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.
2015 Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc: Retail $15. Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu. I do not say this all that often, but when I see “Michel Chapoutier” on the bottle, I am pretty confident about the wine. Bila-Haut is the brand from the mega-winery that originates in the southeast of France, where there are not a lot of rules. This wine, while not a show stopper, may be just short of that (a vignette stopper?). Great fruit with a tartness that grabs a hold of your taste buds and demands attention. This is a fabulous wine that would fare well in just about any situation. Factor in the cost? Hell yeah. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages Rouge: Retail $15. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.. Rather dark color in the glass as well as on the nose: cassis, blackberry, hints of tar, and tobacco. Lighter, for sure, on the palate, but well put together with ample, but not over-bearing fruit; depth, but not overly introspective; and tasty but…nope, no “but” just tasty. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
Coté Mas Crémant de Limoux: Retail $16. 60% Chardonnay, 20% Chenin Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir, 10% Mauzac. I am a self-admitted sucker for just about any sparkling wine and this is now added to my list. Muted citrus fruit and a bit of bread. On the palate, really bright and fun. This is a bargain at $16 and a steal at anything less than that. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Ferrarton Père et Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns Rouge: Retail $20. 80% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 5% Cinsault. For me, the Côtes du Rhone appellation is a mine field—there are some fabulous values to be found, but there are also more than a few “stinkers” that should be avoided. This is decidedly in the former category. Blackberry and cherry with a balanced approach, this is an easy drinking wine suitable for really any situation or cuisine. Solid to the finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
The next two wines come from Lebanon, a region about which I know very little and I know even less about the winery. A blogger friend of mine, though, works for the winery and she asked me to try these two wines when I saw her at the Wine Bloggers Conference this summer in Lodi. After a bit of research (i.e., reading the back label), I discovered that the winery was founded in 1857 by the Jesuit Fathers and the vines grow in the Bekaa Valley at 1,100 meters altitude.
2012 Château Ksara Cabernet Sauvignon Bekaa Valley Lebanon: Retail ~$16. I know virtually nothing about Lebanese wines outside of Château Musar, so I was really interested in trying this Cabernet. Good blackberry fruit and a bit green pepper (which I really like), mocha, and a meaty component. Definitely old world, but ample fruit and racy acidity. Not a world beater, but, well Lebanon gets a pass given their past. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2011 Château Ksara Château Red: Retail ~$18. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. Decidedly old world in style with muted (and a bit stewed) black and dark red berry fruit. On the palate, reserved, but complex fruit with several layers of flavor. The wine though, is perhaps a bit overly dominated by the tart acidity, which drowns out the fruit on the mid-palate. The finish, while pleasant and fairly long, is almost devoid of any tannic presence, which is surprising given the varietal make-up. This is a wine in need of food—but not too heavy. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
N.V. Vilarnau Cava Brut Reserva Trencadís Edition: Retail $16. 50% Macabeo, 35% Parellada, 15% Xarel·lo. It was only Wednesday (I think) and it already had been a long week (of that I was certain). I had just got back from France and we moved the next day. Comcast cancelled their appointment (thus no internet for another day), the installers of the window blinds did not show up (thus, no walking around naked for another day), my boss told me he is quitting, and my left ankle was swollen to three times its normal size. When I returned from a day of toil, I put my son’s bunk beds together, helped unload six enormous boxes from Pottery Barn, and broke a wine rack. Clearly, this day called for bubbles and it was a fantastic diversion. The bottle is striking (“Trencadís” is a mosaic used in the modernist artistic movement in Catalonia, using broken tiles or ceramics), and the wine? Slightly golden aromas of pear and hazelnut with the vibrant sparkle carrying nice tartness and just a touch of bitterness on the finish. That I can handle any day of the week. Very Good. 86-88 Points.