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 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut, Côtes du Roussillon Blanc: Retail $15. Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu. On this site I have extolled the virtues of many a producer that I trust almost without reservation and Chapoutier is certainly on that list. Despite being one of the largest producers in the South of France, one that delves into several different appellations with dozens of varieties, Chapoutier consistently produces wines of quality. This is no exception: bright citrus and tropical fruit, a noteworthy tanginess, and considerable verve, this wine delivers. In fact, it delivers more than some wines twice its price. Bravo. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2016 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes du Rousillon Villages: Retail $16. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Really dark in the glass with notes of blackberry, leather, mint, and rosemary. Initially a bit austere on the palate, with chalky fruit but striking tartness. Eventually, the fruit came out to play, and play it did. This is not the immediate crowd-pleaser that is the Côtes-du-Rhône, no this requires more introspection and attention. This will not change the trajectory of your life, but it might cause you to slow down and consider your current course. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2014 Château Hyot Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux: Retail $15. 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Classic Bordeaux blend nose of dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis, blueberry), with dashes of smoke, earth, and funk. Lighter bodied on the palate with fleeting fruit and plenty of acidity. A fine every day claret. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Mac Forbes Pinot Noir Yarra Valley: Retail $30. Extremely light in the glass, in fact, this could be considered a fairly dark rosé (OK, maybe not that light, but close). Black cherry, some earthy notes, and a bit of funk–all inviting one to dive right in. On the palate this is also decidedly on the lighter side, with subtle fruit, a burst of tart acidity, and subtle tannins. You can’t get much further away than the “California” style of robust, juicy, full-throttle Pinot. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2012 Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) Brunello di Montalcino: Retail $90. 100% Sangiovese. Brunello is another Italian region that I have a passing knowledge of, but fall far short from being an expert. I do know, however, that Gaja is a legendary producer of Piemontese wine (Barolo and Barbaresco), so even before popping this puppy, I knew it would be a serious effort. And I was correctomundo. Blackberry fruit, tar, and tobacco lead to a delicious (albeit young) wine with supple fruit, plenty of allspice, and a killer finish. Whoa. This has a way to go, but it is stellar now, so why wait? Well, to give you a little time to brush up on the region might be a good enough excuse. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2016 Ritual Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile: Retail $20. Slightly golden in the glass with lemon, green apple, pineapple, and a bit of funk. Good fruit and acidity on the palate, without the hint of funk. The really rich fruit is bookended with a tart, racy, acidity, with hints of oak peeking through on the finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Ritual Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley, Chile: Retail $20. When I opened the bottle, there was some serious funk on the wine. So funky, in fact, that I threw a stopper in it and tried again the next day. Much better. Fairly dark in the glass with plenty of black cherry and just a touch of that funk. Good acidity initially and all the way through to the finish. The fruit comes in on the mid-palate, as does some earth and funk. The fruit comes off a little sweet, though, which detracts a little. Still, for the tariff, this is a solid Pinot. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Ritual Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley, Chile: Retail $16. Pale straw with a green tint, with plenty of pear and peach mingle with citrus notes. There is also a slight funk on the nose—not quite cat pee that is so common in New Zealand Sauvignon. No, this is more subtle, slightly meaty, and certainly savory. On the palate, the tartness is impressive—almost biting into a lemon type of strength. Great fruit and plenty of body and length persist from start to finish, I am far from a fan of the variety, but this is pretty darned good.