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 Brian Benson Cellars Zinfandel Arbor Creek Vineyard, Willow Creek District, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $40. 100% Zinfandel. It is far too simplistic to characterize all wines from Paso as “big” or “powerful.” While there are those that meet those descriptions, this Zin, from the western part of the appellation is proof that there is much more to the appellation than power or big fruit. While it does come off as a bit hot in the glass (15.8%–certainly on the high side), on the palate it is far from overbearing. Big (but far from huge) red fruit, plenty of weight, and a bit of gravitas–make no mistake, this is not a shy wine, but it has a demure side, despite its origin. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Samuel Charles Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast, CA: Retail $25. 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Malbec. Nice darker fruit (plum and blackberry) with a decided green pepper note, which I love (but there are many that don’t). The palate is fruity and fun with a bit of earth and a medium finish. A touch of sweetness (3 g/l), but that seems to work. This is my first interaction with this brand, and I have to admit I was a bit worried about the critter on the label, but this is a good, solid wine. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Cline Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi: Retail $12. The majority of the vines for this wine were planted in 1942, making the vines 75 years old in 2017. While there is no “legal” definition of “Old Vines” I am pretty sure this qualifies under the strictest definition. Not overly dark, but concentrated blackberry fruit. A bit of eucalyptus, and vanilla. Good fruit on the palate—I was worried this would be an extracted fruit bomb based on the nose, but this is lovely. While I would not say it is demure or even reserved as there is some healthy fruit on the palate, but it is balanced and delightful. At 14% alcohol this is a slightly restrained but still exuberant representation of the variety. A steal at $12. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2015 Inconceivable Wine The Fog Prince Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County: Retail $25. When I first unscrewed this bottle, I was not impressed–it was all closed up, not expressing much of anything. So I screwed the top back on tight and revisited it the following day. What a difference. Good fruit (tight red berries) and eucalyptus on the nose. The palate has nice fruit, a bit black cherry kool-aid-esque (but really in a good way), and more depth than I expected for a Pinot at this price point. On day one? Meh. But day 2? This was into Excellent status. But why the B.A.B.??? Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2014 Inconceivable Red Wine, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $25. 62.9% Syrah, 28.2% Grenache, 7.3% Mourvèdre, 1.6% Viognier (co-fermented with the Syrah). Under screw. Very dark color, almost black, in the stem, with really dark fruit on the nose: cassis, blackberry, anise. Solid fruit on the palate as well, and while this is not quite a blockbuster, it is pretty darned good, particularly for $25. Rich, deep, earthy, fruity, a veritable potpourri of wine attributes. Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Left Coast Cellars Pinot Gris The Orchards, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $18. 91% Pinot Gris, 9% Pinot Blanc. The fruit for this wine comes from vineyards planted on a former tree fruit orchard (hence the name), and has aromas of peach, pear, and tropical fruit (coincidence?). The palate is fruity and lively, with plenty of zest. Perhaps the leader in reasonably priced Willamette Valley wines has done it again: a rich, fruity, tart wine that is sure to please. At $18? A no-brainer. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Two Angels Petite Sirah, Red Hills Lake County: Retail $27. 100% Petite Sirah. Under screw. As with most Petite Sirah, dark and rich, loaded with black fruit, mocha, vanilla, id est, a bunch going on. Not overpowering on the palate, though, actually on the verge of reserved. Not just for a PS, but in general. A nice change from its teeth coloring, hangover inducing, high alcohol brethren. Nice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Zocker Grüner Veltliner Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, CA: Retail $20. SIP Certified. I tasted this on day one, and well, it was not all that interesting. Sure, it was plenty good, but I did not realize until day two, that this screw-top wine is actually pretty fantastic. For the first time in a long time, I actually checked the biodynamic calendar and Day One was a “root day” while Day Two was a “fruit day.” Normally I think that whole calendar is well, a bit, um… I should leave that for another post. Did the stark difference between the two days push me closer to embracing biodynamics? Maybe. Ish. As for day two? Lemon and lime with wet rock on the nose and the palate is quite fruity and surprisingly full-bodied. Sure, there is acidity, but not the enamel removing, intense acidity that is usually associated with Grüner. No, this is luscious and rich likely due to the fact that it comes from the Paragon Vineyard, often described as one of California’s Grand Crus. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.