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.
NV Domaine Bousquet Malbec Natural Origins, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $20 (3 liter box). 100% Malbec. One of these days, I am going to do an article on box wines, which I think is a segment of the market where one can find great value. You get four bottles, usually for the price of one, and the wine will keep for at least a month. If I do write that piece, it will have to include Domaine Bousquet. Already a producer of some of the best wine-for-$ on the planet, this takes that ratio to a new height (or is it to a new low–but in a good way). Sure, it is not a mind-blowing Malbec, but it is fruity, a little spicy, and a whole lotta fun–and there is a ton of it! What more do you need? Very Good. 87 Points.
NV Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon Natural Origins, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $20 (3 liters). 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Another box wine from what has to be the best value organic winery on the planet. I have never been to Domaine Bousquet, but they are on my shortlist of must-visits. Not only do they produce fantastic organic wines at stupid-inexpensive prices, but now they are putting that organic goodness into more eco-friendly boxes? If they were a tree, I would hug them. While I liked the Malbec, this Cab is a notch above, with more spice and depth added to all that fruit. Look, this will not change your life, but it might just help the planet–and it is super tasty. Very Good. 88 Points.
2018 Chalk Hill Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, CA: Retail $29. While Chalk Hill is almost synonymous with Chardonnay, this relatively affordable Pinot is quite impressive. Black cherry, a bit freshly tilled earth, vanilla, and a slight meaty component characterize the nose of this garnet/crimson, nearly translucent wine. The palate comes off a bit thin, but there is plenty of nuance here, and the wine continues to develop complexity the longer it remains in the mouth. Excellent. 90 Points.
2016 Elk Cove Vineyards Pinot Noir La Bohème, Yamhill-Carlton, OR: Retail $55. Really dark in the glass, in fact, if this were evaluated solely on its color, I doubt few would guess this was a Pinot Noir. The nose is also quite dark and brooding with black cherry, eucalyptus, and plum, along with clove, mint, even a touch of sage on the nose. The palate is juicy and rich with plenty of fruit, tartness, earth, and balance. This is a lovely Pinot Noir that is more than ready to drink right now. Yum. Excellent. 91 Points
2017 Etude Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch, Carneros, CA: Retail $47. When I tasted this wine last year as part of my Annual Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir, I liked it, but…well, that was about it. Now? Decidedly better with rich red and dark fruit (cherry, plum), richness, earth, and an herbal quality (sage, basil). This, apparently, has really developed over the course of the last twelve months and it is, well, fantastic. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Ferrari-Carano Siena, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $22. Under screwcap. Sangiovese, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruity (blackberry and plum) and fun (spice, black pepper) on the nose as well as the palate, this is a perfectly juicy crowd-pleaser type of wine. No introspection required, only a quick twist of the top and several empty glasses. Open this around a crowded table and it will disappear quickly. Very Good. 88 Points.
2019 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Amber, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $30. 74% Riesling, 16% Vermentino (Rolle), 10% Viognier. Orange wine is a weird thing. Not conceptually–simply put, it is a white wine vinified like a red wine as the fermentation includes the skins. But it certainly is different and can be considered a bit of an acquired taste. But when you find a good one (like this Troon), it can become magical. Orange in the glass, almost the color of a light apple juice, it has an amazing nose if you take the time to breathe. Dried apricot, moist herbal tea leaves, rose petal, allspice. The palate is equally remarkable but decidedly more citrus with orange zest, glycerin, and a mouth-coating quality that enables the finish to linger for minutes. Orange wine is weird, and not everyone appreciates it, but this is a particularly wonderful iteration. Excellent. 93 Points.