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.
2018 Georges Dubœuf Beaujolais-Villages, France: Retail $18. 100% Gamay. 2018 was a stellar vintage by practically any measure in Beaujolais and this Villages falls right in line with the rest of the wines from its “birth” year. Red berry fruit along with that classic Beaujolais bubblegum on the nose with all that fruit and more on the palate. Good balance, acidity, and even some minerality are there as well. Quite good. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2014 Pellet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Pellet Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $95. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. Quite dark in the glass both in color and aroma: dense blackberry, black pepper, vanilla, and just the slightest touch of heat. Reserved, but also fruity, this seems to have an Old World focus but can’t help showing its New World bono fides. Lush, rich, and jovial, the back-end tannins suggest some benefit from short-term cellaring, but it is delicious now. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Pellet Estate Chardonnay Un-Oaked Sunchase Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $42. Big Ass Bottle (B.A.B.). Under Screw. Right off the bat: very cool that this wine is north of 40 bucks and under screw. Cool. As for the un-cool? A B.A.B. that serves no other purpose than to burn fossil fuels, add to the cost of the wine, and to fool the customer into thinking that this is a “quality” wine (since it’s heavy? really?). This wine does not need it–it is gorgeous. Light in color, but heavy in minerality, there is a bit of funk to this wine (but I love the funk). The palate is bright pear and peach (but more of the latter), with lip-smacking acidity and a finish that lasted until I brushed my teeth considerably later. I dig it. But not the heavy bottle. Yeesh. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2016 Pellet Estate Chardonnay Sunchase Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $68. Another Big Ass Bottle (B.A.B.). While the previous wine was fermented and aged in stainless steel, this beauty was 100% barrel fermented and aged. Golden in the glass, almost surprisingly so, with already well-developed secondary aromas of honey, dried apricot, and even caramel. The palate is delightfully balanced between the rich flavors, the tangy acidity, and a slight mineral aspect just before the finish. This is a delightful wine, strategically situated between Old World restraint and New World opulence. Lovely. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2018 Orsi Family Biancolella Filomena’s Block, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $26. 100% Biancolella. A lot to unpack here. First, this is a variety that is native to Italy and completely unheard of in the U.S. It reaches its height, perhaps, on the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. It found its way to Healdsburg via Bernie Orsi whose grandmother, Filomina, brought the family to the U.S. from her native Ischia. It also turns out that Bernie is a long-time resident of Tiburon, CA, which I consider my old pedaling grounds (any cyclist who lives in San Francisco or southern Marin County knows the “Tiburon Loop” better than the contours of the back of their own hand). A slightly yellow to straw color with white peach and even whiter flowers dominate the nose. The palate is best described as “medium-bodied.” Sure, there is fruit, acid, and tartness, but there is also body, depth, and a bit of weight. Delightful. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Orsi Family Fiano, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $26. 100% Tempranillo. Like with many of the wines made by Orsi, you do not see a ton of Fiano in the U.S. In fact, outside of the Campania region and the island of Sicily, Fiano practically does not exist (it was all but extinct in the latter half of the 20th Century). Bernie Orsi introduced it to the Dry Creek Valley and based on this bottle, it might just have a new home away from home. Bright, fruity (Meyer lemon), honeyed, and even tropical. A near-perfect summer wine that we enjoyed on this February evening (OK, I live in Houston and it was 73 degrees today, but still). Nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.