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 Wine Trees Barrel Road Red Blend: Retail $17. There are a few red flags that I have developed over the last five years of writing this blog. The first is when the information about a given wine is hard to uncover. That is the case here—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. A more recent red flag: “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 as barbecue season rolls around. 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. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Benchlands, Napa Valley: Retail $65. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark and foreboding in the stem, 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? Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2015 Rodney Strong Upshot Red Blend: Retail $28. 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 I have become friends with people in the marketing department. Does that make me jaded when sampling one of their wines? Perhaps. I like to think, however, that familiarity brings just that—familiarity, not bias. 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 Charles Smith Wines Eve Chardonnay: Retail $13. Under screw-cap. Pale yellow with a green tinge, with aromas of golden apple, Asian pear, and bright citrus, this Chard is certainly light on its feet–no overbearing oak or buttered popcorn to be found here. It is rather round and full, though, with flavors of lemon rind and white peach. A delightful little wine that does not require much introspection, but it could use a pool, a little sunshine, and a carefree evening. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Charles Smith Wines Boom Boom Syrah, Washington State: Retail $18. 96% Syrah, 3% Viognier, 1% Grenache. Screw-cap. Medium dark in the glass with Jolly Rancher raspberry and black pepper predominate. Make no mistake: this is a fun wine. Great fruit, flavors, and even a bit of grit, this is a wine that would fare well on any weekday table. It would also be popular at the weekly block party as a member of the Welcome Wagon, cracking this for the newest neighbor. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Charles Smith Château Smith Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State: Retail $18. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. Crew-cap. Inky-dark in the glass with candied cherry and blackberry dominate the nose, leading to a fruity palate. Blackberry and plum are the most prominent with traces of tobacco and tar. Make no mistake, though, this wine is all about the fruit: rich and inexorable, driving the conversation from first sip to last gulp. That is certainly not a bad thing. Not at all. More of an indication that this is the wine for a group of revelers, not for intense introspection. Very Good. 87-89 Points.