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 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc, St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $65. 100% Cabernet Franc. I was introduced to Ehlers Estate a few years back by a friend who used to work there and I have been a huge fan ever since. While all the wines are fantastic, I have a certain affinity for the Cabernet Franc, which is becoming increasingly rare in Napa. This wine is true to the variety: rich dark fruit with vanilla and just a hint of green pepper (which I love). The palate is fruity as well and introduces some black pepper and incredible balance. This is always one of my favorite domestic Francs and this is another example why. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2015 Foppiano Petite Sirah, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. I do not drink a ton of Petite Sirah. In fact, it barely reaches the level of “very little.” to me, the vast majority of PS is far too big for my meager frame (I am 6’4″ and 225-ish lbs). Here, we have an exception. Sure, it is big and fruity. It is dark and brooding. But it strives to be a bit less. Far from over-the-top, it has lovely dark fruit, nice acidity, and even a bit of earth. Fantastic. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Foppiano Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $30. Upon opening, I have to say I was not all that enthralled with this wine. Sure, it was just after the basketball team I coach (as an assistant) was curb-stomped by 25 points and it was not really that close. That first night this wine was a bit thin and lacking fruit without much depth–kind of like our team earlier. Tonight, a quite different wine, it’s full of black cherry, spice, and a touch of earth. The palate has plenty of reserved fruit, loaded with tartness, and fairly well-balanced. If only our team could keep their balance on the court or at least stop falling down. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Foppiano Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $18. Classic in so many ways: fresh cut grass, lemon peel, and yes, even cat pee on the nose with bright, tart fruit, a surprising creaminess, and even some white pepper on the palate. Look, I am not a huge Sauvignon Blanc fan, but this is a particularly compelling iteration. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Foppiano Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. A bit sinister in the glass: dark, opaque, brooding. The nose is fruity, but also dark with plum, blackberry, and cassis. On the palate, it is also rather dark, and quite fruity but not in an overly-extracted way with some other Zins. While this falls short of the “boisterous” California Zin style, it is still on the big side, but in a reserved, close-to-Old-World style. If that makes any sense at all. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Renzo Masi Erta e China Toscana IGT, Italy: Retail $16. 50% Sangiovese, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. This just might be a steal at $15: good fruit (raspberry jam) and acidity, while not a world-beater, this punches well above its class. Bravo. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon Anniversary Cabernet, Central Valley, CA: Retail $12. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Long before I became a “writer” I had an intense focus on Smoking Loon wines as I found them both particularly good as well as notably good values. Thus, when given the opportunity to sample this wine, I jumped. Fruity, to the point of extracted, mostly blackberry. The palate is fruity and tart, with evidence of extraction, but this is pretty good. Big, fruity, fun. Go with it. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Rodney Strong Upshot Red, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $30. 31% Merlot, 31% Zinfandel, 30% Malbec, 5% Riesling, 3% Petit Verdot. Rodney Strong is one of my favorite wineries; they have been producing wine in Sonoma County for close to half of a century and the wines are solid and always good values. This is a relatively new brand for the winery, which is based on blends. This, like the white, is a fine effort. Good fruit, acidity, balance, and intrigue. This screwtop is not intended for long-term cellaring, but it is delightful right now. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.