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: Sauvignon Two Ways, Chardonnay Any Day, 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.
2016 Alto De Casablanca Pinot Noir Ritual, Casablanca Valley, Chile: Retail $21. While I normally eschew Pinots under thirty bucks, I have found this wine rather enthralling across the past few vintages. Fruity, a bit of “barnyard” on the nose but that barnyard aspect is absent on the palate, replaced by fruit, a zingy acidity, and hints of earth, oak, and spice. A solid Pinot, no doubt. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Domaine Bousquet Malbec Virgen, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $13. Under screwcap. 100% Malbec. This dark, opaque wine is a bit reductive initially, but after several swirls, a host of dark and red fruit rushed forth on the nose. The palate is more reserved than the nose suggests, with fruit and plenty of balancing acidity. A really easy-drinking red that punches well above its weight. Thirteen bucks for an organic Malbec? Easy. Very Good. 88 Points.
2017 Etude Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $50. I tasted this about a year ago in a blind tasting of 100 domestic Pinot Noirs (at my house) and this wine stood out. And then some. A year later, as I brace for the looming election, I grab this bottle in hopes of a happy spot, a safe harbor, on election eve. Well. It delivered. Again. Fruity (black cherry), earthy, minty, and a bit of clove. Whoa. The palate is equally enthralling with tart fruit, and an earthiness on the mid-palate, hints of firm tannins. While this is slightly (if everso) less impressive than I found it last year, this is still a stellar, sexy wine. Excellent. 93 Points.
2017 Failla Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. Big Ass Bottle. I’ve been a fan of Failla for quite some time, but this was my first venture: A bit dusty and certainly earthy on the nose with dark cherry fruit and a decided flintiness. The palate is reserved with that flintiness predominate but with tart cherry, a dirty, earthy forest floor, and a zingy acidity that defines this wine. I first tasted this a year ago and I was more enamored, perhaps, than I am tonight, but this is still a solid Pinot. Very Good. 89 Points.
2015 Kirkland Signature Rioja Reserva, Spain: Retail $8. 100% Tempranillo. Here is my review from a couple of months ago: When I moved from Sausalito, CA to Philadelphia, PA many moons ago, I remember lamenting the fact that PA residents could only buy wine from the state stores. This meant no more BevMo, no Total Wine, and, perhaps of more import, no Costco. Only having just passed our 4th anniversary of the move to the great state of Texas, those “tough times” are a mere memory now with wine widely available from scores of outlets. Since this wine is available a scant three miles away at our Costco, I will be getting more. A lot more. Fruity, juicy, friendly to nearly every palate, and an admirable finish. Tasty. While all of that still holds true, I rated it at 88 Points then, but have bumped it up a point this time around. What a value. Very Good. 89 Points.
2015 Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy: Retail $50. 65% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone, 5% Negrara. Although I do not have extensive knowledge of Amarone, I have been around that block a few times at least. While this is certainly not atop the Amarone heap, it is no slouch either. Luscious, spicy, fruity (in a reserved way), and even leathery, this shouts “classic Amarone” on the nose. The palate is much more of the same with rich, unctuous, slightly oxidized, fruit that instantly coats the mouth and kind of refuses to leave. But not in a crazy uncle way, but more of a bold, yet cuddly puppy just longing for a home. Home found. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Stoller Pinot Noir Reserve Dundee Hills, OR: Retail $50. I first tasted this wine last year at this time during my annual blind tasting of American Pinot Noir. I liked it then, as I do now: fairly translucent in the glass with aromas of black cherry, earth, and cardamom. The palate is balanced with fresh cherry fruit, vanilla, and an over-arching tartness that defines this wine. I was a fan of this Pinot a year ago, but I think I like it more a year in. Excellent. 91 Points.
2015 Veramonte Primus The Blend, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $20, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Carménère, 25% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc. A real kitchen sink blend of Bordeaux varieties from Apalta in the Colchagua Valley in Chile. Deep ruby/purple color with aromas of cassis, black raspberry, plum, earth, and some slight vegetal notes (green pepper, mint). The palate is quite fruity and rich with more than ample acidity, spice, and just a touch of heat (14$ ABV). For twenty bucks? Yeah, I can play that game. Excellent. 90 Points.