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 Aperture Red Wine Alexander Valley: Retail $62. 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Malbec, 10% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petite Sirah. This was a bit slow out of the gate, but by the first turn, it was running at full-throttle. Tons of fruit here: blue and black berry, with a smattering of spice. It has a bit of chewiness to it, but this is a wine for short-term consumption. I suggest taking it out on the back porch or gathering around the fireplace on a cold evening as this needs no meal to be complete. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Aperture Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley: Retail $62. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec. Unlike the Red Wine, this wine was raring to go right out of the bottle, but it is elegantly restrained. The fruit, though prominent, goes about its business with a deft hand, buoyed by red and black fruit. There is considerable depth here, with a spiciness and several layers of flavor. As I delved into the bottle, the fruit receded slightly, revealing silky tannins and a rich finish. This wine is gangbusters now, but could age gracefully for at least a decade. A fabulous Cabernet. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 The Federalist Dueling Pistols Red Wine Dry Creek Valley: Retail $29. 50% Zinfandel, 50% Syrah. Initially, this comes off quite fruity. In fact, that was about all I was getting: rich red fruit. After some time though, pepper (red and black), mocha, and savory notes emerged. On the palate, the transformation was similar: initially it was all about the fruit, but with some patience, more complexity developed, and the spiciness of the Syrah started to assert itself. Give this a good decant, folks, and you will be rewarded. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Hanna Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Retail $18. My brother was coming in from out of town and while I knew that meant one thing for him (cheap beer) I also knew that my wife would never settle for such an approach to the evening’s choice of beverages. Why? Well, to put it frankly, she is not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc. Why? I think (operative word) that she is not a fan of grassy, cat pee driven wines. While I certainly can respect that (to a certain degree), I also must take umbrage. There are solid SB to be had at every price point. This is a perfect example: bright citrus, with a bit of fresh-cut grass and a touch of, yes, cat pee. While my wife struggled to enunciate her disdain, I focused. Bright, tart, vibrant. Yes, this is Sauvignon Blanc, and it delivers well above its “weight class” with great fruit and structure. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County: Retail $20. This last year I visited Rodney Strong for the first time and I came away impressed. Sure, it is a big producer, even by Sonoma standards, coming in at around a million cases a year. Big producers tend to make a lot of wine geeks nervous since they automatically assume that with size comes a lack of attention to detail. I only spent about four hours at Rodney Strong that afternoon and early evening, and I witnessed plenty of detail. Sure, by definition, wines that are produced on this scale do not possess the uniqueness of smaller lot boutique wines. But then they are not meant to either. Wines like this Cab, which exhibits great raspberry and blackberry fruit (with a bit of black pepper thrown in), nice acidic balance, and an admirable finish, are meant so that people can put a good bottle of wine on the table without spending a good portion of the bi-weekly paycheck. And this fits that bill. To a tee. Very Good. 87-89 Points.