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.
2018 Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $25. 85% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 5% Syrah. Deep purple color in the glass with plenty of red (cherry, strawberry), blue (blueberry), and black (black cherry, blackberry, plum) on the nose, with a decided floral aspect of rose and lilac. The wine spends a full twelve months in French oak, which is apparent with the baking spice and clove that comes through on both the nose and palate. Quite tart, with plenty of weight, this is a lovely wine, and for the price? As with all wines from Domaine Bousquet, this is a bargain. Excellent. 90 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 Chehalem Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $30. This winery, started by Harry Nedry-Petersen and Bill Stoller in 1990, is now, since 2018, wholly owned by Stoller Winery. They kept the Chehalem label (obviously) and this was the first (?) vintage released completely under the Stoller Winery umbrella. I received two bottles of this wine last year for my annual domestic Pinot Noir tasting. I was impressed with this wine a year ago and equally so tonight: bright cherry fruit, a bit of earth, and a touch of heat (13.5%). The palate is fruity, tart, and quite quaffable. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Failla Pinot Noir Bjornson Vineyard Eola – Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $45. Ehren Jordan, the owner/winemaker at Failla, made his name with Turley Zinfandel, but since he branched out on his own, his Pinots (and Chardonnays) have garnered remarkable acclaim. For a decade or so, his wines all came from the various appellations in Sonoma (even though the winery is on Silverado Trail in Napa). I believe this was the first vintage of sourcing fruit from Oregon and it turned out to be memorable. I first tried this wine last year for my annual Pinot Noir tasting here in Houston and I *loved* it (95 Points). Tonight, almost exactly a year later, it is still incredible (but that should be of little surprise given the winemaker). Dark cherry, clove, and maybe celery root all dance on the nose. The palate is still bright and exuberant with depth and verve. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2017 Failla Pinot Noir Seven Springs Vineyard Eola – Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $65. Another wine that was part of my Second Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir, it seems to have softened just a bit since last time this year. The flinty, slate aspect still remains on both the nose and the palate, but the rich cherry fruit is much more prevalent. This Pinot also has great weight and balance, both hallmarks of Ehren Jordan’s deft hand. As is the high degree of tartness and the soft, subtle tannins. This should continue to mature over the next handful of years. Excellent. 92 Points.
2016 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. While this lists at 25 bucks, it is available in most markets for under twenty. Last year at this time, for my Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir, I found this delightful. I still do. Bright cherry fruit, minerality, a touch of freshly turned earth, plenty of tartness–there is plenty of wine here for your $20. While most RRV Pinots land north of $30 and many clock in at over $40, this is a wonderful wine at a fraction of the price. Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Saffron Fields Vineyard Pinot Noir Heritage Clones, Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $52. This was another of the several duplicate bottles from last year’s Largest Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir. A year ago, I loved this wine (92 Points) and that remains the case twelve months later. Cherry, cardamom, wet earth, there are all kinds of goodness on the nose. The palate is equally delectable: fruit, acidity, spice, depth–there is plenty going on here. Last year was my first introduction to Saffron Hills and hopefully, it will not be my only encounter. Excellent. 93 Points.
NV Earl Stevens Selections Moscato, California: Retail $14. I have a thing about Moscato–it is kind of like Rick Springfield’s massive hit, Jessie’s Girl. I really like the song but I don’t want anyone else to know it. I used to crank it at full-volume with windows down in my beat-up 1976 Ford Maverick (with Blaupunkt receiver and speakers, thank you very much) but turn it down instantly when I pulled to a stop and there was, well, someone of interest in the lane next to me. In an image, that is Moscato. I really like drinking it even though it is close to cloyingly sweet and when someone asks me what I am drinking, I quickly roll up the window and feign ignorance. This wine is perfectly Moscato with tropical fruit, subtle bubbles, eager acidity, and a bit of minerality. I like it and to quote Mr. Springfield, “I feel dirty…” Very Good. 88 Points.
2018 Vila Nova Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, Portugal: Retail $16. 100% Alvarinho/Albariño. Composite stopper. Brilliant straw yellow in the glass with aromas of melon, honeysuckle, guava, ripe pear, and a touch of minerality. The palate is both tart and surprisingly rich with tropical flavors that coat the mouth and linger well past the time that the wine has departed. A fairly versatile wine that can be served as an apéritif as well as a lovely accompaniment to most seafood and grilled white meats. Very Good. 89 Points.