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.
2017 Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon Uco Valley, Argentina: Retail $13. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The largest producer of wines from Organic Grapes in South America. Dark in the glass with dark berry fruit, a bit of black pepper, and a touch of earth. The palate is quite fruity with plenty of earth, and oodles of black pepper. Fun and good, but short of life-changing—but I might need to re-evaluate that term. Can something alter a life without challenging the tenets that one holds so dear? Can one swear allegiance to another entity without any reference? OK, I got a little too deep there. This is good, particularly for the price. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Michel Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages: Retail $18. Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. To me, the moniker “legend” is affixed to far too many individuals. For me, I consider few to be legends. Johnny Bench was my hero growing up and he remains a legend to me despite his short-comings as a husband. Abraham Lincoln was another personal hero of mine (and many others, I imagine) but, well, I have yet to find a stain on his reputation. Then there was Steve Martin, a ‘70s stand-up comic. I bought each his albums (A Wild and Crazy Guy) and even defended his Novocaine movie— a comedy about dentistry. But then I met him and he turned out to be a bit of a Jerk (pun intended). So, even for me, the term “Legend” has its issues. In the world of wine, though, I still hold out that Michel Chapoutier is one—he transformed the way the world sees wines from the south of France, and that has to be legendary (and there is no evidence that he ever sported an arrow through his head). Dark red fruit, good spice and cedar. The palate is fruity, but reserved, with nice acidity and noticeable tannins. For the price? This is more than a reasonable choice. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Gaja Sito Moresco Langhe DOP, Italy: Retail $65. 35% Nebbiolo, 25% Merlot, 25% Barbera, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is what some have called a “Super Piemontese” wine—one that skirts the regulations of the area with a blend of the local Nebbiolo with some international (i.e., French) varieties. I have had the last few vintages for this wine and they have been impressive with generally really good fruit, depth, and length. This wine is a departure, for sure. Don’t get me wrong, it is tasty, in an old world sort of way, but it is much more austere than the previous bottles. Fairly dark in the glass with aromas of blackberry, plum and black pepper. While there is fruit on the palate, it is quite reserved and angular, as most is focused on the tart acidity. Some depth on the mid-palate and an above average, but tart finish. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
Martini & Rossi Rosé Sparkling Wine, Extra Dry: Retail $13. Glera, Riesling Italico, Nebbiolo. 12-17 grams of sugar. The grapes come from several regions in Italy, thus no DOC. A relatively new addition to the brand as it was just launched a year ago, Rosé has recently been approved to be made under the Prosecco DOC, so it will be interesting to see what happens to this wine in the M&R line. Fruity and bright with great red berry flavors. The dosage is only barely evident as it balances out the tartness. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
New Age Blanco Dulce Natural: Retail $13. 90% Torrontés, 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Made in the Moscato d’Asti style, this low alcohol (9%), delicately sweet wine is a bit of a conundrum. First the negatives: there is no vintage date, nor any indications about how this wine is made and most of the information on the back label is dedicated to cocktail recipes for this wine. The positives? They far outweigh the negatives. Fruity (I could have sworn that there was some Moscato here), fun (a bit of sparkle never hurt anyone), and fresh (the tangy acidity is impressive). In all, not a mind-blower, but oh, is it fun! Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali, Italy: Retail $27. I have known the fine people at Terlato for several years now and I have enjoyed many of the wines that they import into the U.S. (Piper-Heidsieck, Nino Franco, etc.), but the first time they offered me a bottle of their eponymous Pinot Grigio, I was not all that intrigued–I knew they knew the importing “game” but did that translate into winemaking? After a bit of research, I was surprised to discover that they had been producing this wine for well over a decade. The first vintage I tried was the 2014, and it was very good, maybe more. But when I tried the 2016 vintage, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was phenomenal. This 2017? Tree (peach and pear) and citrus fruit lead to a luscious mouthfeel–great weight, coating the mouth, but plenty of acidity and depth. Another stellar PG from Terlato, and as one who typically avoids Pinot Grigio as a rule, this is simply fantastic. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Peter Zemmer Rolhüt Pinot Noir, Alto Adige-Sudtirol, Italy: Retail $18. I am a huge fan of the wines from this region, which is mostly known for its racy, brilliant whites. This Pinot falls under those same descriptors: bright cherry, rose petals, and hints of white pepper. On the palate, no one would confuse this with a Russian River Pinot, but this is rich in its own reserved way. Good fruit throughout, hints of earth, and plenty of acidity. If you like the fuller-bodied California style of Pinot, this is likely not for you, but if you like a leaner, but still fruit driven red, this is no doubt in your wheelhouse. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.