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.
Although not intended, even slightly, there is a bit of a theme this week. All of the wines, with one notable exception, were housed in really heavy bottles. As I have stated here numerous times, the heavy bottle serves no purpose whatsoever. I have raised this issue countless times (to the point of making a meme of myself) and while all of the industry types I have spoken to admit that it is a bit excessive and increases the wine’s carbon footprint significantly, few have made a commitment to changing the practice.
I continue to be flabbergasted as to why wineries continue to do this. A few have told me that it is a “marketing tool” since consumers equate the weight of the bottle with quality. My retort? If you need a heavy bottle to hoodwink someone into buying your wine, you need to fire your marketing department immediately.
As wildfires continue ablaze on the West Coast, still threatening vineyards and ruining many a crop, I hope that the industry realizes that the heavy bottle is only adding to the problem.
2016 Benziger Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $20. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. B.A.B. Fairly dark in color and certainly in aromas with blackberry, plum, a touch of mocha, smoke, and a little hot (14.5% ABV). No need for confusion here, the fruit is at the forefront on the palate and remains there through the finish. A nice acidity comes in on the mid-palate and tries its hardest to make some inroads, but the fruit powers back in on the finish. If you like your Cabs big and boisterous, here you go! Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Four Vines Chardonnay Naked Chardonnay, Central Coast, CA: Retail $15. Under screwcap. B.A.B. Under the Purple Brands umbrella. There are not a ton of under $20 Chardonnays that I would endorse, but this one comes awfully close. There is good fruit, ample acidity, and a bit of verve, for sure, but also some residual sugar (but very slight) which I find a bit unnecessary. Look, at this price, it would be tough to find a higher quality Chard. At this price. Very Good. 87 Points.
2018 Four Vines Zinfandel Biker, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $17. 100% Zinfandel. B.A.B. Paso is one of a handful of regions that is “known” for Zin (Dry Creek Valley, Lodi, Sonoma County come to mind). This is a ridiculously heavy bottle. Really heavy. Like “OUCH” kinda heavy. If you are looking for a murder weapon, in fact…. Fairly light in color and aromas, with red fruit, spice, and a bit of tobacco noticeable. The palate is surprisingly subtle for a 15% ABV wine with slightly jammy fruit and smoky notes. While retail is “officially” 17 bucks, you will likely find this for $15 or less. Giddy-up Thursday, we have a new wine. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Four Vines Cabernet Sauvignon The Kinker, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $19. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. B.A.B. Paso is perhaps best-known for its Zinfandel, but this Cab, which I believe represents the largest plantings in Paso, is completely baller (sorry, I used to live in California and I occasionally result to the local vernacular). Dark in the glass, with largely dark fruit and plenty of spice. On the palate, I was surprised that this was an under-$20 bottle of wine. He-haw (or something like that–I had already used “Giddy-up” in the previous note but it is also appropriate here). Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Mi Sueño Chardonnay Carneros, CA: Retail $42. B.A.B. This is a bit of a curious wine for me. It spent 18 months in oak (albeit only 30% new French oak), and went through 100% malolactic fermentation. When I read all these details, I was convinced I would be writing about a “traditional Cali Chard” (often referred to as “Cougar Juice” which I will not discuss any further here). Well, a funny thing happened after pulling the cork: while the wine is rich and buttery, it is far from the parenthetical description above. In fact, it is actually closer to an adjective I found on the Mi Sueño website: “Burgundian” (another loaded term that I will not get into here either for entirely different reasons). Subtle lemon curd, honeysuckle, and just a hint of white pepper on the nose. The palate is rich and nuanced, subtle fruitiness, plenty of body, more than adequate acidity, and a lengthy finish. Lovely. Excellent. 90 Points.
2016 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $75. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. B.A.B. This (and the Chardonnay) was my first introduction to Mi Sueño, and I am impressed (other than the really heavy bottles). Like the Chard, this has spent considerable time in oak (21 months, French) with a considerable percentage new (65%). But, also like the Chard, this does not come off as heavy-handed, in fact, quite the opposite. Good fruit on both the nose and the palate, but this wine is also loaded with plenty of intrigue, particularly on the midpalate with mocha, spice, and where the chalky tannins creep in. This is very nice now but might improve in the short-term. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Pazo Cilleiro Rías Baixas, Spain: Retail $19. 100% Albariño. Under screwcap. The only wine on this list that has a responsible bottle. And it comes from Europe. Coincidence? Straw yellow with a green/gold hue and primarily citrus aromas in the glass (with a hint of white acacia flower). The palate is clean and concise with fantastically zingy fruit, an underlying minerality, and a lengthy finish. A textbook example of Rías Baixas and a delightful quaff with shellfish, grilled chicken, or while watching the Astros beat the A’s. Excellent. 90 Points.
Those are some nice samples 👌