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 Erath Chardonnay, Oregon: Retail $19. Under screwcap. Like with any variety, Chardonnay can be made in a range of styles: unoaked, buttery, oaky, etc. There are, of course, excellent versions of each style, widely available across the country and around the world. Unlike other varieties, perhaps, Chardonnay evokes intense feelings, particularly when oaky, buttery, or both. Well, detractors of that bigger style of Chardonnay, buy this. It is fruity, tart, and refreshing without the slightest hint of butter and virtually no oak (if any barrels are used–no info is available about the oak regimen on the website–it has to be majority neutral). Just clean, juicy fun for under twenty bucks. Bargain. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros, CA: Retail $38. Slightly golden in the glass with lemon curd, butter, oak predominate. In other words, a California Chard. Not an over-the-top oak bomb cougar juice wine, mind you, but certainly in the “traditional” style. Don’t think for a second that this is a criticism–it’s not. But if the desire is an un-oaked, fruit-driven wine, this ain’t that. It is, however, creamy, full, toasty, and, yes, oaky. Just remember, traditional Chardonnays need loving, too. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2016 McCay Cellars Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard, Lodi, CA: Retail $35. There are few places in this country that give me goosebumps merely upon hearing the name; Bechthold Vineyard is one of them (the label on this wine has the vineyard spelled incorrectly–they might want to clean that up a bit). Planted in 1886 (!), it is believed to be the oldest Cinsault vineyard on the planet. It is ungrafted (thanks to the sandy soils–the pesky phylloxera louse does not like the beach) and dry-farmed by Phillips Farms (Michael-David Winery–they acquired exclusive farming rights to the vineyard several years ago from the Bechthold family). Even as recently as a decade ago, the fruit was unwanted and the vines were almost ripped out and replaced with (gasp) Zinfandel. The history is far too involved for a tasting note, but suffice it to say that Wanda Woock Bechthold (part-owner), none other than Randall Grahm, and the incredible people at Michael-David prevented it from being ripped out. Thank goodness. Now, several winemakers source from the vineyard including Mike McCay, who makes this gorgeous, nearly translucent red with aromas of cranberry, plum, allspice, clove, and a hint of vanilla. Whoa. The palate is likely more impressive with luscious fruit, searing acidity, and plenty of depth. This is far from muscular, but with a bit of time and patience, it develops into a delicate powerhouse. Bravo. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2015 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Amarone della Valpolicella Selezione Antonio Castagnedi, Italy: Retail $50. 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta. Really B.A.B. I have waxed frequently about my disdain for the heavy bottles as they do not have any purpose (other than marketing?) but add a huge carbon footprint to the wine in question. For the most part, these have been American wines but this Amarone surprised me, as it seems that the Europeans are far more environmentally sensitive than we are here in the U.S. A shame since the wine is fantastic: subtle fruit with plenty of mocha and clove on the nose. The palate is rich, but not unctuous due to the vibrant acidity. The mocha and clove come through here in spades. The finish is surprisingly light in tannins, but could still go for another 5-10 years easily. Excellent. Excellent to Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2017 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Ripasso della Valpolicella Superiore Monti Garbi, Italy: Retail $24. 70% Corvina and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 10% Croatina and Oseleta. A baby Amarone, of sorts, as it uses some of the same varieties and a similar process. Dark berry fruit and a decided savory note persist on the nose. The palate is balanced: good fruit, perky tartness, and noticeable tannins on the backend. For the price (and paired with a nice ribeye), this is a fantastic choice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Valpolicella Nanfré, Italy: Retail $15. Corvina 70%, Rondinella 30%. I received three wines from this producer and this was the first that I opened. Nearly translucent in the glass with plenty of cherry and red currant, but also a savory note that screams “I need food.” The palate is delightfully inviting with all of that fruit, plenty of earth, clove, black pepper, and a ubiquitous tartness. Yowza. This is fantastic. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Riesling Eroica, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $18. I have been a fan of this wine pretty much since its inception. It is always tart, fruity, and just a tiny bit sweet, as is the case again with this vintage. Racy, vivacious, and just the right amount of softness around the edges, this is not only a favorite of mine but also of my mother-in-law’s (which scores me oodles of bonus points). While the sweet edge is perhaps not for all, this is a particularly wonderful interpretation of Riesling. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.