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….
First, I was recently sent a two-bottle mini-vertical of Friuli Pinot Grigio by Terlato. Now, I know what you are thinking: I have not spared my disdain for Pinot Grigio over the years as it is often rather nondescript and not even remotely interesting. Well, recently I have come across a few Pinot Grigio wines from northern Italy that have caused me to re-evaluate my long-held stance against perhaps Italy’s most famous (or “infamous”) white wine export.
The last two vintages in the Friuli region of Italy, have been by most accounts, two of the best back-to-back years in at least a couple of decades.
2015 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali: Retail $25. Following the rather disappointing 2014 vintage, 2015 was marked by several warm spikes that resulted in rapidly ripening fruit shortly before harvest. For some, this resulted in rich, but somewhat flabby wines (i.e., lacking acidity), but that is decidedly not the case here. This wine is a delicious combination of stone fruit (primarily peach and nectarine), peach, and grapefruit. The acidity is prevalent all the way through with considerable minerality showing up on the mid-palate. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2016 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali: Retail $25. As good as the 2015 vintage was, many feel that 2016 was as close to the “perfect vintage” as many have seen in the region. Here, the fruit (both on the nose and the palate) is much more intense, with a more candied aspect. Cantaloupe, red apple, and peach are dominant here, all balanced by a tingling tartness. The characteristic minerality also joins the party, carrying through all the way to the finish. A beautiful wine. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Cecchi Vermentino Maremma Toscana: Retail $18. I spent a bit of time with the Cecchi family last fall and I can say without equivocation that they are fantastic. Yes, they operate a huge winery with a vast production, but they seem to be doing it the “right” way. And this wine is no exception: pale yellow with bright lemon curd and considerable minerality, this does not disappoint on the palate. Good fruit, great balance, and a delightful quaff. What more could one ask? Well, more time with the Cecchi family, for one. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Nik Weis St. Urbans Hof Riesling Wiltinger Alte Reben: Retail $15. I met Nik Weis a couple of years ago in New York after having visited the estate a year prior (I did not meet with Nik at the winery, as he is on the road at the time of my visit). This newish line of more affordable wines consistently over delivers. Not much fruit on the nose which is dominated by petrol, wet rock, and a touch of funk (which is a good thing). The lack of fruit initially is recompensed in spades on the palate with oodles of lemon and stone fruit. Plenty of weight and just the right amount of sweetness to balance out that lip smacking tartness. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Union des Viticulteurs du Cru Moulin-à-Vent Sélection des Vignerons: Retail $30. 100% Gamay. OK. It is not often that I say this, but I have no idea how I obtained this bottle of wine. I am fairly certain that this was a sample, but I may have bought it—I really have no idea. Regardless, this is incredible: brambly fruit, meaty earth, and a touch of eucalyptus dominate the nose. On the palate? This wine craves food as the acid plays a leading role, followed by some forest floor and plenty of fruit. Is this the “best” Beaujolais I have tasted? No. But the margin is slim. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.