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.
Special Note: I normally eschew all the International Wine Days that dot the calendar, but today is International Champagne Day! Yes, December 31st is also considered an International Champagne Day, but in my opinion, we all need to drink more champagne, so the more Champagne Days the better! I will be having a blind tasting of a few readily available rosé champagnes today and will report on them next week.
NV Gustave Lorentz Crémant d’Alsace Rosé, France: Retail $28 (but is often available for under $20). 100% Pinot Noir. Along with Jura, it’s neighbor to the South, Alsace is home to some of my favorite crémants. Alsace is also my former “home” (I studied there) so this covers a couple of bases even before I pop the cork. Salmon-pink color with tart cherry, strawberry, and a touch of salinity in the glass, and plenty of red fruit, tartness, a lively sparkle, and just a frappe of sweetness on the palate. Very Good. Very Good. 89 Points.
2015 Neyen Espiritu de Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $70. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Carménère. Really B.A.B. When will these heavy bottles disappear? The wine should speak for itself, and this wine does, it is gorgeous. Dark in the glass with enticing aromas of ripe plum, blackberry, cassis, and hints of fresh mint, this is a beauty even before the first sip. That first taste, though? Yowza. Fruity, certainly, but incredibly balanced with a rich and full mouthfeel. That balance comes from a vibrant acidity that keeps the fruit in check and begs for food. The finish reveals some tannins, but they are mostly integrated and while there might be some improvement in the short-term, this is largely a wine for the now. Whoa. Excellent. 93 Points.
NV Pascual Toso Brut, Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $15. 100% Chardonnay. Citrus, pear, and a distinct minerality in the glass of this pale yellow sparkler with delicate bubbles. Fresh, tart, and quite angular on the palate, this wine whets the appetite from the moment it passes the lips. Yes, there is fruit there, but there is also a distinct salinity that is evident on the mid-palate (along with a bit of weight). The finish returns to that tartness and salinity, which begs for food, particularly seafood. Oysters? Yowza. Very Good. 88 Points.
2011 Domaine de la Pertuisane Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Le Nain Violet, France: Retail $30. 100% Grenache. A bit of a B.A.B. I have to admit that I did a double-take when I saw the vintage on this wine. 2011? I have only been receiving samples for just short of nine years and this is by far the oldest still wine I have received. Why does that matter? I have always said that age is the toughest thing to find in wine as retailers look to sell current vintages quickly, to make room for the new. 2011? No way. Although I have not tried this vintage before, this bottle is doing quite well, thank you. Quite dark in the glass both in color and aromas with blackberry and cassis (both a tad stewed), earth, and tar. The palate is surprisingly fruity for a wine that is nearly a decade old, with an impressive level of acidity and earth. The finish is also quite fruity with just a hint of tannins that are clearly integrated. It is wonderful to taste a sample that is at maturity. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Ron Rubin Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $18. Under screwcap. The nose is clean and focused with lemon rind, Bosc pear, touches of minerality, and just hints of oak (French and American, 20% new) and vanilla. The palate is equally precise, with a good dose of fruit, followed by a shot of acidity, and finally a wave of roundness. A Russian River Valley Chardonnay this good for under twenty bucks? You would think there would have to be a catch, but I can’t find it. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, South Africa: I had dinner here in Houston with Johan Malan, CEO of Simonsig, around this time last year and I came away impressed with all of the wines including this flagship sparkler. Here is what I wrote at the time: Retail $18. 55% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Meunier. Bright and fruity with oodles of citrus. Clean and lovely on the palate. For $18? Easy choice. Very Good. 89 Points. Most of that remains true, but this is coming off as much tarter and drier than the wine I tried that night. Perhaps a change in the dosage? I rarely say this, but this wine could use a touch more sugar. Very Good. 88 Points.
2015 Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Italy: Retail $60. 80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta. I do not drink a ton of Amarone, and while there are certainly much more expensive expressions of the wine, this is a pleasant iteration. Plenty going on in the glass with a dark crimson, approaching indigo, even, color and aromas of desiccated black cherry, fig, cassis, tobacco, Christmas spice, and some heat (a whopping 16.5% ABV). Rich, layered, approaching unctuous, all on the palate, with the aforementioned fruit (add in some anise). Again, I am no expert here, but this is a lovely wine. Paired with a Texas ribeye as big as my head? Whoa. Excellent. 91 Points.