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 Cabernet Franc Gaia, Gualtallary District, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $15. Retail $30. B.A.B. DIAM 5 closure. 100% Cabernet Franc (Organic grapes). I am going to try really hard not to go off yet again about another producer claiming to be eco-friendly but then using an unnecessarily heavy bottle. I am trying really hard to just let it go (but I can’t). The wine itself is delightful; fairly dark in the glass with loads of red and dark berry fruit, black pepper, dark earth, and just the slightest hint of green pepper (which I love). The palate is equally inviting with all that intense fruit upfront, followed by a wave of acidity, and finishing with some subtle, but certainly drying, tannins. Lovely. The added benefit? Once empty, this can replace the baseball bat you keep by the front door for protection (see how easily I let thing go?). Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon Gaia, Gualtallary District, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $30. B.A.B. DIAM 5 closure. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon (Organic grapes). Like the Cab Franc, the fruit comes vineyards in the shadows of the Andes Mountains, ranging from 1,200-4,000 feet in elevation. Again, like the Cab Franc, this wine spent 8-10 months in French Oak. Deep violet/magenta color in the glass with plenty of dark berry fruit (blackberry, cassis, black raspberry), along with pencil shavings (a good thing), spice, and a hefty dose of dark earth (another good thing). The palate comes off as slightly more reserved than the nose suggests but don’t get me wrong, there are oodles of fruit front and center, along with a tangy acidity, and mouth-drying (and appetite whetting) tannins on the finish. A definite “buy” from my perspective, particularly at this price. But do yourself (and your back) a favor–buy only a half of a case (at most) at a time. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Chasing Rain Red Blend, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $25. 44% Merlot, 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc. It might be just me, but it seems like the Aquilini Family, relative newcomers to the Washington State wine scene, puts out another new wine brand just about every month (and there might be more to come given that they easily have around a thousand acres of grapes now in the U.S.). This brand is slightly different than the others, though, based on two words: Red Mountain. While many might not be familiar with the tiny AVA within the much, much larger Columbia Valley, it is arguably the premier region for wine grapes in the entire state. To get a bottle for (likely) under twenty-five bucks? That gets a whoa alone. There is plenty of fruit here both in the glass and past the lips, mostly dark and red berry (blackberry, raspberry, cherry), along with earth, tartness, a minty-menthol thing going on, and a decided joie-de-boire. Lovely. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Chasing Rain Merlot, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $25. 76% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 4% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot. Another Red Mountain red from the Aquilini Family that incorporates the five main red Bordeaux varieties and just barely has enough Merlot to label it was such (75% is the minimum). I have been writing this blog for close to a decade now and I have been drinking, er, tasting wine for at least three times that long and I have yet to find a place for Merlot. For me, it lies squarely (or more accurately, “triangularly”) between Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and (to a lesser extent) Syrah. When I have a red wine “itch” I am much more likely to grab a wine made from that trio than a Merlot. I have tasted a few captivating Merlots over the last few years, though (including this one), which might change my mind but they seem very few and really far in-between to start realigning my viniverse. Fairly dark in the glass with all kinds of dark fruit: blackberry, plum, cassis. I also find a bit of mocha, baking spices, and earth: close to a Whoa. The palate is all about the fruit. Until. The. Acidity. Kicks. In. This is an acid-driven wine disguising itself as a fruit bomb. All this for around a Jackson/Tubman? Back up the Prius, folks. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Notre Vue Chardonnay Musqué, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $36. B.A.B. 100% Chardonnay Musqué. “Musqué” is a term that indicates that the mutation (or clone) of a particular variety has aromatic qualities similar to Muscat (a different variety entirely). Perhaps the most famous “musqué” is Gewurztraminer, the musqué clone of Traminer (and Gewurztraminer has easily replaced Traminer in popularity at this point). Second (a distant second) on the list of popular musqué wines is likely Chardonnay Musqué, which as far as I knew, was limited to the Finger Lakes region in this country. Well, apparently, there is also some in the Russian River Valley as is witnessed by this Notre Vue. As one would expect, this brilliant straw colored wine is quite aromatic. In fact, it might have been fairly easy to convince me that this was actually a blend of Chardonnay and, say, 25-30% Gewurtraminer (it’s not). Fruity, floral, mineral elements all show up in the glass and on the palate. Mostly ripe peach and pear, white hyacinth, and a bit of wet rock–a really compelling profile–while this wine did not go through malolactic fermentation, it was aged in neutral French oak with bâtonnage for three months, resulting in plenty of body and a creamy texture. An interesting, delicious wine. Excellent. 91 Points.