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.
2015 Adelsheim Pinot Noir Breaking Ground, Chehalem Mountains, OR: Retail $45. Another second bottle sent for last year’s Blind Tasting of American Pinot Noir, I have to say that my original note was pretty spot-on. Fairly light in color, but potent in aromas of black cherry, a touch of clove, and a waft of smoke–a lovely nose. The palate is tart, but it serves to balance the opulent fruit and is buoyed by a bit of earth and spice. While this was lovely last year during the tasting, it has certainly improved (and witness to why tasting on release does not tell the entire story). Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Rioja Viña Real Crianza, Spain: Retail $17. 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano. I do not have a ton of experience with Rioja and have never visited, but when I do, CVNE will be my first stop. I have been sampling their wines for several years now, and they always deliver. Medium garnet in the glass, with a decided herbal quality on the nose: mint, oregano, basil all get in there with some dark red fruit behind-really interesting and compelling aromas. The palate is rather austere, particularly initially, with all of those herbal qualities upfront. A bit of tart cherry and boysenberry come through on the midpalate, but this wine is all about the herbaceousness, and I like it. Very Good. 89 Points.
The next five wines all come from the Aquilini family, very much a newcomer in the world of Washington wines. My first introduction to their wines came nearly two years ago, on a visit to Red Mountain. I also wrote a little more in depth about the family’s first foray into wine last fall.
2018 Be Human Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $16. 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. This is becoming ridiculous. I am almost to the point of not trying another Aquilini wine (not really) since they are all great and they are all at stupidly low price points. I realize that the family has more money than I could ever count in eight (80? 800?) lifetimes, so I imagine they are at least a little better at business plans than I (my next business plan will be my first), so take that last comment with the appropriate amount of derision. Rich fruit, good weight, and depth, just another solid effort. Really? Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Be Human Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $16. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 16% Malbec, 3% Cabernet Franc. Another new release from the Aquilini Family and their vast holdings in Washington state. Near inky dark color in the glass with black cherry, cassis, plum, a dash of vanilla, and some spice. The palate is quite fruity with some good depth and some soft, but noticeable tannins. This could use a bit more tartness to balance out the fruit, but this is a stellar effort for under twenty bucks. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Dixie & Bass Sauvignon Blanc, Horse Heaven Hills, WA: Retail $18. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. I have been pretty much over-the-moon with these initial releases from the Aquilini Family, but… Nice aromas of lemon rind, hazelnut, pineapple. The palate has a multitude of inputs including lemon, weight, spice. But this lacks acidity. A Sauvignon Blanc needs to come close to ripping the enamel off your teeth, and this falls short of that. Very Good, but… 87 Points.
2018 Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $21. 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot. Here we go again. Another Aquilini wine that is both incredibly good as well as more than reasonably priced (there is also a critter on the label, which also seems to be a theme). Dark in the glass in both color and fruit, with spice and clove. The palate is both welcoming and complex with oodles of fruit and several waves of complexity and depth. Ho hum, another home run from the owners of the Vancouver Canucks Hockey Club (I tried really hard to mix several metaphors there). Excellent. 91 Points
2018 Roaming Dog Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $13. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 1% Merlot. Under screwcap. Medium ruby color in the glass with fresh red berry fruit, a touch of vanilla, and a smidgen of spice. Fruity on the palate as well, juicy, even, with some good weight and depth on the midpalate. The finish is a touch on the short side, but honestly, for the price? I am not sure there are many wines out there that could go toe-to-toe here. Very Good. 89 Points.