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 Bishop’s Peak (Talley Vineyards) Chardonnay San Luis Obispo County: Retail $24. Under screw. Great tropical notes, a bit of citrus, and just a hint of vanilla in the glass. Great tartness and freshness with considerable minerality. While the Anything But Chardonnay crew might eschew this out of principle, it certainly has merits that would encourage those dissidents to reconsider. Bright, tart, and nowhere near oaky, this is a stellar wine at a more than reasonable price. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Clos De La Tech Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains Estates, CA: Retail $50. I started receiving Clos de la Tech samples a couple of years ago and when I got that first bottle, I had never heard of the brand. Now? It is one of the wines that I open with intense anticipation. Sure, there is the Big Ass Bottle (B.A.B.) which serves absolutely no purpose other than increasing its carbon footprint significantly. The wine though? Fantastic as always. Rich dark fruit, hints of menthol, earth. Stellar. And a Whoa. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2017 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $23. Don Carano died a little over two years ago, but the winery he built with his wife Rhonda lives on. This screwtop Chard at $23 is certainly a bargain: bright lemon curd, minerality, and touches of vanilla and butter on the nose with all that and just slight hints of oak (21% new French) on the palate. This is certainly a New World, even “California” Chardonnay with the oak and malolactic fermentation (85%), but it is far, even very far, from an oak or butter bomb. This is particularly delicious. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $38. 91% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah. A bit of a B.A.B (Big Ass Bottle), but the aromas emanating from this rather dark elixir are enchanting: cassis, vanilla, spice. Yowza. The palate is equally enticing: great fruit, nice acidity, depth. It’s all there. Fantastic. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
NV Francois Montand Crémant du Jura Blanc de Blancs Brut, France: Retail $24. Colombard, Ugni Blanc, and Chardonnay. Light straw in the glass with citrus and green apple, this is a ubiquitous French sparkler that really delivers at the price. Whether an office party, a niece’s wedding, or just a Tuesday night this is always consistent and always good. Tart with a touch of sweetness and ample fruit, this is not a world-beater, but it is French, and it has bubbles. ‘Nuff said. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2018 Renzo Masi Chianti Rùfina, Italy: Retail $12. 95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino. I wouldn’t say that I drink a ton of Chianti, but I have been around that block numerous times. Rùfina is one of the smallest DOCG sub-zones in Chianti, but it is perhaps the best known in this country (Chianti Classico is its own DOCG region–it’s not a sub-region of Chianti–confused yet?). It is also at a higher elevation which means the Sangiovese can ripen a bit more slowly, resulting in deeper flavors and more complex wines. While this is not the tastiest Chianti I have ever tried, it certainly has its merits: subtle fruit, great acidity, soft tannins. It might improve in the short-term, but it is quite good now. Good to Very Good. 86-88 Points.
2018 Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: Retail $16. Under screw. By this point, I have had numerous wines and vintages from Peter Zemmer, and every bottle has been stellar. This is another. Bright Meyer lemon and minerality on the nose. The palate is tart and fresh, but could use a tad more acidity. But I nitpick, this is another stellar wine from the House, and a bargain at its suggested retail. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.