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….
2014 Alto Mora Etna Rosso DOC Cusumano: Retail $24. 100% Nerello Mascalese. The Cusumano family had long dreamed to open this winery among the black volcanic soils of Mount Etna and to produce wines from this native Sicilian variety. The Italian island has long been on my bucket list of regions to visit and this wine underscores my determination to get there one day: dark, but not brooding, with cassis, spicy pepper, and a touch of mocha, this wine promises a lot. On the palate, it delivers: classically Old World with initial subtlety, the fruit kicks in within moments of hitting the tongue, introducing some New World tendencies. I paired this with a grilled pork chop and it was marvelous, but after putting the kids to bed, this continued to shine, developing more levels of flavor and depth. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Avignonesi Rosso di Montepulciano DOC: Retail $16. 100% Sangiovese. Having just returned from Tuscany a month or so ago, I was elated to see this show up on my door step. I was only in perhaps Italy’s most famed wine region for a couple of days, so I did not get a chance to delve very deep into the region’s wines while there. As I anticipated, my first taste of Tuscan life underscored the need to return some time soon. This wine, too, aims me in that direction—while modest in price, it serves as a good ambassador for the region. Tangy red berries with floral and earthy aspects, the wine is both light and fairly complex. I would serve it in a wide variety of contexts: pasta, pizza, game, even some beefier dishes. It would also do well at the company picnic, or to bring a bit of hedonism to the tailgate. Of course it also goes well next to the computer inspiring the wit of a writer in the gloaming. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Viña Cousiño-Macul Isadora Sauvignon Gris Valle del Maule Chile: Retail $18. I honestly think that this might be the first time I have ever had a Sauvignon Gris. I have, of course, had countless Sauvignon Blancs, and just as many Pinot Gris, but this is new to me. While some think that this is the ancestor to Sauvignon Blanc, it is actually unclear as to which is the parent. What is clear, though, is that this variety is slightly pinker than its relative, and has also been called Sauvignon Rosé. Apparently, it can achieve higher sugar level, which leads to a richer, rounder, more unctuous wine, which is certainly the case here. Fleshier fruit (particularly peach and pineapple) distinguish this wine from a Sauvignon Blanc and while there is still a brilliant tartness, it stops short of bracing, which often characterizes its slightly paler cousin. In brief? I am a fan, and will eagerly buy any additional bottles of this variety that I come across. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Peter Zemmer Pinot Noir Rolhüt Südtirol Alto Adige: Retail $18. I did a dumb thing (and as much as I hate doing dumb things, it is far worse to admit it): I opened this on the night of the election. It would not have been quite so dumb had my candidate won, but seeing as she went down in flames, I had little interest in the attributes of this wine other than its inebriating effect. But then I did a smart thing: instead of finishing the bottle and taking to Facebook, I decided to put a cork in it (actually, it was a rubber stopper, but I like the dual meaning). And I am glad I did. Tonight, as I refuse to watch or read the news about my candidate’s surprising demise (at least to me), this wine is helping to ease the pain. No, this time it is not the effects of alcohol (13%), but rather its enticing aromas of black cherry, earth, and a touch of menthol. On the palate the joyful distraction continues with juicy fruit (as opposed to Juicy Fruit) of mostly sour cherry and considerable depth without being even slightly weighty. As the consumed wine continues to dance on my tongue, I wish that I could turn back the clock a mere 24 hours and give this wine the proper attention it deserves from the jump. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.