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.
NV Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé, France: Retail $24. 100% Pinot Noir. I have little hesitation in saying that this is my favorite French sparkling wine outside of Champagne. Lovely pinkish-orange in the glass with strawberry, melon, and a touch floral. The palate suggests a touch of sweetness, but the tartness quickly balances it out. Fruity, tart, lovely. Excellent. 91-93 Points.
2016 Clif Family Winery Bici, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $42. 59% Grenache, 41% Syrah. It seems as though Clif Family Winery and I would be a natural combination–Clif not only produces great wines, but they also make my preferred cycling food products (Clif Bar). Yet, this is one of the few wines I have tried from the producer (I did visit the winery several years ago, but that was before my current, er, um, “status”–my goodness that sounds pretentious). Dark in the glass with black fruit (blackberry, plum) predominate. The palate is also dark, but just short of brooding with plenty of said dark fruit, ample acidity, and just enough intrigue to warrant contemplation. The tannins are mostly integrated, leaving spice, earth, and chutzpah–this is a wonderful wine that should be enjoyed in the relatively near-term (2-4 years). Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2018 Cline Cellars Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $14. Under screw. I think I have been a fan of Cline since I started drinking California wine, which was shortly after moving to California around 1996. I was young and on a private school teacher’s salary, so the overly-affordable Cline portfolio was directly in my wheelhouse. Wonderful wines for a fraction of what they were “worth.” And this wine continues that legacy. Light in the glass with lovely aromas of white peach, lemon rind, and a white floral aspect. The palate is fruity, tart, and rich–had I tasted this blind, I would have never guessed its price-point. Yet another Cline wine that delivers well above its weight class. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Donnafugata Floramundi, Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $32. 70% Nero d’Avola, 30% Frappato. Dark in the glass with ominous notes of really dark fruit, anise, and hints of earth. The palate is, well, delightful. Sure it is dark and even a bit brooding, but there is plenty of tartness and more than a crumb of intrigue. Very Nice.Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2012 McCay Cellars Carignane, Lodi, CA: Retail $35. 100% Carignane. Outside of the South of France, you really don’t see much 100% Carignane, but this comes from Lodi, perhaps the most varietally diverse wine region in the world, where there are over 100 grape varieties planted. Even though I have never met Mike McCay despite my many trips to Lodi, I have long admired his wines and his passion. This wine is a perfect example: planted in 1906 (!), these vines are still in production because of winemakers like Mike McCay who see the value of their fruit and can craft a world-class wine with it. Fairly light in the glass with cranberry, ripe black cherry, and even some anise. The palate welcomes the fruit of the New World and pairs it perfectly with the acidity of the Old World. A wonderful contrast that works exceedingly well. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2015 McIntyre Vineyards Merlot Kimberly Vineyard, Arroyo Seco, CA: Retail $28. 100% Merlot. Big Ass Bottle. Over the years that I have been writing my blog, McIntyre Vineyards has been very good to me. They were among the first wineries to send me samples on a regular basis, and they produce a bevy of excellent wines. This is a case in point. But. It is a *really* heavy bottle, which is completely unnecessary. Dark in the glass with dark fruit: blackberry, cassis, plum. Throw in some black pepper spice and a bit of heat, and you get the idea. The palate is a shade bigger than your average Merlot, with oodles of fruit and plenty of spice. While initially, the tannins seem to be mostly integrated, after a bit of time open, they wake up and present themselves with fervor on the finish. Drink now or hold 3-5 years. Excellent. 90-92 Points.
2017 Maison les Alexandrins Crozes-Hermitage, Rhône Valley, France: Retail $24. 100% Syrah. The Crozes-Hermitage appellation can be a really mixed bag. Well, that’s not entirely true; most of the Crozes that reaches the U.S. is, well, not very good. It’s a fairly big appellation and the wine that is exported seems to be near the bottom, quality-wise. Upon opening this Big Ass Bottle, I was immediately worried as there is a heavy dose of Brett on this wine. It is hard for a hater of Brett to also be a lover of Rhône or Burgundy wines since it is, and has been, a significant factor in many of those regions for decades, even centuries. The palate though? Oh yeah. If you can get past the rather pungent nose, the palate is fruity, full, and fantastic. Quite the contrast. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Domaine Bousquet Gaia, Tupungato, Valle de Uco, Argentina: Retail $20. 50% Malbec, 45% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have been tasting Domaine Bousquet’s wines for several years now and they consistently deliver some of the best values in all of the wine world. Dark in color as well as on the nose with dark cherry, blackberry, plum, black pepper. The palate is fruity, on the verge of frivolous, but stopping just short. This is a wine for the now, for enjoyment, for a meal where the emphasis is on the event itself, not on over-introspection of the intricacies of the wine. In other words, what wine is meant to be. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 Van Duzer Pinot Noir Westside Blocks, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. I tasted this back in December as apart of my Blind Tasting of 100 American Pinot Noirs and I found it rather uninteresting, even “odd.” Well, after popping this bottle on a random weekend night, my original experience suggests that it might have been an off bottle (there are no good wines, only good bottles). This bottle is spicy with black pepper, wild cherry, and earth on the nose, with plenty of fruit on the palate. This is much better than I remember the other bottle, much. Excellent. 90-92 Points.