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.
2017 Chamisal Vineyards Chardonnay Stainless, Central Coast, CA: Retail $18. Under screw. A relatively muted nose of citrus and pear and this is a decided departure from the first bottle which was weird, for lack of a better word. The palate is tart and fairly rich, with plenty of fruit and a bit of butter due to its partial malolactic fermentation. I am still a bit skeptical about the unoaked Chardonnay (I think moderate oak adds greatly to a Chard), but this is a particularly nice iteration. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Duorum Douro Tons de Duorum, Portugal: Retail $11. 50% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz. Inky dark in the glass with dark fruit (blackberry, plum, cassis), anise, and mocha. Fruity, yet reserved, with a zingy tartness, this is a lovely wine and for eleven bucks? This underscores that the dry reds from the Duoro are some of the best values in wine. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Ferraton Père & Fils Crozes-Hermitage La Matinière, France: Retail $25. 100% Syrah. Upon opening, this is a bit of a Brett-beast as it is barnyard-a-go-go. After a bit of time open, though, the Brett blows off a bit, revealing a classic old-world Syrah nose: slightly stewed dark-red berry fruit (cherry, blackberry) with mint, a touch of cassis and that Brett-induced funkiness (I love the funk). The palate starts with a bit of subdued fruit, a splash of tartness, and then considerable earthiness. Dare I say a “classic” Crozes? Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points
NV La Crema Pinot Noir Brut Rosé Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $45. 73% Pinot Noir, 27% Chardonnay. This is going to sound bad, but I was ready to be less than whelmed by this wine. La Crema has become a brand that is, well, ubiquitous and ubiquity is rarely associated with excellence. Hold on for just a minute. While this will not likely be confused with a vintage Grand Cru Champagne (that cost 3-4 times the price), it is plenty tasty. Ripe red apple with a hint of yeastiness on the nose, the palate is bright and fresh yet also layered. Yum. While $45 might be a tad steep, this is a fantastic effort. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Mettler Family Vineyards Zinfandel Old Vine Epicenter, Lodi, CA: Retail $25. 100% Zinfandel. Certified Green by Lodi Rules. Here is another case when I just don’t get it: the producer proudly states that the wine is certified sustainable (which is a good thing), but the bottle weighs about a couple of pounds. Huh? You are concerned about making sustainable wines but your bottle undoes much of the good work of your vineyard practices. When are these “Sustainable Certifications” going to require a reasonable bottle?? The wine is actually excellent: inky dark, almost black in the glass with oodles of dark fruit (plum, blackberry) with a side of vanilla bean. The palate is equally fruity (blackberry) but also a mélange of anise, sage, and black pepper. If you like your Zins big and muscular, you’ll love this wine. You can also skip your arm workout for the week as this bottle weighs a ton. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2015 Bodegas Muriel Rioja Fincas de la Villa Crianza, Spain: Retail $15. 100% Tempranillo. As a general rule, I do not drink enough Spanish wine–it seems as though they have less aggressive marketing efforts than certainly the Italians and possibly the French (which is more than surprising given the world view of the French). I get a few Riojas now and then, however, which are almost always a treat. Case in point: brilliant, nearly translucent crimson in the glass with dark red fruit (black cherry, raspberry), red rose, and a hint of black pepper. The palate is refreshingly delightful: modest fruit balanced with zingy acidity and a kiss of tannin. Lovely. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Troon Vineyard Grenache Cowhorn Vineyard, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $35. 100% Grenache. It was one of those nights when I was “working” and I asked my wife to open a wine sample. I did not care which, but it had to be one of the ones received last year (yeah, I know, I am behind). I gave it a swirl and was immediately convinced that it was an old-world wine. Crozes-Hermitage? Italian Primitivo? I was certain due to the lighter than average color, the subdued fruit aromas (cherry, mostly), and the subtle, yet decided Brett on the nose. I was shocked to discover that this was from Troon Vineyard, perhaps my favorite producer in Southern Oregon. This comes from the Cowhorn Vineyard from which Troon is sourcing fruit while its estate vineyard is being replanted. Wow. The palate is equally suggestive of European heritage with subtle fruit, a high level of tartness, and astringent tannins. This is fantastic now, but could easily go another five years, maybe more. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Veramonte Carménère, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $11. 100% Carménère. Originally from the Médoc in Bordeaux, but today it is difficult to find much Carménère outside of Chile where it was introduced about 150 years ago–but the Chileans thought it to be Merlot! Oh well, Carménère is thriving there now. Dark in the glass with oodles of red fruit and a heavy dose of black pepper. The palate is fruity, big, bold, and again, quite peppery. One could do a whole lot worse for $11. Very Good. 87-89 Points.