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 Richard Böcking Trarbacher Burgberg Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany: Retail $35. Under cork. I was on a Zoom call with the (relatively) recent new proprietor of this four plus centuries-old producer and I had a ton of questions. Unfortunately, his internet connection was total, well, crap, and most of my questions went unanswered. This wine is almost dry (under 3g/liter of RS) but not labeled an Kabinett. Why? Good question. I asked it but…. Pale straw in the glass, really great ripe fruit of peach and pear, some of the classic petrol, and a mineral note to beat the band, all on the nose. The palate comes off as completely dry and is as racy as one would expect from a Mosel Riesling. Lean citrus fruit, that mineral aspect, and a really lengthy finish all harmoniously merge on the palate. Yowza. Close to a Whoa. Really close. Excellent. 92 Points.
NV Mineno Hakubai King of Modern Light, Saké, Japan: Retail $45 (720 ml). 800 bottles imported. Junmai Ginjo (60% polished). I am far from an expert when it comes to saké. In fact, most tyros would look at me as a complete moron. But I try. At least when saké is sent to me. Really clear, with just a hint of yellow in the glass with lovely fruit aromas of Asian pear, grapefruit, banana. There is also what I see as a chalky minerality which I find common to the few sakés I have tried. The palate is incredibly well-balanced between the fruit, acidity, a touch of sweetness, and that chalkiness. Particularly delightful but what do I know? Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Geyser Peak Chardonnay California: Retail $18. 90% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier. Under screwcap. Pale straw in the glass. While this wine sees a bit of oak, it does not come off as oaky in the slightest. Sure, there are some oaky, toasty notes on the nose, but they take a decided back seat to the fruit–mostly fresh peach and lemon zest, with bits of nuttiness and melted butter (the website indicates a “partial malolactic fermentation). The palate is deliciously tart, with a zingy acidity that is usually reserved for unoaked versions of the variety. Good weight, lovely mouthfeel, lengthy finish. Well-under twenty bucks for a wine this good from a family-owned business? Oh yeah. No question. Excellent. 90 Points.
2017 Matetic Vineyards Corralillo Winemaker’s Blend, San Antonio Valley, Chile: Retail $16. 49% Syrah, 26% Malbec, 24% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Certified Organic Grapes. Certified Really B.A.B. (by me). Under cork. Why go through the process and commitment to organic farming and then put the wine in a bottle that is at least three times the weight that it needs to be, all for a well-under twenty buck wine? Dark in the glass with black raspberry fruit, along with plum and cassis, and quite herbal with mint and oregano. The palate is quite lovely, with oodles of fruit, plenty of tartness and earth. Honestly? For under $20 this is a fantastic deal, but that bottle is just ridiculous. Excellent. 91 Points.
The next three wines were certainly a treat on a couple of levels. First, they were really fantastic wines and second, I tasted them on a Zoom call with Philippe Melka, the rockstar winemaker.
2018 Parallel Chardonnay Napa Valley, CA: Retail $75. 100 cases produced. Sold Out as futures. The group behind Parallel made their first wine with Philippe Melka twenty-two years ago (1999) and the partnership is still going strong. The group’s first Chardonnay, though, was not until several years later after twisting native Bordelais Melka’s arm to forget about Sauvignon Blanc and craft a Chard instead. This Chard comes from somewhere in Napa—the exact source is not revealed—and is a medium straw in the glass with plenty of lemon curd, vanilla, grapefruit, and just a hint of oak on the nose. The palate is wonderfully balanced with great acidity and subtle fruit. It stops short of what I would call “full and rich” and is certainly more “Old World” in style than “Big Cali Chard.” A lovely wine. Excellent. 92 Points.
2017 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, CA: Retail $110. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 334 cases. B.A.B. With all of the big, powerful Cabs coming out of Napa, this wine from Philippe Melka and Parallel is a delightful departure from the apparent norm. Sure, there is plenty of fruit aromas (black and blue berry, plum) along with dark spice, a hint of mocha, and lavender that emit from this inky dark elixir but it is decidedly restrained. The palate is rich and coats the mouth, but it is also reserved with the acidity sharing the conversation equally with the fruit. This needed considerable time (as in several hours) to open up and begin to sing but once it did? Yowza. Fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2017 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Eclipse, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $180. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Really B.A.B. I do not drink many higher end Napa Cabs (I know that as Napa Cabs go, this might be considered “moderately priced” but it is beyond my wallet, that’s for sure) but when I do? I am not one to complain even though the general style of such wines is pretty far from my wheelhouse. This inky-dark wine, however, comes pretty close to what I imagine my ideal Napa Cab *would* be. Dark to the point of black, there is plenty going on in the glass even before the first sip. The nose, following closely behind the color, is pretty darned dark, on the verge of brooding with bushels of black fruit: blackberry, plum, cassis. Yet, it does not stop there as spice (black pepper), mild chipotle, mocha, and violet and those are just the primary aromas. The palate is certainly Napa with waves of rich fruit, several layers of complexity, a balancing acidity just dying to get noticed, and soft (yet significant) tannins. Whoa. When a Napa Cab is done this well, there is not much else to do but sit back and revel. Whoa. Outstanding. 96 Points.