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 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc, Beeswax Vineyard, Central Coast, CA: Retail $28. 55% Grenache Blanc, 36% Rousanne, 9% Picpoul. Inspired, as many are many of the Bonny Doon wines, by their brethren in the Southern Rhone Valley, this white takes after the whites of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Slight golden accent to the straw-yellow wine with plenty of lemon curd, touches of spicy Asian pear, and honeycomb. The palate is nothing short of delightful: round and rich initially, this is without a doubt a crowd pleaser, and the type of crowd where I would fit right in. Under $30 and under screw? Giddy-the-heck-up. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2017 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Sonoma Coast: Retail $24. Fairly golden in color, with aromas of pineapple, butter, and a touch of oak. The oak and butter are not nearly as prominent on the palate, with good fruit, plenty of weight, and a nice tartness. While the nose might make one think that this is a big California Chard, the palate proves that this is much more middle of the road with the right amounts of fruit, butter, and oak. For the price? This is a solid wine, no doubt about it. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Farmhouse Red Wine California: Retail $15. 39% Merlot, 21% Syrah, 20% Zinfandel, 9% Grenache, 7% Petite Sirah, 3% Mourvèdre. Medium ruby-red in color, with rich extracted red fruit, and a bit of mocha and vanilla on the nose. Big, big fruit on the palate with tons of vanilla. This is a porch pounder, crowd pleaser type of wine. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2017 Left Coast Cellars Estate Rosé Willamette Valley, Oregon: Retail $18. 54% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 6% Pinot Blanc. For the past few years, Left Coast made their rosé with only Pinot Noir, but this year they changed it up quite a bit with a healthy dose of Meunier, giving it a more floral aspect and sweeter fruit. Pale salmon in the glass with tart strawberry, cherry, and a dash of smoke. Good fruit, nice level of acidity. Good flavors. Solid rosé. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Markham Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley: Retail $25. 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah. Markham is a brand that has been around for some time (“some time” as in since 1874). Does that make it “old news”? Hardly, but it may cause one to pass by the bottle, opting instead for a “newer” kid on the block, a “fresher” face in the crowd. That would be a mistake. Dark in color and in fruit flavors (plum, cassis, blackberry), this is not the Merlot shunned by Miles in the infamous scene. No, this is a serious wine. Sure, there is an abundance of fruit, but that is one of the luxuries of being a Napa wine—there is no need to ever sacrifice fruit. There is also depth, though, with earthy flavors on the mid-palate and through the finish that is also marked by soft tannins. Plenty to like here. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Sidebar Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley: Retail $28. This is the “side” project for David Ramey, which focuses on “diverse” varieties from several different appellations in California. While not many would necessarily refer to a NorCal Zin as “diverse” there is not a ton of it planted in the Russian River Valley. Most see the grape as needing a rather warmer climate than one typically finds in this region known more for Pinot Noir. The fruit, according to the label of this yet to be released wine, hails from a heritage vineyard with 14 different varieties that were originally planted in the late 1890s (whoa). A bit brooding in the glass with an inky purple color and dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis) and just a hint of vanilla, this is quite graceful on the palate. Yes, there are oodles of dark fruit, along with anise and a bit of forest floor, but this is far from your “typical” jammy Zin. A burst of fruity power, followed by a splash of finesse, and a lengthy finish. While far from shy, this is a welcome departure from what would expect from a California Zinfandel. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Stoller Family Estate Katie’s Brut Rosé Dundee Hills OR: Retail $65. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. Light salmon color with a fervent sparkle of fine bubbles. Cherry with strawberry and plenty of baked bread. Great red fruit with a distinct and persistent tartness, this is one of the fruitiest sparklers I have tried. Lush fruit throughout, this is a delight to drink. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.