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 Michel Gassier Nostre Païs Costières de Nîmes, France: Retail $18. 35% Grenache, 25% Carignan, 20% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault. Over the past three decades or so, I have visited every major (and several minor) wine region in France. You name it, I have been there. Except one: Costières de Nîmes (which basically means the “curbs” or “surroundings” of Nîmes, a fairly large Roman town in the South of France, right next to Provence). Why haven’t I been there? Good question. At least in part, it is due to the fact that the region was (and still is, for the most part) known as the “wild, wild West” of French wines. With fewer rules and regulations than the other French wine growing regions, winemakers in the Costières de Nîmes have had a free rein to make wines in the style and method that they desire. Until recently, the results were a bit, um, inconsistent, but producers like Michel Gassier are turning that perception on its head. Dark, but not brooding, with red and black fruit, and bits of chocolate and tar. The palate is equally intriguing with fruit playing the main role and a supporting cast of acidity, mocha, and anise. Delightful. I hope this is the direction of the region and that I experience it first hand soon. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
Graham’s Tawny Port 20 Years, Portugal: Retail $65. I do not drink a ton of port as I have recently eschewed sweeter wines (waistline) and it seems as though I have my worst hangovers following even a modest ingestion of port. Hmmmm. We had friends over, though, and they were looking for something “extra” at the end of the night. Being that I did not want to delve too deeply into that request, I offered this Port instead: amber-colored with a rich caramel and nutty nose, this fortified wine is simply decadent. Nutty, rich, honeyed, a touch hot, this lasts for minutes (more?). Again, I am no port expert, but this is particularly tasty. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Hazelfern Winter Rosé Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Barbera. True Rosé. We drink a lot of rosé and we drink it year round–even before we moved to Houston where it can easily be in the 70s or 80s while most of the country is suffering from a blizzard or sub-zero temps. While still living in Philadelphia, there were plenty of times that we chilled our rosé in a three-foot snow bank outside of our kitchen. When I got an email about this “Winter Rosé” I was intrigued, but also conflicted–I firmly believe that a well-made rosé can be consumed at any time, not just lay the pool in bright sunshine. Darker than the “typical” rosé with rich red fruit (pomegranate, watermelon, cherry) and the palate is rich and vinous–no doubt from the 10 months on neutral oak. An interesting concept, a tasty wine, but I am not sure if I am sold on the “Winter” part since this would also work well with a summer barbecue. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 Two Angels Sauvignon Blanc High Valley, Lake County, CA: Retail $17. I have lost count of the number of times that I have stated that Sauvignon Blanc is far from my favorite variety. It is such a versatile and relatively easy growing grape that it can be grown in a variety of climates and terrors from pretty darned hot to relatively cool. I admit that I am not all that familiar (read: at all) with the High Valley AVA, but as its name suggests, there is a bit of elevation (1800 to 3000 feet) going on. In fact, it sounds like a fantastic place to ride a bike. Hmmmm. As for the wine, it is certainly lighter bodied in style and approach, which suits me just fine. Delicate flavors of citrus (lemon and grapefruit) along with considerable mineralogy make this a winner in my book—just don’t serve it too cold, as it really started to shine as it approached cellar temperature (55-60°F). Very Good. 87-89 Points.