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 Domaine Blain Brouilly, Beaujolais, France: Retail $25. 100% Gamay. When I first started leading bike trips in France, Beaujolais was usually my go-to region when ordering a bit of wine for the table. Why? Well, it was approachable (rarely too tannic or obtuse), affordable (on most wine lists in France, a good cru Beaujolais can be had for under 40€), and exceedingly food-friendly. (Beef, chicken, most pasta? You bet.) My first choice, back in the day, was Chiroubles since it was the lightest of the Crus (due to its elevation) and easily the most fun to say. My second choice? Brouilly. Just slightly beefier than Chiroubles and almost as fun to say. This iteration from Blain Sœur et Frère (sister and brother) is right in that wheelhouse: fruity (plum and dark berry) but not over-the-top, plenty of acidity to cut through most meals (grilled chicken? yowza), and a finish that lasts long enough to keep the dinner table chatter interesting. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Bodega Catena Zapata Chardonnay Catena Alta Historic Rows, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $33. B.A.B. My first impression of this wine was that it finds the delicate balance between the more traditional oaky, buttery Chards of recent history and the newer trend toward more fruit-driven, lighter oaked (or unoaked) wines. A bit golden in the glass with golden apple, honeysuckle, and just a hint of oak, the wine is both round and robust on the palate. There is plenty of fruit, richness, and ample acidity. I would be all-in on this wine had it not been delivered in a *really* heavy bottle. Why? Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Henschke Henry’s Seven, Eden Valley, Barossa, South Australia: Retail $42. Under screw. 66% Shiraz, 15% Grenache, 10% Mourvèdre, 9% Viognier. Viognier co-fermented with Shiraz, the Grenache, and Mourvèdre fermented apart. Deep crimson color in the glass which is fruity, but more Rhône Valley than Hospices du Rhône with dark cherry, ripe plum, and a hint of allspice on the nose. The palate is fruity (again, in the Old World style) with ample tartness and more than a modicum of depth. Very nice. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Left Coast Cellars White Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $24. 93% Pinot Noir, 7% Pinot Gris. Every time I taste a white Pinot Noir, I wonder why more producers don’t go this route. If they ever do, they should follow Left Coast’s lead. Just a touch of color under this screw cap, few would guess that this comes from a red grape. White peach, acacia flower on the nose with nice fruit, fantastic acidity, and balance. Very nice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2014 Secondo Marco Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Italy: Retail $35. 60% Corvina, 25% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, 5% other local grapes. I have been to Italy a dozen times or so and most of the time I am there, I am drinking the wines of the region. I have been to Verona a few times now, but despite this, I have only had a few Ripasso’s (not counting Amarone, naturally). This wine is far more approachable than I had imagined and does not require a rich history with its big brother, Amarone. Rich, fruity, and just slightly stewed, this is lovely from the jump. Similar thoughts on the palate, but with added depth and myriad flavors, this is great on its own but better with a bit of beef in front of it. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Shaw and Smith Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, South Australia: Retail $38. Very light in the glass, almost translucent, with aromas of cranberry, dried cherry, and dusty earth. Delightful on the palate: quite tart with lovely fruit, although reserved, particularly when compared to juicy fruit-driven Pinots from, say, the Russian River Valley. In fact, this is much more reminiscent of a French Pinot than any from the Golden State (California), not from Burgundy but from the Loire Valley (Sancerre). Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2018 Terlato Colli Orientali del Friuli Pinot Grigio, Italy: Retail $22. I was saddened to see that Tony Terlato, the patriarch of the importing giant, passed away this past week at the age of 86. Terlato, long an importer of wines from around the world, has dipped into the production side of things for a while now. Previous iterations of this Pinot Grigio have been stellar and this one is no different. White peach and hints of citrus waft over the rim of this fairly light wine, with a nice tartness, subtle fruit, and a longer than average finish. I have stated numerous times that I am not a huge fan of Italian Pinot Grigio, but this is a particularly nice version–if more were like this, I would need to reevaluate my general stance on the variety. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir Pinot de Ville Putnam Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $65. You don’t go into one of James MacPhail’s Pinots without your big boy/girl pants on as that would be utter folly. James believes in having the pedal firmly to the metal when crafting his wines and will not wait for you to catch up. Big fruit on the nose and the palate is more than a bit of an understatement with blackberry, plum, and dark cherry all up in there. But dig a bit deeper. There is depth, earth, and plenty of intrigue if you can allow yourself to be patient as James is devilishly clever in appealing to both the full-throttle crowd and the terroir-obsessed contingent. It’s all in there folks, just waiting for you. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2016 Bodegas Volver Tempranillo La Mancha Single Vineyard, Spain: Retail $17. Quite dark in the glass with plum and blackberry on the nose along with a bit of earth. The palate is quite fruity, far fruitier than I would expect from an Old World wine, certainly more New World in orientation. Fun, fruity, with a splash of intrigue. Great for the barbeque. Very Good. 87-89 Points.