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 Castoro Cellars Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $20. I was just in Paso last year and this certainly evokes several pleasant memories of that trip. This is not the most expensive bottle of wine from the appellation, but it does not try to be. Inky dark in the glass with blackberry, black pepper, and a touch of tar. The palate is, well, fun, with plenty of fruit, a subtle tartness, and ample tannins on the backend. I had to double-check that this was indeed a $20 wine as it punches well above its weight. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Domaine Carneros Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros, CA: Retail $44. I have long hailed Domaine Carneros as one of the top producers of domestic sparkling wine. I have admired their bubbles for years and they have one of the best tasting room experiences in California. I was admittedly a little worried, though, when they sent me this still Pinot Noir to sample. Why? Well, my experience has been that sparkling wine houses, um, stink, at making still wines. Why? Well, in my opinion, bubble producers are great at producing fruit high in acidity that translate well into sparkling wine that get much of their character from the aging process. When making still wines, though, that aging process is decidedly different and the end wine is much more reliant on the flavors in the fruit. Having said all of that, this was a complete delight. Great dark berry fruit, a touch of vanilla, and more than a couple shakes of spice. Nice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony, California: Retail $12. 85% Symphony, 10% Muscat, 5% Chenin Blanc. I was trying to get a handle on my out of control samples and I came across this wine, which I believe I have had for a while. It is also, I believe, my first taste of Symphony, a wine grape that is a cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris. As one might expect, given the parentage, this is an aromatic wine of orange rind, floral notes, and honey. The palate is fruity, off-dry, and a lot of fun. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Phantom Chardonnay, Clarksburg, CA: Retail $20. For a while, I have felt that Bogle is one of the better value-driven producers in California, but since I have started this blog, I have not tried many of their wines. Thus, when I was asked if I would like to try a bottle of their new higher-end Chardonnay, I said “yes” without hesitation. Golden yellow in the glass with aromas of ripe peach and pear, vanilla, and oak. The palate is fruity up front with plenty of tropical notes (mango), with a nice dose of citrus tartness, and decided oak. Yes, this is a fairly big white, more of a traditional style California Chardonnay, but it deserves attention–it’s quite tasty. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Scheid Vineyards Chardonnay, Escolle Road Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $45. Under screw. I love the fact that this nearly $50 bottle of wine is under screw cap–I wish more mid to high-end producers would follow suit. A pale yellow with a golden tinge and aromas of lemon curd, with golden delicious apple, Bosc pear, and subtle oak. The palate is bright and vivacious, but far from over-the-top. Delightful. Plenty of fruit balanced with a citrus tartness, a modicum of heft, and a lingering finish. I have tasted through a few of the Scheid offerings, and they all have been stellar. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley: Retail $35. I would venture to say that there are not many Rieslings with a Napa Valley designation. What does not take much deliberation, though, is the fact that there is no doubt in my mind that this is the best such appellated Riesling. Lemon zest and a touch of petrol, with mineralogy and verve. Use the word “verve” a lot on this site, but it has never been so apt a description. Tart and vibrant on the palate with that lemon (although subtle compared to the nose), intense minerality, and a finish that persists long after I have looked up a synonym for verve (none are fitting). Really close to a Whoa. Excellent. 91-93 Points.