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….
2014 Château Biac Cuvée Felix de Biac, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux: Retail $25. 58% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc. The label of this wine jumps out for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is how incredibly “un-Bordeaux” it is. Perhaps the same can be said about the contents (and that just might be a good thing). Quite dark in the glass, but fruity and lithe on the nose with ripe dark berries and black pepper. On the palate, much of the same as this is a delightful quaff that is intended to be consumed in the short term. Not overly deep, but in an increasingly complex world, simplicity can be a plus. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 M. Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc: Retail $15. Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette, and Bourboulenc. From one of my favorite négociants in the South of France, this slightly golden wine exudes tropical fruit (mango, lemon) plus apple and peach—a real fruit salad of a wine. Similar on the palate, plenty of fruit balanced with tartness and minerality. A bit round on the finish, but really fantastic, particularly for the price. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Cono Sur Bicicleta Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Central, Chile: Retail $13. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% “Other Reds.” As I have mentioned before, I have done some work for Cono Sur, mostly concerning social media, and as such, I have tasted through much of their Bicicleta line several times. Every time I expect to be pleased as Cono Sur, even among the wine geek crowd, is well-respected for producing quality wines. Yet every time I am surprised–the Bicicleta wines always deliver well above their cost. Blackberry fruit, mocha, green and black pepper are the dominant aromas and many transfer to the palate along with some tart cherry and a bit of tobacco. This is not a game changer, but who needs a game changer on a Tuesday night? Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Fran Haas Pinot Nero Schweizer, Alto Adige: Retail $40. 100% Pinot Nero (Noir). Franz Haas is a 7th generation winemaker in Alto Adige, so I imagine he has a fairly good understanding of the landscape. While Alto Adige might not be the first region one thinks of when Pinot Noir is mentioned, this is a strong effort and shows the versatility of the notoriously fickle variety. Bright and clear in the glass with plenty of cherry, blackberry, and spice, the palate is youthful and fun. Great acidity and fruit, this twist-off is not for long-term aging, but near-term quaffing. Nice. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
Locations NZ-6 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand: Retail $20. As I have said on many occasions, before I tried my first Locations wine from Dave Phinney, I was skeptical: using the license plate bumper stickers as wine labels seemed a bit too gimmicky to me. Now, after trying through most of the wines from the past two vintages, I simply expect a high quality wine, as is the case here. Pale Yellow with a green tinge, with aromas of freshly cut grass, gooseberries, lemon, and, yes, cat pee. On the palate, quite tart, with plenty of fruit, mineral notes, and passionfruit. Incredibly clean and focused with depth on the mid-palate and a lengthy finish. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Neyen Espíritu de Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $40. 50% Carmenère, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have only been to Chile once, but since that visit, I have gradually more familiar with some of the producers and regions. In 2010, Neyen became part of the Augustin Huneeus wine family (which started with Quintessa in Napa in the late 80’s). Fairly dark and viscous in the glass with the dark fruit taking a bit of a back seat to the earthy notes, the pine, and the black pepper. On the palate, this has both Old and New World aspects: that rich fruit up front, spicy notes on the mid palate, and grippy tannins on the finish. This is fantastic now, but will certainly improve over the next several years. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Trenel Beaujolais Villages: Retail $18. 100% Gamay. Trenel, perhaps better known for its crèmes (think Crème de Cassis, for example), seems to be diving more into the wine business in both Beaujolais and Burgundy. The Villages (a tier above “Beaujolais” and a tier below being labeled as from one of the ten Beaujolais “Crus”) is darker in the glass than I anticipated, but pure Hawaiian Punch on the nose. There is also a touch of cassis, a savory component, and thyme. On the palate this is just fun: fruit, tampered acidity, and minerality. Very Good. 87-89 Points.