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 Valentin Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon Oasis Sur, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $16. Under screwcap. Like the Malbec (the other wine in this inaugural vintage of “Oasis Sur”), this wine sees no oak, but due to the elevation of the vineyards (2000 plus feet), the wine has considerable tartness and depth. Delightfully fruity with black pepper, black currant, and plum, the palate is slightly more austere than the Malbec, but also a tad more complex and tannic. Sixteen bucks? An easy choice. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 Valentin Bianchi Malbec Oasis Sur, San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $16. Under screwcap. This is the first vintage for this new label from the venerable Argentinian house. It harkens back to the founding of the winery when Valentin and Elsa Bianchi planted their first vineyard in 1928 in what they called their “Southern Oasis” (Oasis Sur). This Malbec is fruity, fun, and delicious. An easy sipper with burgers, pasta, pizza, or writing tasting notes. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2012 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, Carneros, CA: Retail $120. 100% Chardonnay. While there have been several Champagne houses that have found a foothold in the New World, but most of them have since changed hands. Not Domaine Carneros, it’s still owned and operated by Taittinger, and the wines not only have maintained their excellence, they, in my opinion, have only gotten better. While I have not tasted every vintage of Le Rêve, I have had quite a few, and this 2012 is right up there with those I have tried. Whoa. Golden apple, pear, acacia flower, and a bit of lemon rind on the nose. Yowza. The palate is initially quite tart, but softens almost immediately as the sparkle begins to subside. Fruity (citrus, pineapple), yeasty, toasty (but short of burnt). The finish starts with tart fruit, then evolves into a creamy crème brulée, which lasts for minutes. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2017 Foppiano Lot 96, California: Retail $13. 76% Petite Sirah, 18% Barbera, 4% Zinfandel, 2% Mourvèdre. Under screw cap and a fairly heavy bottle (particularly for a $13 bottle of wine). Dark in the glass (but not quite as dark as I expected given the amount of Petit Sirah. Rich, unctuous, fruity notes (mostly dark fleshy fruit, e.g., plum) on the nose, but the palate is clearly all about the fruit. Fleshy plum, ripe blackberry, tart, and slightly tannic. More than a bit bigger than I particularly enjoy, but this is delightful and expressive. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2015 Kirkland Signature Rioja Reserva, Spain: Retail $8. 100% Tempranillo. When I moved from Sausalito, CA to Philadelphia, PA many moons ago, I remember lamenting the fact that PA residents could only buy wine from the state stores. This meant no more BevMo, no Total Wine, and, perhaps of more import, no Costco. Only having just passed our 4th anniversary of the move to the great state of Texas, those “tough times” are a mere memory now with wine widely available from scores of outlets. Since this wine is available a scant three miles away at our Costco, I will be getting more. A lot more. Fruity, juicy, friendly to nearly every palate, and an admirable finish. Tasty. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 La Pincoya Cabernet Sauvignon, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $20. Few would disagree that many of the wines of Chile are some of the best values on the market today and this Cab is yet another example. Dark in color, aromas (blackberry, cassis, mocha), and flavors (dark berry fruit, earth, tobacco). The palate also exhibits plenty of depth and gravitas–plenty of stuffing for twenty bucks. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $13. “Varietals like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.” There is a lot going on in that previous sentence, but I have decided to ignore it. I have been a fan of Château Ste. Michelle (the sparkling wines are made by CSM under the “Domaine Ste. Michelle” label) for a while now, not only do they produce some fantastic wines at very reasonable prices, it turns out that many winemakers in the state of Washington got their start at St. Michelle. This wine is fruity and fun with peach and citrus on the nose, golden apple on the palate. It is a tad sweet for me, but I could still drink this all day long. Particularly given the price. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2018 Tongue Dancer Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $49. When I tell people what I do for a “living” the response is rather constant: “Tough Life” (or an equivalent variant thereof). While there are certainly myriad “professions’ out there tougher than my own, this métier is certainly no walk in the park (it is decidedly difficult to evaluate wines while in motion). What makes it particularly challenging? Relationships. While one might try to stay objective while tasting a wine, that is far from simple. Case in point. The MacPhails. I consider Kerry and James friends (whether they would admit to the same under the effects of sodium pentothal is irrelevant), thus “judging” their wines is, well, difficult. So what is my approach? Simply put, I try to channel my inner Brady. While I do not try to envision my readers in their skivvies, I do try to imagine Kerry laughing in my face and James producing a particular digit with emphasis (neither would do either, I think). Why? I really try to be as objective as possible regardless of personal relationship(s). Here we go. Brace yourselves.
I do not like this wine.
Even a little bit.
I hope the MacPhails will forgive me?
OK. Kidding. I love this wine. (Can’t say I didn’t try.)
This Pinot from James MacPhail is a blend of two Sonoma Coast Vineyards: Putnam and Sexton Road. Fairly dark in both color and aromas (dark cherry, eucalyptus, mint), but bright, tart, and fruity on the palate. Initially, this wine was a bit tense and nervous, but it was clear that the stuffing was there for an incredible wine. After a day open and a bit of rest, I revisited. Whoa. Sure, the fruit is front and center, but behind all that exuberance is balancing acidity, depth of flavors, and silky tannins. Yet another stellar effort from the Tongue Dancer team. Whoa. Outstanding. 94-96 Points.