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 Sauvignon Blanc Alma de Cattleya, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $22. I am not usually a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from the new world, as it tends to be overly aromatic with over-the-top notes of fresh-cut grass and cat pee (yeah, that’s a thing). Well, not this one. In fact, this is one of the best domestic Sauvignon Blancs I have had in a while. Fruity (mostly tropical with some peach) and near-perfect acidity, this is a wine I would not hesitate to serve for any occasion: back yard, pool, five-course dinner. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2019 Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc, North Coast, CA: Retail $18. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. One of the F-C staples, I think it was actually the second wine they produced (after Chardonnay). Quite tropical on the nose with guava, pineapple, and some flintiness. The palate? Wow, a fruit explosion with tons of tropical fruit–throw in some papaya along with the previous–quite a bit of tartness, and a fruity finish. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Ferrari-Carano Chardonnay, Carneros, CA: Retail $24. Under screw. Chardonnay was the first variety that Don and Rhonda Carano planted back in 1981 when they founded the winery, and it has been a staple since. Really light in the glass, which is surprising given that it is aged in oak (24% new). Pineapple, oak, and yellow apple on the nose with great acidity, impressive fruit, and velvety vanilla on the palate. This is not necessarily my preferred style of Chard, but it is lovely and delicious. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Rutherford, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $23. Napa Valley, and in particular Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc is becoming an endangered species as many (most) of the vines are being replaced with its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon. Long Meadow Ranch, however, is not only interested in organic and sustainable farming, but they are also committed to preserving the (increasingly shrinking) Sauvignon Blanc foothold in the appellation. And this is particularly noteworthy. Cathy Corison was the first winemaker at LMR and her approach to reserved, balanced wines (shared by LMR founder Ted Hall) continues into now their fifth decade of producing fantastic wines. This Sauvignon? Yowza. Fruity (but not bombastic) on the nose, with citrus (mostly lemon), some tree fruit, a hint of grassiness (but this is FAR from a “grassy SB”), some peach, and a bunch of minerality. The palate is simply delightful, proving that Napa can produce world-class SB. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Lucia Chardonnay Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $60. Having been around the “wine block” a few times now, there is very little that surprises me these days. When I received this wine, given the Pisoni heritage and the fruit sources (Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards), I knew this would be stellar. How could it not? Well, it wasn’t what I thought it would be–it was considerably more. I know that comparisons between California and Burgundy have grown tiresome and not all that useful, but I must here. The nose is, at least to me, as close to a Puligny-Montrachet as I have found outside the Côte-d’Or. Perhaps that was not the intention, but holy cow. Lemon meringue, a touch of oak, vanilla, Whoa. It is on the palate, though, that it is clear this beauty comes from The Golden State: an intensity of fruit that is rarely achieved in Burgundy, along with impeccable balance, and a finish that lasts minutes. Whoa. Move over Littorai, Failla, et al, I might have a new favorite California Chardonnay. If only winemaker Jeff Pisoni did not use this ridiculously heavy bottle… Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2018 Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $50. Like the Chardonnay, this is a blend of the Pisoni, Garys’ and Soberanes vineyards–pretty lofty vineyard heritage. As I have found with many Pinot Noir producers in California, their Chardonnays, which are often treated as an afterthought, exceed the Pinot. While that may be the case here as well, this Pinot is gangbusters. Really dark in the glass, more reminiscent of a Syrah than a Pinot, the nose is also darker: sure, there is cherry (but decidedly black), currant (again black), and raspberry (broken record time–black). The palate is fruity but more reserved than the nose suggested, with balanced acidity, and a delightful finish. My assessment? Delicious now, but this could use a bit of time to have all that fruit settle down a bit. Still, decidedly delicious. But why, Jeff, why, why, why the really heavy bottle? This wine does not need the ridiculous “outfit”–it would be a rockstar in Wranglers. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein Riesling Kabinett, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany: Retail $26. Lovely golden color in the glass with aromas of lemon, lime, and even peach along with a strong hint of petrol. The palate is refreshingly tart, with lemon peel, tangerine, and peach. While far from “sweet” this certainly falls into the “off-dry” category and, like with all of Nik Weis’ wines, the level of sweetness balances perfectly with the acidity. New label, but same Nik Weis. Excellent. 90-92 Points.