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 Alois Lageder Müller-Thurgau, Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: Retail $20. There is not a ton of Müller-Thurgau in Italy, particularly outside of the Alto-Adige region. This offering, from Alois Lageder, is particularly inviting. Citrus (lemon), minerality, and a savory note all are present on the nose. The palate is tart and a bit angular, but this is a fantastic M-T: plenty of fruit, balanced by bite, with flintiness and a savory aspect. Like I said: inviting, fantastic even. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Monopole Blanco: Retail $17. Under screwcap. 100% Viura. I realize that this might come off as a bit disingenuous (or even pompous) but there are few wines in my samples pile that gets me as excited as a white Rioja. The reason is fairly simple: I honestly think I have ever had one that I did not love. Add this one to the list. Light straw in the glass with a slight green tint, with plenty of citrus fruit (lemon and lime), salinity, and minerality. Refreshing and tart, this is fantastic by the pool, as an apéritif, or while cleaning the garage. It will also serve me well for fish taco night. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2018 Cattleya Pinot Noir Alma de Cattleya, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $38. Ever since I was introduced to this winemaker (Bibiana González Rave) and the brand a couple of years ago, I have been enthralled. Bibiana is clearly a talented winemaker, coaxing expressive fruit, tingly acidity, and impeccable balance out of all of her wines. It seems that she particularly shines, however, with Pinot Noir. Whoa. Rich in fruit (black cherry, cranberry) with balanced acidity and impressive depth, this is just a lovely wine. The most impressive aspect? It might have been better on night two. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2018 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Carneros, CA: Retail $38. 100% French Oak fermented (34% new, 33% once-used). For a while there, the Anything But Chardonnay (ABC) crowd revolted against a wine like this as it is on the heavy(ish) side of oak, creaminess, and vanilla. But this is far from over the top–rich, sure, but also balanced and refined. The Franks have been around a while and know what they are doing, particularly when it comes to wines that fall more into the “traditional style” camp. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Franc Estate Vineyards Valley View Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley, CA: Retail $26. 100% Cabernet Franc. I am not going to lie: Cab Franc (after Pinot Noir) might just be my go-to red wine variety. And this iteration is pretty much gang-busters. Dark red fruit, cinnamon, white pepper, a whole lot going on with the nose. The palate is particularly juicy, but the spice follows almost instantly, with that black pepper, and an incredibly lingering finish. I was initially enthralled with this #wine but by the second glass? Head-over-heels. Whoa. Excellent. 92-94 Points.
2016 Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola Sicilia Lamùri Tenuta Regaleali, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $20. In my experience, there are a couple of ways a Sicilian winemaker could go with Nero d’Avola: big, fruity, pizza, pasta, party wine or shy, introspective, reserved, “here, try this.” While this falls somewhere in the middle, it is certainly closer to the former than the latter. Dark in the glass, as one would expect from a Nero, with dark fruit (plum, blackberry), a splash of funk, and a healthy dose of black pepper. The fruit is the star on the palate, with the aforementioned black pepper, and fairly racy acidity. Very Good. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 Bodegas Virgen de Galir Valdeorras Pagos del Galir, Spain: Retail $20. 100% Godello. Just the other day, I stated that I get all “giddy” when I receive a Viura–a white wine from Rioja. While that is still certainly true, I might have to add Godello, a white grape grown primarily in Gallicia, in Northern Spain. Pale lemon in color, with plenty of fruit jumping out of the glass (pear, nectarine) along with a flinty, wet-rock aspect. Past the lips, this is equally fantastic: rich fruit, searing acidity, minerality. Giddy-up. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.