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 M. Chapoutier Côtes du Roussillon Villages Domaine de Bila-Haut L’Esquerda, France: Retail $27. Syrah, Grenache, Carignane. I seem to be with my boy Isaac James Baker on this wine: it definitely scores a “Wow” and is really close to a “Whoa.” Dark, almost inky dark with blackberry, anise, and a bit of spice on the nose. The palate is initially fruity, even into the “really fruity” (but far short of the “fruit bomb”) category. Decidedly New World (despite its Old World bona fides) and tasty on the palate with fruit-a-go-go both initially and well into the finish. Blackberry and black pepper characterize the palate with balanced acidity and a bit of tannin on the finish. Yum. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Domaine de Châteaumar Côtes du Rhône Cuvée Vincent: Retail $18. 100% Syrah. Côtes-du-Rhône can be a minefield; the appellation is huge, there is a ton of wine produced, and a lot of it is frankly total crap. When I popped this bottle, I was a bit worried: rather non-descript, devoid of fruit, pedestrian. So I let it sit for a while. Wow. What a difference: fruity, spicy, depth, tarty, and rather fantastic. This is decidedly near the top of the Côtes-du-Rhône I have tried. Just be sure to give it considerable air after opening. Yum. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2016 Domanico Cellars Lemberger Domanico Vineyard, Yakima Valley, WA: Retail $28. When I see “Lemberger” (or for that matter “Blaufränkisch”) on a label, I usually cringe for I rarely taste a good one. For me, the variety usually produces an overly funky, spicy, somewhat disjointed wine. For some reason, many in the wine industry go completely gaga over the grape and I usually don’t get it. Well, this wine from the jump, was fantastic: great fruit (blackberry and cherry), bright tartness, and a solid finish. No funk (even though I love the funk when measured), low on spice (although I like spice as well), and high on fun. Yum. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Tongue Dancer Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $50. James MacPhail is a study in contrast. Shy, quiet, and seemingly avoiding attention, his wines are big, boisterous, and in your face. This Chardonnay certainly fits with that description as it is rich, fleshy, and explosive. While there is oak, it is held in check, or perhaps more accurately, the oak is overwhelmed by the fruit. Golden in the glass with intense lemon curd oozing over the rim. That fruit is the story past the lips, but there is also ample acidity and depth. Whoa. While this wine could not be much further from James’ rather demure demeanor, it does more closely match his wife Kerry’s personality—bold but never brash, fun and fresh, but never flippant. Hmmm. Am I on to something here? Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
NV Domaine Valentin Zusslin Crémant d’Alsace Brut Zéro, France: Retail $25. Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois. Wow, what a nose: green apple, pineapple, and maybe even some candied apple. Bone dry. Completely dry. Holy cow kinda dry. Tart, green apple a touch of creaminess, and a flinty finish. Delightful. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2016 Viticoltori Alto Adige Pinot Grigio San Pietro, Italy: Retail $16. Lemon-lime tartiness on the nose with a bit of creaminess. The palate is perfectly delightful with initial tartness, subtle fruit, and a flintiness that defines, in my mind, a quality Pinot Grigio. I have only spent a hot minute in the region, but what I have seen is nothing short of incredible. The wines I have had from the area have certainly followed suit. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Yalumba Shiraz Samuel’s Collection, Barossa Valley, Australia: Retail $25. Under screwcap. I do not have a ton of experience with Aussie Shiraz, as, well, most that reach the U.S. is frankly not very good. As expected, this is all about the fruit: big, juicy red and dark berries abound both on the nose and palate. The acidity is in balance and leads to a strong finish. Not much tannin on the backend, though, so this is for rather quick consumption. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.