The Random Samples (Imports)—7/27/2019

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 ComeSummer 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 Vino Dei Fratelli Pinot Grigio, Collio, Italy: Retail $13. As a rule, when I see “Pinot Grigio” I cringe a bit. Until relatively recently, many Italian regions were producing Pinot Grigio, and most of it was, well, insipid. The exceptions were those produced in the north, in Alto Adige and Fruili. Today, the tide is certainly turning for perhaps the most well-known Italian white and the region of Collio, where this wine was made, is a big reason why. Flowery with an abundance of tree fruit (mostly pear) on the nose leads to a wonderfully balanced wine with good fruit, bright acidity, and a juicy mouthfeel. This is by no means a world-beater, but it restores my faith that quality Pinot Grigio under $15 exists in Italy. Very Good. 87-89.

2016 Pascual Toso Malbec Single Estate Reserve Barrancas Vineyards, Argentina: Retail $125. 100% Malbec. Now that I have been blogging about wine for the better part of a decade, I occasionally receive pretty good bottles of wine to review. Based on it’s suggested retail ($125), this has to be considered “pretty good” or even better. And it is. Dark fruit (plum, blackberry) on the nose with ample, yet reserved fruitiness on the palate. This is much more Old World than New in scope, and for me, that is a good thing. The tannins are supple, inviting a more immediate consumption, but another 3-5 years would be ideal. Excellent. 91-93 Points.

2016 Donnafugata Etna Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso, Sicily, Italy: Retail: $35. 100% Nerello Mascalese. When I see “Donnafugata” I almost invariably smile. The first thought is of the people who own, work, care for the winery and vines–all lovely and joyous people. The second thought is of Sicily; I have been two times now and I can’t wait to get back. Glorious shorelines and beaches, welcoming cities and towns, and Mount Etna. A majestic volcano from whose slopes these grapes are farmed, is also the spiritual hub of the island. I hope that the recent eruptions are merely minor disruptions and that all will be back to “normal” soon. Translucent ruby in the glass, with oodles of red fruit and a touch of minerality (volcanic rock?). The palate is light and inviting with plenty of fruit and an earthy finish. Serve at cellar temperature. With a smile. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

2017 Donnafugata Bell’Assai, Vittoria DOC, Sicily: Retail $28. 100% Frappato. Frappato is not only fun to say, but the Sicilian variety is also a delight to drink, and Donnafugata makes a compelling interpretation. An interesting and enticing nose of eucalyptus, delicious red fruit, and a bit of cooking spice. The palate is quite fruity and luscious with some depth on the midpalate and some spice on the finish. This is a fantastic summertime red for it is rather light on its feet (13.5% ABV)–I’d drink it at cellar temperature while grilling–then keep it flowing when it’s time to eat! Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.

2015 Ferraton Père & Fils St. Joseph La Source: Retail $32. 100% Syrah. If there is one place in the Rhône where I have not been, but I have to visit, it would be Saint Joseph. Sure, I would love to go to Côte Rotie, Hermitage, and Condrieu, but this lesser-known of the aforementioned appellations seems more my speed. Earthy with tart red fruit, a bit of cardamom, and just a hint of Brett. The palate is solid old-world goodness, not over-the-top like so many Californian Syrahs, with earthiness, the right amount of fruit, acidity, and a strong finish. Sure, it’s not going to change my life, but then I’m not sure it needs changing. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.

2017 Pasqua Passimento Bianco, Veneto IGT: Retail $15. 100% Garganega. My first introduction to this wine was at a private tasting at a restaurant quite close to my house and I was impressed then. And I remain impressed. The grapes are picked and then dried, losing 30-40% of their weight in the process. The result is a concentrated, full-bodied, voluptuous wine with great tree fruit flavors and a lengthy, rich finish. 15 bucks? I am not sure you can do much better. Excellent. 90-92 Points.

2016 Pasqua Passimento Rosso, Romeo & Juliet, Veneto IGT: Retail $15. Merlot 40%, Corvina 30%, Croatina 30%. Fairly dark in the glass with juicy red and blue fruits, a bit of tobacco, and some earth. The palate is certainly fruit-forward and concentrated as one might expect from a passimento, but far from heavy. Really nice flavors and balance–I know it is a big producer and this is an inexpensive wine, but like the white, I am impressed. The label is a bit too busy for me, but that is really my only gripe. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Corvina, Croatina, Frappato, Garganega, Malbec, Merlot, Nerello Mascalese, Pinot Grigio, Syrah. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Random Samples (Imports)—7/27/2019

  1. cpalatejane says:

    So glad you enjoyed the wines, Jeff, and saw fit to include them in your latest post on imported wines.

    Also, I really enjoyed your update from Rome and all the fun family pics. Cannot believe how Nathan has grown – he looks almost as tall as you now. Looks like you’re enjoying the weather there and recovering well from the really awful journey there.

    Fond best to you all,



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