left Philadelphia was to visit my favorite new restaurant, A Mano. Why was it a favorite? Well, it was a two-minute walk from my house, it is a BYOB, and the food was simply fantastic. My favorite dish at the restaurant was the braised pork shank, and I figured this bottle from the legendary Tuscan producer would be a perfect fit. Whoa. Dark red fruit with plenty of tobacco and a hint of mint. On the palate this is young. Really young. Black raspberry and mocha a go-go here. I initially thought this would be too young but this is gangbusters from the jump. Rich and full. No need to wait. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.