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.
2016 Michel Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Côtes du Roussillon Villages Latour de France AOC, France: Retail $35. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan.. I have been receiving this wine for the past handful of years, and it is always one of my favorites to open. While I often taste a wine and pass along the open bottle to a neighbor (Dale Carnegie would be proud), I always empty this bottle with little outside assistance. Why? Well, this is always a fun wine to drink: fruity, depth, lengthy finish. Dark berry fruit on the nose and the palate, earth halfway trough, plenty of tartness on the backend. Just a lovely wine year after year. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Odfjell Armador Cabernet Sauvignon, Valle del Maipo, Chile: Retail $15. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. When I first looked at the label, I thought it was from Amador County, in the Sierra Foothills, but a closer reading revealed how far off I was! Made from organically grown grapes, this is dark and a bit brooding in the glass with dark berry fruit, mocha, and a bit of tar. Nice fruit on the palate, mostly cassis and blackberry, a bit of earthiness, and the aforementioned roofing material (I know it sounds weird, but us wine geeks like to make up stuff). All of this is followed by an above-average finish. A solid wine at any price, close to a steal at $15. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Wairau River Family Estate Pinot Noir, Marlborough, NZ: Retail $20. It would take a few hours (at least) of therapy, but I am pretty sure that of all the wine regions I have yet to visit, New Zealand would be at the top of the most desired list. Why? Well, it is not for the Sauvignon Blanc, that’s for sure—yes, there are several that are quite tasty and well made, but for the most part, I find them overly acidic, laden with cat pee, and yes, over-the-top. The Pinot from the region? It could not be further a drift: good fruit, yet restrained, ample acidity and depth (but not mind-blowers on either front), just generally nice, quaffable wines. As is the case here: good fruit, a bit thin but tasty on the mid-palate, and a slightly above-average finish. Not much more to ask. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Yangarra Estate Roussanne McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $35. 100% Roussanne. Pale, yet slightly golden with tropical notes of guava, lemon, and a bit of white spice. The palate is lush and rich with fruit, tartness, and mineral notes–all in balance. I do not have a ton of experience with Aussie Roussanne, but this is particularly enticing. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2014 Yangarra Estate Shiraz McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $35. 100% Shiraz. Dark red fruit, with a touch of funk, dominate the nose, with touches of anise, black pepper, and the Oxford comma. Fruity and rich on the palate, with a bit of stewedness, a healthy dose of acid, and some earthy spice. While this is a bit outside of my “normalcy” this is a healthy, vibrant cross between the old and new worlds. And that is a good thing. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio, Südtirol-Alto Adige DOC: Retail $18. A bit of color in the glass—certainly straw, maybe on the verge of golden, even. Citrus notes predominate here on the nose with lemon, lime, and some minerality. Rich and full on the palate—the wines from this region really should be called Pinot “Gris” since they typically have more body and flavor (as in Alsace, France), than the largely bland Pinot Grigio made in some other regions of Italy, and that certainly is the case here. All of that flavor leads to a lengthy finish. If all Pinot Grigio were this good, I would not have such disdain for the poor little grape. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.