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 The Federalist Zinfandel, Lodi, CA: Retail $22. 93% Zinfandel, 7% Syrah. This is the third or fourth vintage of this wine that I have reviewed and each time I could not help but get a smile on my face as I pulled each cork. Lodi was my first press trip (I was selected as an alternate after three or four others passed) and I met a few people on that trip that I would consider some of my better friends in the wine “industry” sharing many a bottle and countless laughs since. We did not visit The Federalist on that trip, but I have been in touch with the fine people at Terlato Wines, owners of the winery, since quite early in the life of this blog, rendering this wine one that strikes very near the core of my “birth.” Far from “dark” the color still suggests a “big” wine with intense, juicy red fruit and a touch of mint. The fruit on the palate is luscious, juicy, and rich dominating from start to finish, and while not “sweet” there is a maple syrup (or is it brown sugar?) aspect that suggests dessert or a hedonistic breakfast. This is a crowd pleaser and a quick drinker (very little evidence of tannin on the back-end)–would pair very well with Texas barbecue. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 The Federalist Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA: Retail $18. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese. OK. So my boy, Ben Franklin is on the label. As a “native” of Philadelphia (alright, I was not born there, nor grew up there, but I spent more time in the 19130 zip code than any other in my life–that makes me a “native,” right?), there is not much that gets my juices flowing than a Benjamin (it has nothing to do with the fact that he graces the $100 bill as well, I swear). Inky dark in the glass with rich blackberry, a bit of plum, and hints of black pepper on the nose. Big, luscious fruit on the palate, with spice and pepper on the mid-palate, and that fruitiness returning on the finish. This is not a life-changer, although this might come close to a channel-changer. Big, fruity, fun. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Lucas & Lewellen Sauvignon Blanc Estate, Santa Barbara County: Retail $18. Louis Lucas and Royce Lewellen met over four decades ago and formed a friendship that would evolve into the Solvang, California winery that bears their names. Light, pale yellow in the glass with subtle citrus and crushed rock. On the palate, this is delightful, not overdone like so many Sauvignon Blancs these days. Good fruit with just the right amount of tartness, just a wonderfully balanced wine, near the top of the best SBs I have had this year. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2016 Lucas & Lewellen Estate Hidden Asset Red Wine Santa Barbara County: Retail $29. 32% Malbec, 30% Merlot, 26% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2.5% Cabernet Franc. “Hidden Assets” refer to a number of the winery’s plantings of somewhat rare varieties, particularly for Santa Barbara County. A dark, brooding wine with dark red fruit, sage, and clove. Fruity and jammy on the palate with a lush, heavy mouthfeel. After an hour or so open, this is fantastic on its own, but could benefit from some beefy protein. Texas BBQ anyone? Outstanding. 90–92 Points.
2017 Sidebar Syrah Rosé, Russian River Valley: Retail $21. Sidebar is the second label of Ramey Wine Cellars, with an emphasis on creating wines that are bright and fresh that can be enjoyed while waiting for the Ramey bottlings to mature. I first tried this rosé a few years ago on my first visit to Ramey and I was impressed then–a True Rosé that was darned tasty. To perhaps no surprise, the current iteration is still True and it might even be tastier. David Ramey has a long history of improving vineyards and wines and this is proof. Dark pinkish orange with oodles of red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, cranberry), and dashes of white pepper and flint. Luscious in the mouth with waves of red berry fruit, fantastic tartness, and considerable body. Yes, this is fun, tasty, and whimsical, but it is also a serious wine that, if you take the time, will challenge your notions of rosé wine. Trust me. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.