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 Chalk Hill Chardonnay Chalk Hill, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. A bit of a B.A.B. While I have never been to the Chalk Hill tasting room, but I have ridden by it, up Chalk Hill Road, countless times. It’s a punchy little climb, less than a mile long, but requires attention and usually takes my breath away. I feel somewhat similar about the wines I have tried from the winery. While this is certainly not among the top Sonoma Chardonnays I have tried, I’d be hard-pressed to find a much better value. Lemon zest, a bit of white peach, freshly bloomed flower, and a touch of oak. The palate is certainly on the oaky side but definitely in moderation. Again, for twenty bucks (which means around $15 at retail)? Yeah, I can do that. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 FEL Chardonnay Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $35. B.A.B. A bit of color here, but still in the “light straw” end of the spectrum. Lemon rind, acacia flower, almond, and a bit of oak on the nose–a lot going on here. The palate is perhaps a bit more subdued or restrained than the nose would suggest. There is plenty of fruit, but it is in concert with the zingy acidity and a wonderful creaminess that one finds in the best Chardonnays. My only gripe here is the rather large, heavy bottle. Why for earth is that necessary? Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 FEL Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $25. I have to admit that I get more than a bit giddy when I see “Pinot Gris” on the label. More often than not, it means that the wine has been made not in the, at least at times, insipid Italian style but rather in the richer Alsatian style. Full disclosure: I studied in Alsace and have much more than a “penchant” for the wines from the region. Light straw color, peach, pear, apricot, and considerable salinity on the nose bode goodness. While the palate might not be as rich and unctuous as my favorite Gris from Alsace, this Anderson Valley interpretation is a lovely wine: tart, balanced, delicious. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 FEL Pinot Noir Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $38. Part of the Cliff Lede family of wineries, FEL represents cool-climate varieties (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, etc.) from the Anderson Valley. This wine is on the dark side for a Pinot, both in color and aromas, the latter also incorporating both herbal and savory notes. The palate is particularly acid-driven with fruit and earth notes, as one would expect from the variety. The tannins are supple and largely integrated, resulting in a delightful finish. Excellent. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 La Pincoya Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile: Retail $20. I Googled, I Binged, I even Yandexed. But I could not find much about this wine other than the price (20 bucks). So we will just have to go with what is in the bottle (yeah, I know, a pretty novel idea). The nose is characterized by oodles of fruit: citrus, tropical, exotic. The palate is also quite fruity, but also zingy and tart with an angular focus. Yum. Not your “typical” Sauv Blanc. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Ron Rubin Chardonnay Pam’s Un-Oaked, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $16. Pam is Ron Rubin’s wife and she does not like oaked Chardonnay, hence this wine. Evidently, Pam prefers rich, very fruity (ripe red apple, ripe peach, and a minty element), and slightly sweet Chardonnay. I looked for the specs on this wine, but could not find the amount of residual sugar on this wine, but it is noticeable (perhaps >5g/liter?). This Chard does have some decent tartness and quite a bit of body and is, honestly, fun to drink. Very Good. 87 Points.
2018 Tasca D’Almerita Antisa, Sicily, Italy: Retail $20. 100% Catarratto. I have made it known on several occasions that I am a huge fan of Sicilian wine and Catarratto is one of the top white wines from the island off the toe of the boot. Lemon dominates on the nose, with white peach, acacia, and even some papaya. The palate is fruity, loaded with salinity, and possesses a savory element. A delightful return to Sicily. Excellent. 92 Points.