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.
This week, I focus on wines that come in at or below a suggested retail price (SRP) of $25. Many of these wines can be found, of course, at prices below their SRP (in fact, many—if not most—of the wines in this price point are often below the SRP by as much as 10-25% or more).
2017 Cherry Pie Pinot Noir, California: Retail $23. Under screw cap. Oddly, I was sent this 2017 sample after I had already received (and tasted) the 2018. Oh well, twist, pour, taste. As with its slightly younger sibling, this is an entirely pleasant quaff and one could do much worse in this price range (“me oh my” anyone?). Start to finish, this is varietally “correct” with notes of, yes, cherry pie, a bit of spice, and suggestions of earth. The palate is fruity and tart, just a bit lacking in depth. Again, a nice wine that does not require much introspection. Very Good. 88 Points.
2018 Fat Bastard Wine Company Les Frères Bastards Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre: Retail $20. Under screw cap. 50% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre. Every time I open a bottle of Fat Bastard wine, I have to admit I laugh–not because of the name itself, per se, but due to the fact that every time I look at myself in the mirror these days I think: “Wow, you are one fat bastard” (truth be told, my wife claims that I am not, but I contend that she has a vested interest in not being married to someone considered “fat” [or a “bastard” for that matter]). Of all of the “Jolly-Child-Out-of-Wedlock” (while perhaps more politically correct, definitely more cumbersome) wines that I have sampled thus far, this is certainly my favorite. Dark in the glass with equally dark fruit, a splash of spice, and a touch of earth. Yum. The palate is certainly fruity up front, but there is a whole lot more going on here: dark earth, Christmas spice, brilliant acidity, and some soft, but present tannins. Yowza. I was ready to hate this wine on so many levels (not the least of which was glancing at the mirror as I exit the shower), but this is pretty fantastic. I have to go with “Excellent” since I would drink this all day long and numerous times on Sunday. Excellent. 90 Points.
NV Piper Sonoma Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $22. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Blanc. I received two bottles of this wine for my Third Annual Largest Blind Tasting of American Sparkling Wine and I liked/loved it back then (90 Points). As I open this second bottle for my in-laws? I might like it even better. Set aside the perhaps obvious “my in-laws are coming over, I need some wine” aspect to focus on what is actually in the bottle. It is a bit of a dichotomy. On one hand is the nose, which is loaded with yeasty goodness and a marzipan aspect. Sure, there is some citrus fruit, but the autolysis aspect is the driving force. The palate on the other hand? Reverse those emphases. Much more fruit (citrus) driven here as the yeast and nuttiness plays a significant back seat. Lovely. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Laetitia Winery Chardonnay Estate, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $22. Under screw cap. Vintage Wine Estates purchased Laetitia a couple of years ago but it seems as though the Central Coast winery has not missed a beat, producing fantastic wines for quite reasonable prices. I came to know Laetitia through their sparkling wine program several years ago, and while I have only tasted the last handful of iterations of this Estate Chardonnay, it has been produced nearly as long as I have been legally able to drink it (i.e., a long time). While this wine went through malolactic fermentation (80%) and spent time in French barrels (25% new), I would not consider this a “traditional” California Chard as it is still rather light on its feet. Lemon curd, spice, a hint of Asian pear, and (yes) oak on the nose, the palate is much more driven by the angular acidity and aforementioned fruit. This has to be a leader in this price range. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Raeburn Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $25. A relative newcomer to the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) scene, I have tasted a few bottlings of Raeburn now and I am impressed (particularly given the price point). I have maintained for some time now that “good” Pinot starts at right around $30/bottle and heads north rather precipitously. This challenges that assertion. Fruity (but short of a “bomb”), earth, tart, balanced–pretty much everything one looks for in a Pinot. Sure, it is a bit lacking in depth, but for right around twenty bucks? This really delivers. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Nik Weis Selection Urban Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany: Retail $12. Under screw cap. It has been a while since I have seen Nik Weis, but he seems to be powering along as he always has. He introduced this Urban Riesling almost two decades ago as a second wine for St-Urban’s Hof, one of the titans of the Mosel founded by his grandfather right after WWII, in 1947. This wine is made with mostly purchased fruit (grapes from the estate go into the parent wines) and is always a delight. Light and lively (only 10% ABV), with a kiss of sweetness, this is still all Mosel Riesling with golden apple, peach, and that ubiquitous (it seems) petrol note. As I said, this is always a delight and for the price? Perhaps the best Mosel Riesling on the market. Very Good. 89 Points.