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 Cashmere Black Red Wine, California: Retail $25. Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Carignane. When I see that the appellation is “California” I usually assume that it will be a rather non-descript soulless wine. That is what I prepared for here until I saw the producer: Cline Cellars. Game changer. I would argue that Cline is the single best producer of reasonably priced wine in the US. While this is certainly a bit more, at $25, than most of their line, I would argue that it is worth it. Fruity yet earthy with tart acidity, a smidgen of depth, and a decent finish. “Mama, mama, ain’t no denyin’, no denyin'” this is really fantastic. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2018 Ferraton Père et Fils Samorëns Côtes-du-Rhône Rosé: Retail $16. 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Cinsault. The Côtes-du-Rhône produces a ton of wine, so knowing the better producers is imperative. Ferraton is certainly one that I rely upon. Pale pink, strawberry fruit, a bit of citrus on the nose. The palate is tart and clean with ample fruit (strawberry again), tartness, and healthy dose of minerality. Nice. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Chenin Blanc California: Retail $14. I might be out on an island with this statement, but Chenin Blanc might be my favorite white wine variety. It is a tough call, but I know I get a bit frisky when putting a corkscrew into one (at least metaphorically). Musk-melon and tree fruit on the nose with just a touch of funk (and I like the funk). Really nice fruit on the palate with more than sufficient acidity and an above average finish. This screw-cap, for the price? I’m not sure you can beat it. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Leaping Horse Vineyards Chardonnay, California: Retail $10. 90% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier. Don’t let the Critter on the label fool you, Leaping Horse, the second wine of Ironstone Vineyards, is a solid bargain brand. Under screw and uncomplicated with floral and pineapple notes on the nose. The palate is, well, lovely: good fruit, bits of butter and hints of oak. You know? Ten bucks? You can do a lot worse. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Alto De Casablanca Pinot Noir Ritual, Casablanca Valley, Chile: Retail $21. Fairly dark for a Pinot both in the glass and on the nose with blackberry and anise. The palate is surprisingly lithe given the aromas, with impressive acidity, noticeable earth, and a decent finish. A Pinot for $20? A deal. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2016 Santa Barbara Winery Riesling 2.3 Lafond Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills: Retail $17. Not quite as rare as a Riesling from Napa, but rare nonetheless from an appellation dominated by Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The 2.3 represents the percentage of Residual Sugar by weight, thus rendering this decidedly Off-Dry. Golden in the glass with aromas of citrus, peach, and pear. The sweetness melds in nicely with the acidity, adding weight on the midpalate. Solid. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2016 Steele Writers Block Cabernet Franc, Lake County, CA: Retail $18. Fruity on the nose with blackberry and plum. Quite fruity on the palate with mostly blackberry, light in acidity, and also lacking in tannin. For immediate consumption. Not sure if this would help with my writing, but I’m only one glass in. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Stella Moscato IGT, Sicily, Italy: Retail $13. Moscato is one of those wines that you always have around. Why? Well, for one, your mother-in-law loves sweeter wines, and prefers those that sparkle. I have not witnessed a significant difference (statistical term) between moscatos—they tend to be fruity, slightly sweet, and extremely refreshing, which is the case here. As a plus, it’s Sicilian, which is a win. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2015 Toccata Classico Santa Barbara County: Retail $29. 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Freisa, 5% Merlot. I was running out the door to Sebastian’s baseball game and I grabbed this off the sample pile. My kid was pitching and winning 6-3 when he got pulled because of pitch count (if you do not know what that means, it would take too long to explain—it is neither good nor bad, just a thing). After he moved over to shortstop, I popped this puppy since my focus was no longer required (I mentioned it was baseball, right?). Dark berry fruit with some spice and black pepper. Brighter on the palate than the nose would indicate with a great balance of fruit, tartness, and body. Some tannin on the backend suggests this could even go a bit further. Tasty. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points. After writing the note, I checked out the back label: Freisa? Freisa? That might be worth buying a couple bottles on its own.