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 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant, CA: Retail $20. 52% Grenache, 35% Cinsault and 13% Syrah. Just last vintage, this wine was more than double the price and I believe closed with a cork. Now, a $20 screwtop seemed like the perfect wine to take to the community pool for the first “First Friday” of 2020. Fruity and spicy on the nose with raspberry coulis, a bit of mincemeat, and even clove. The palate is fruity and inviting with a zingy tartness and a hint of tannin on the finish. It will no doubt be a crowd-pleaser unless I decide to keep it all to myself. Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, CA: Retail $60. 87.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5% Merlot. Ah Ehlers, how I love thee. You tantalize, you titillate, you entice. You lure, you tempt, you beguile. Yet all the while you are demure, sedate, and unassuming. But you are a devil, Ms. Ehlers, a wolf in sheep’s grape skins. While you hope to lure in the unassuming, I know your game: big fruit, intense flavors, lasting finish. You hope to conquer the wine world. And you just might succeed. Excellent to Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2018 Henry’s Drive Sauvignon Blanc H, Adelaide, Australia: Retail $30. Pretty much your prototypical down-under Sauv Blanc with grassy and tart notes. The palate is tart and bright with plenty of tropical and citrus fruit, oodles of acidity, and noticeable minerality, lovely. Not my favorite expression of the variety, but this is certainly lovely. Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2015 J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $50. Holy sheet, that is a heavy bottle! Not a “hmpfh, is that bottle heavy, or is it just me?” But, rather, “Holy crap, that person just robbed me, what can I do? How about I hurl this bottle at him? Well, I would, but this will likely rip my rotator cup to shreds.” Yeah. Heavy. AF. The wine? Slightly stewed fruit, but otherwise rich, with oodles of blackberry and vanilla. Good balance and resolve, this is particularly nice. But that bottle? Hell no. I have a hernia after two pours. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Rigal Gros Manseng Vin Orange, Vin de France: Retail $15. 100% Gros Manseng. I do not have a ton of experience with Orange wine, but enough to know that there is a fairly big range–from austere, astringent, almost off-putting flavors, to robust, flavorful wines that push our collective understanding on what wine is or can be. This is decidedly in the latter camp. The first day open, this was stellar but got even better with time. By the third day, this was singing. Orange in color with nectarine and peach on the nose, with great fruit flavors, abundant acidity, and incredible balance. Lovely. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 Scotto Family Wines 50 Harvests Meritage Blanc, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $35. 52% Semillon, 48% Sauvignon Blanc. Perhaps the king of California Meritage, Mitch Cosentino, had a hand in this delightful blend from the Scotto family. Pale straw in the glass with white peach a go-go on the nose. The palate is quite tasty with that peach, a tangy acidity, and a luscious mouthfeel. If there is a better maker of Meritage wines in Napa than Mitch, I have yet to meet him/her. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2015 Scotto Family Wines 50 Harvests Meritage, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $60. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot. It’s a romantic evening and I reach for a wine that I am sure will please my partner. I remove the foil, insert the corkscrew, and turn. The cork eases outs with not so much as a whimper. I brace myself for a fantastic “rest” of my evening. I lift the bottle to pour, as my paramour waits anxiously…. Suddenly, I erupt in pain, intense pain, as the weight of this mother-effing bottle causes my shoulder to dislocate and the disc between two of my vertebrae to slip. Holy crap that hurts. Sure, the wine is stellar: fruity, complex, refined. But will my body (or the environment) ever recover from this gross violation? Doubtful. Excellent. 90-92 Points.