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.
2019 Clean Slate Riesling, Mosel Saar Ruwer, Germany: Retail $15. Under Screw Cap. Pale straw with a golden hue, on the nose with a classic mélange of honeycomb, ripe peach, and that seemingly ever-present petrol aspect. The palate is tart, but balanced by what I would call a “slightly-off-dry” level of sweetness. I have had my fair share of of Rieslings from the Mosel and while this is certainly not at the top of that pyramid, as an every day option? You bet. Very Good. 88 Points.
2019 Raeburn Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 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.
2018 Roaming Dog Red Blend, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $13. Under screwcap. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Malbec, 31% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc. Another first release from one of the Aquilini brands, this (like the Chardonnay) punches well above its weight, no doubt due to the amount of Red Mountain fruit in this wine (no, I could not get a precise percentage). Thirteen bucks? OK, I am all in, I call your bluff here! No bluff, this wine has the nuts (poker term): dark in the glass with aromas of blackberry and mocha front and center. Quite drinkable, quaffable, even, this goes down far too easy, which I assume is the goal. Look, this is not a high-brow player in Sketchers, it is more of a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops, but holy cow is that a winning combo! Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc Charlotte’s Home, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $15. Under screwcap. Sauvignon Blanc? Meh. That is my normal reaction, but when it is a Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home, my mouth starts to water. Part of the reason? The people at Rodney Strong are wonderful, but the winery generally produces fantastic wines which are incredible values. Quite floral on the nose with some green apple, a bit of flint, and a touch of white pepper. The palate is balanced: fruit, tart, precise. Fifteen bucks? You bet. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $25. 100% Pinot Noir. Under screwcap. This is always one of my favorite rosés every year, but curiously, this is my first sip of the 2019. Light pink, with a salmon hue, this wine shows a bit of strawberry, cherry, and minerality on the nose. That minerality takes the lead on the palate, but the fruit quickly comes rushing in shortly thereafter. And, um yeah, this is good. For around fifteen bucks (typically) in the local grocery store? Oh yeah. Giddy-up! Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Château de Rouanne Vinsobres, Rhône Valley, France: Retail $28. 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Before I opened this bottle, I am pretty sure that I had never heard of “Vinsobres” or had any clue where it was. Well, as it turns out, I have spent far too much time in Carpentras, a town a mere 40 kilometers to the south (ask me at some point why the mere mention of that town gives me hives). At another point in time I was even closer, in the tinier town of Vaison-la-Romaine, not even 15 kilometers to the south. Still? Nothing. Alas, the next time I am in the neighborhood, it might merit a visit. An earthy, fruity, and somewhat funky (I love the funk) wine in the glass with an inky dark color and a brooding disposition. The palate is focused initially on the fruit, which comes in several waves, eventually reinforced by the tart and unifying acidity, and quick hits of earth and tannin. I would imagine that fans of American wine might have an issue with the funk (Brett) on the nose, but if you can get past that? A wonderful, fruity wine. Very Good. 89 Points.
2016 Zenato Ripassa, Ripasso della Valpolicella Superiore, Italy: Retail $25. 85% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Corvinone. Big Ass Bottle. Doing a bit of research on this wine, I found that it is a bit all over the place concerning scores. Most acknowledge that it is, essentially, a baby Amarone (a wine that is desiccated to enhance flavor, essentially), but there the assessment diverges. Dark in the glass with black and blue fruit aromas (that are slightly oxidized), this wine is both rich and tart on the palate. Holy cow. yes, those fruits (back, blue, and red) are intense and varied, but the tartness is what really drives the flavor profile here. A nearly five-year-old wine that is this fresh and lively? Sign me up. Excellent. 92 Points.