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….
2015 Blue Canyon Sinful Grin Petite Sirah California: Retail $15. Another selection from my friends at Lidl, the European grocery store that has opened several stores in the U.S. I am not a big Petite Sirah fan because, well, they are always a bit big (which is a bit of an oxymoronic statement, I guess). This wine is certainly on the light side when it comes to the normally inky-dark PS, with this being, well, slightly lighter than “inky-dark.” On the nose, plenty of fruit: dark blackberry (to distinguish it from just plain old blackberry) and brambleberry (technically, a blackberry is a bramble berry, as is a raspberry and any other berry that grows in a bramble—it seems to be a popular descriptor these days though, so I am rolling with it), with a slight touch of funk. On the palate, plenty of that fruit I mentioned above (but no need to repeat it), and a touch of sweetness. While not as big, and yes, brambly, as other PS wines I have tried, this is true to the variety and would likely be a crowd pleaser. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga, Napa Valley: Retail $75. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet red fruit of blackberry and strawberry (surprisingly) on the nose with black pepper, pine, and a smidge of cigar smoke. On the palate, this is almost entirely fruit initially (mostly the aforementioned blackberry), but there is also some spice and vanilla, particularly on the midpalate. The finish is perhaps the strongest element, with fruit, spice, and a smattering of tannic structure—implying some aging potential. Excellent. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Benchlands, Napa Valley: Retail $65. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark and foreboding in the glass, the inky-dark liquid suggests a serious predisposition. The predominant cassis is shrouded in black pepper, mocha, and pomegranate. On the palate? This might just get a Whoa: rich fruit, incredible depth, and a lengthy finish. Yup, Whoa. Big and bold while simultaneously elegant and svelte, the tannic structure on the finish suggests this wine has a considerable future, but why wait? Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Left Coast Cellars Latitude 45° Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley: Retail $38. Right off the bat there is plenty to like here and one glaring item to contest. First the good: the black cherry melds nicely with the black licorice and sage followed by plenty of red berry fruit on the palate with spice and bits of verve looking to break free. Yum. Now the, well, not-so-good: a really heavy bottle. Really heavy. Upon landing on the website one sees: “Family owned. 100% estate grown and bottled. Committed to sustainability” (emphasis added). Well, if that last phrase is true, they need to ditch this Frankenbottle for one that is more environmentally friendly. Bottle? 0 Points. Wine? Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Rodney Strong Upshot Red Blend: Retail $22. 44% Zinfandel, 29% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, 5% Riesling. For a ton of reasons, I am a big Rodney Strong fan: the winery is a Sonoma County stalwart; while they are a really big producer, they also make wines for every palate and budget; and a friend of mine works at the winery. Does that make me jaded when sampling one of their wines? Perhaps. I like to think, however, that familiarity brings just that–not bias, but familiarity. Stelvin closure, fruity (mostly blackberry) and a smootch of mocha on the nose, the palate features oodles of fruit, a bit of depth, and then more fruit. A fun wine. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Wine Trees Barrel Road Red Blend: Retail $17. Despite my best efforts, I can not list a single variety that I know to be in this blend, nor can I confidently state where any of the fruit originates, other than the state of California. It does state that the wine is “Aged in Bourbon Barrels.” That “designation” seems to be a bit of a “thing” these days at it is appearing with more frequency on wines in this price range. Having said all that, this wine actually works for me—a dark crimson with notes of blackberry, clove, vanilla, and spice. On the palate, a pleasant wine with that dark berry fruit at the front, followed by the vanilla, and a hint of bourbon. Likely a crowd pleaser on a holiday table. Very Good. 87-89 Points.