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….
2016 Artezin Zinfandel Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County: Retail $18. I got a bottle of this for National Zinfandel Day (11/15/2017), but seeing as I was out of town, well, I had to celebrate the “holiday” a bit later. Dark in the glass, but still brilliantly translucent, this is a raspberry scone sitting next to a cooling cup of the morning’s coffee. Big fruit balanced by a tart acidity and just a bit of grip, this wine is certainly a crowd pleaser. Boisterous yet never offensive, this just might be close to a perfect holiday red. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Bread and Butter Chardonnay Napa Valley: Retail $17. I reviewed the Pinot Noir from the same producer last month and was impressed, particularly given the price point. This Chardonnay is more of the same. Sure, it is more of a “traditional” California Chard with plenty of butter (hence the name?) and oak, but there is also good acidity and tropical fruit. Another producer that I would certainly seek out. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc Paso Robles: Retail $32. 100% Cabernet Franc. Dark and red berry fruit with dashes of smoke and forest floor. On the palate, plenty of luscious fruit, with that aforementioned smoke. This wine was fairly aggressive on Day 1, but calmed down considerably by the end of Day 2. Give this a little time (1-3 years) in your cellar, and I have no doubt you will be pleased. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2012 Merriam Vineyards Cabernet Franc Windacre Vineyard, Russian River Valley: Retail $40. 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I received this and the Dracaena to “celebrate” Cabernet Franc Day (12/4). Dark in the glass, but short of brooding with dark berry fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a savory, meaty aspect. Really nice fruit on the palate, balanced by a tangy acidity and just a hint of tannins on the backend. In a word? Yum. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga: Retail $65. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc. I popped this open staring down a Texas-sized bone-in ribeye steak and neither did disappoint. Broodingly dark in the glass with oodles of blackberry fruit, a smidge of spice, and a touch of forest floor. Rich and just short of unctuous, this is a delight: plenty of fruit with secondary spice and tartness. The wine finishes with a tannic presence, which while indicating plenty of life ahead, does little to negate the fact that this is fabulous now. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2013 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, Montelena Estate, Calistoga: Retail $160. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1.5% Cabernet Franc, 1.5% Petit Verdot.. There are times in your life that you feel blessed: getting married to the right person, the birth of children, receiving your hard-earned degree. Those are all certainly life changing moments, perhaps dates that are celebrated. There are other moments, though, that are also worth remembering, but for different reasons: the double rainbow, catching a game-winning home run in the stands of your favorite team, finding a $100 bill on the street. The difference? The first group are certainly foreseeable, even planned. The second, are far more spontaneous and unexpected. This wine falls somewhere in between. When you open a bottle of wine north of a hundred bucks, you expect to be wow-ed, but there are times when wines surpass even the loftiest of expectations. This was one. Dark and foreboding in the glass, exuding blackberry, cassis, black pepper, and clove. On the palate, this is but a pup, but it is also magical: deep, profound flavors of fruit, spice, and earth mingle with a subtle acidity, a buoyant viscosity, and an enduring finish. This might not be the best Montelena Cab I have had, but it is not far down the list. Whoa. Outstanding Plus. 95-97 Points.
2015 St. Amant Old Vine Zinfandel Marian’s Vineyard, Lodi, California: Retail $24. I have a bit of a history with Lodi and St. Amant as my first ever press trip was to Lodi and during that trip, I spent a fair amount of time with Stuart Spencer, the owner and winemaker at St. Amant. Right up front, Stuart likes a bigger wine than is my usual, but I am a huge fan of his Marian’s Vineyard wines. Big, silky, creamy, and luscious, this is American wine at its best. Dark berry fruit, coffee, vanilla, verve; this has it all. When I look for a bold Zin, I look no further. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.