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.
2019 Cattleya Alma de Cattleya Rose of Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. 100% True Rosé. Diam closure. Perhaps a shade or two darker than “pale pink” or, as the French/Swiss say, œil de perdrix. The nose is just what one would expect from a pink Pinot: fresh red berry fruit (strawberry), a touch of minerality, and even a bit of salinity. The palate is fruity, tart, and balanced. A wonderful expression. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Experience Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $30. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Merlot, 2% Malbec. Fairly dark in the glass with dark fruit, anise, and vanilla. The palate is fairly rich, particularly given the price point: dart black fruit, spice, vanilla, and a bit of grip on the finish. While this is not the most profound Napa Cab you will ever have, it will not require a second mortgage either. I would even bump this up: quality-wise, this is more than an every night kind of wine, but it is when considering the price. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Heinrich Blaufränkisch, Neusiedlersee, Austria: Retail $18. When I opened this it was funky. Really funky. Really, really funky. I am no fan of the variety, to begin with, but when there is THIS much Brett… I corked it (glass closure) and tried again 24 hours later. Not as funky as the night before (although still plenty of funk remained) with some dark berry fruit. The palate is austere, tart, and, well, that is about it. I knew coming in that I did not care for Blaufränkisch but I hoped this would change my opinion. It didn’t. Good. 84-86 Points.
2018 Laetitia Winery Pinot Noir Estate, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $28. Under screw. To me, at least, “Laetitia” means sparkling wine, but their Pinot program has been growing in stature for a while now, and this is a case in point. For under thirty bucks, you get a nuanced yet fruity wine that is fantastic to drink now, but will likely improve in the short-term. Good acidity, balance, and a strong finish. Excellent. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2019 Mettler Family Vineyards Albariño Estate Grown, Lodi, CA: Retail $20. I would venture to guess that “Albariño” is not the first guess when one is asked to name the top white in Lodi. While this is certainly not the most widely-grown variety in the appellation (that would be Chardonnay, yawn), it might be the most exciting. Fruity, tropical, floral, this wine has just about everything you would expect from a California white. The palate is not a disappointment either: fruit, tartness, balance. If Mettler is not on your radar, that is on you, my friend. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Qupé Chardonnay Y Block, Santa Barbara County, CA: Retail $22.Under screw. Vintage Wine Estates (Clos Pegasse, Cosentino) acquired Qupé a year and a half ago, with founder Bob Lindquist staying on as a consultant for the winery he founded nearly four decades ago in the Santa Maria Valley. Fermented and aged (9 months) in oak (20% new), this certainly has oak prominent in the aroma profile along with lime, Granny Smith, and vanilla. The palate does not come off oaky at all with bright citrus tartness, a fair amount of body on the mid-palate, and an above-average finish. Twenty-two bucks? You betcha. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Valentin Bianchi Gran Famiglia Bianchi Corte, Vista Flores, Argentina: Retail $40. 59% Malbec, 23% Petit Verdot, 11% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Tannat. Another inky dark wine in the glass, almost black, with intense dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis, plum) and plenty of black pepper. Plenty of fruit on the palate as well, but it dissipates on the mid-palate with structure and depth moving in. The finish is curiously a bit austere with high levels of tannin. Big and fruity now, but would benefit from a few more years. At least. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2017 Valentin Bianchi Malbec Famiglia Bianchi, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $24. 100% Malbec. Quite dark in the glass, with dark fruit, black pepper, sage, and oregano. The palate is also quite fruity, with many of the same herbal attributes. Primarily blackberry and plum, the fruit certainly dominates the palate but there are both a nice tartness and some depth. Quite a nice wine. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Yalumba The Y Series Shiraz/Viognier, South Australia: Retail $14. 95% Shiraz, 5% Viognier. Under Screw. Certified Sustainable. Dark in the glass with pleasant aromas of blackberry, plum, black pepper, and baking spice. The palate is fruity and fun with plenty of tartness and just the slightest indication of tannin. This is a wine for drinking now, with friends who really are into board games. Kick back, relax, and know that this wine is better for the planet than most out there, certainly in this price range. Very Good. 87-89 Points.