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.
2017 Alois Lageder Manzoni Bianco Fórra, Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: Retail $30. 100% Manzoni Bianco. Alto Adige is a fabulous contrast: Austrian precision and Italian passion. This grape, created by Luigi Manzoni in 1930 in Conegliano, is a cross between Pinot Bianco and Riesling and is particularly hardy which makes it a natural for Alto Adige. While this is not technically an “orange” wine, the skins are left in contact with the must for “several days” adding plenty of complexity. A fairly striking nose of quince, allspice, mango, and wet rock, which almost garners a Whoa on its own. The palate is rich, deep, and on the verge of unctuous. While “unique” is handed out like lollipops at a bank these days, this wine certainly deserves that characterization. I have the feeling that this wine will also age beautifully for several years. OK. Whoa. Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2018 Cortonesi Rosso di Montalcino La Mannella, Italy: Retail $30. 100% Sangiovese. I took this wine over to a friend’s house to watch the basketball game in his garage (that’s a thing in Houston, apparently), while maintaining physical distance, naturally. The wine was better than the game (and deserving of a better venue). Plenty of fruit (red and dark berry), allspice, and hints of vanilla and clove. The palate is equally vibrant with fruit, tartness, and depth. Yum. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2018 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Alexander Valley, CA: Retail $22. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabs are tough. Not in an abstract way, but due to the fact that there are so many at just about every price point, and don’t even get me started on “style.” I’m a firm believer that Cabs should be evaluated not as a variety, but rather in regards to their relative “quality” (i.e., price). In other words, this is not a $100 (or more) Cab. It’s a wine that, with a little bit of effort, one could find for under twenty bucks. Given that paradigm? This is pretty darned good. Fruity, spicy, nuanced (somewhat), and tart, this is an easy choice when the in-laws are coming over for pizza. Or short-ribs. Or to give you their unsolicited opinion. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2017 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Pinot Noir Stephanie’s Cuvée, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, CA: Ron Rubin Wines. Retail $30. Under screwcap. Green Valley of the Russian River Valley. Fruity (black cherry), rich, and a bit spicy on the nose, with plenty of fruit on the palate as well. Nice tartness, above-average acidity, and plenty of verve here. I think there are still some out there who are biased when they see a screw-top Pinot and assume that it must be, well, “lesser.” Well, that is certainly not the case here. While few will confuse this with a Grand Cru Burgundy or even a single-vineyard from Argyle in Oregon, this certainly has oodles of merit. Very good to excellent. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Tasca D’Almerita Sicilia Tenuta Regaleali Guarnaccio, Italy: Retail $20. 100% Perricone. I have to admit that I do not drink a ton of Perricone, but I have the viable excuse that it is fairly difficult to find in these Disjointed States, which is too bad. While there are other Sicilian reds that I would likely opt for first, this is still a stellar choice for pizza/pasta night. Dark, fruity, spicy, and full of body, this wine is a great option for just about any scenario. Except bungee jumping. That would be bad. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2018 Tasca D’Almerita Grillo Cavallo delle Fate, Sicilia, Italy: Retail $20. Grillo, even though considered an “ancient” variety is a cross of two other Sicilian grapes: Cattarato and Zibbibo (both extremely fun to say, by the way). Once used almost exclusively in the production of Marsala, due to its hardiness in extremely hot climates, Grillo (GREE-lo) has been used to produce a dry wine since the early 1990s, and its popularity has exploded. Quite aromatic, much more so than Pinot Grigio or even Sauvignon Blanc, this wine gushes with guava, gooseberry, and an intense salinity. I have been fortunate enough to visit Sicily a couple of times now and this Grillo immediately takes me back there, which is an incredibly beautiful bonus. Excellent. 90-92 Points.