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.
2014 Bokisch Vineyards Tempranillo Tizona Gran Reserva, Lodi, CA: Retail $60. 100% Tempranillo. B.A.B. I have spent a bit of time with Liz and Markus Bokisch and they are delightful people. That aside, this wine? Whoa. Fruity, rich, considerable depth, lengthy finish–this wine has it all. While many might scoff at a $60 wine from Lodi, it is time for the wine world, writ large, to recognize that world-class wines are being produced in the appellation. Case in point. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2019 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Rosado, Rioja, Spain: Retail $13. Under screwcap. 75% Viura, 15% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha. Vibrant pink with a salmon tint. Stone fruit (apricot and pear) with even some guava on the nose along with a decided flintiness. The palate is tart and precise with juicy fruit, but far from “fruity.” No, this is an acid-driven wine that would be great as an apéritif by the pool or with a wide array of seafood or grilled chicken. At 13 bucks? I’ll always have a bottle of this in the fridge. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena, CA: Retail $65. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. While this wine would not fit most people’s definition of “inexpensive” it is certainly a bargain when it comes to Napa Cabernet. Fairly dark in the glass and quite fragrant on the nose with violet, black currant, plum, and some dark spice. The palate is quite fruity right up front, a bit of a departure from previous Ehlers wines, with acidity and some depth. A bit of spice precedes a lengthy finish. This could use a few more years to settle down a bit, but it is certainly fantastic now. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Count Károlyi Grüner Veltliner, Pannon, Hungary: Retail $12. Under screwcap. While Grüner is more likely associated with Austria, there is an increasing number of wineries across the border in Hungary. This offering from Count Károlyi is delightful. Good fruit (green apple), racy tartness, and even a hint of the classic petrol on the nose. We opened this with my fried catfish po’boy with jalapeño yogurt slaw and it held up beautifully. Twelve bucks? A bargain. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2018 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay Reserve, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $18. Under Stelvin screwcap. A little bit of color in the glass with a heavy dose of lemon curd, vanilla, and hints of Bosc pear on the nose. The palate has many of the same attributes along with above-average acidity, browned butter, and oak. Stating the obvious, there is a ton of Chardonnay on the market (which actually might be an understatement), but there are few *quality* wines under twenty bucks. This is one. Sure, few will confuse this with one of the great white wines from Burgundy, but it is a fine choice for less than a couple of sawbucks. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2019 Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Rosé, Alentejo, Portugal: Retail $15. 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Syrah, 20% Aragonez. Every time I open a bottle of Alentejano wine, I harken back to my visit there a couple of years ago. It was certainly one of my more memorable press trips: the people, the food, and of course, the wine. Fairly light in the glass with aromas of wild strawberry and peach. The palate is fruity, tart, and delightful. A perfect hot afternoon quaff or, in my case, with beef chorizo tacos with adobo slaw. Magical. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 Wente Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Charles Wetmore, CA: Retail $35. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petite Sirah, 5% Barbera,
4% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec. No other winery screams “Livermore Valley” than Wente. A stalwart in the appellation just south and west of San Francisco since Carl Wente purchased 47 acres of vineyard land in 1883. This single-vineyard estate wine exudes its New World heritage: full of dark fruit (blackberry, plum), clove, earth, and mostly silky tannins. Yum. On day one? I was a bit of a seller on this wine, but as day two rolled around, I was firmly in the “buy” column. Sure, it is fruity and rambunctious, but there is plenty of gravitas here, which, given time, will settle down, rewarding the patient. Hold three years-ish. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.