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.
This week, there is a tangential relationship in that each of the bottles here have suggested retail prices somewhere north of $50, which is far more than the $12 average price per bottle in this country. Thus, these wines I would consider “special occasion” wines, while other people I know (who have requested to remain anonymous) call these “Fancy Pants” wines (although they provide no objection to sample these wines with me).
M.V. Bruno Paillard Rosé Première Cuvée: Retail $60. 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay. The last time I tried this wine I was not a fan for some reason. This go around was a much different story as the pale salmon wine with a very fine bead emanates strawberry, a bit of cocoa, a nutty aspect, and considerable minerality. Subtle but luscious fruit, a tart strawberry, is buoyed by the delicate sparkle, and a racy acidity. I am flabbergasted as to why I was not blown away the first time I tasted this with Alice Paillard. Well, I am making up for it this go around. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2013 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cépages Sonoma County: Retail $80. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot. “Cinq Cépages” (five varieties) is always a blend of the five classic Bordeaux varieties. I have a bit of experience with older vintages of this wine, but this is the first time that I have had it so relatively close to release. On the dark side of red wines, with aromas of blackberry, black currant, white pepper, and sage. After some time open, this initially rather closed wine really opened up, particularly on the palate. Wow. Really rich fruit, oodles of depth on the mid-palate, and quite spicy. There is a ton going on here, and it certainly needs some time, but this is true to its pedigree and I am oh so happy that the winery sent along a couple of bottles–I will be holding on to the other for at least a decade (unless my wife finds it first). Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain: Retail $100. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Howell Mountain AVA evokes a host of emotions, most of them lofty and well-deserved. This wine is a perfect example–classic Howell Mountain ripe black raspberry, a bit of mocha and a touch of black pepper. On the palate, my first thought was “Wow, this is young” but it is also so very nice–rich, ripe fruit, that mocha come back into play, and a lengthy finish. There is some tannic interplay on the finish, but not extreme, so while this could use more time, it is still gangbusters now. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2011 Cortonesi La Mannella Brunello di Montalcino DOCG: Retail $75. 100% Sangiovese. Having just returned from Tuscany, I was excited to find this bottle in my rack of samples that overflowed while I was out of town. After the rather pedestrian pasta that I prepared for my progeny, I popped this bottle and settled down for a little binge-watching of Orange is the New Black. Slightly cooked blackberries with an infusion of Kola berry, anise, black pepper, and violet on the palate, followed by restrained fruit, spirited acidity, and a rush of the kola berry and anise on the finish with noticeable, but mostly integrated tannins. Fantastic. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2016 Jordan Chardonnay Russian River Valley: Retail $33. While this does not really fit my rather loose and arbitrary definition of “Fancy Pants,” tasting the wine it is very clear that it belongs in this somewhat loftier group. I do not have a ton of experience with Jordan Chardonnay, but there is no doubt that it is one of the stalwarts in California Chard. At $33, this might also be the best value for the variety in Sonoma. More Chablisien in style even though it is aged for nearly half a year in new French oak. Lemon peel, peach, and considerable minerality on the nose, the wine is light and lively on the palate. Sure, the oak is there, but the fruit, the crushed rock, and the brilliant acidity weave the story on the palate. While certainly not “inexpensive” this wine punches well over its weight. It also could use a little time, though, as the fruit and acidity need a bit of time to subside. Now? Outstanding. 90-92 Points. In 3-5 years? Potentially 92-94 Points.
2014 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley: Retail $58. I visited Jordan a few years ago, and it still amazes me that the winery only produces two wines a year: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. That’s it. No “reserve,” no vineyard designate, no rosé. Just two. Tasting the wines, it is clear that they know what they are doing and that the two wines are likely the best values in “premium” wines in Northern California. This Cab is dark in the glass with plenty of dark berry fruit, eucalyptus, sage, and dark spice. The palate is certainly fruit dominant, but there is plenty more: earth, tobacco, spice. The tannins are certainly present, but they are on the soft side, which suggests both a cellaring potential versus immediate consumption conundrum. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.