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.
2015 Damilano Barolo Lecinquevigne, Italy: Retail $40. 100% Nebbiolo. DIAM 10 closure. I do not drink a ton of Barolo, but I should. I spent most of my early wine education trying to understand the producers and terroir of Burgundy, but now that all those wines are virtually beyond the reach of all who would truly appreciate them, well… Good Barolo is not that far off from the Burgundy price structure, but there do seem to be a few wines that provide solid value. And I think that is what we have here. I get it, not many would consider forty bucks a “value” and nor would they think that they should drop everything to run out and buy a 89-90 point wine (for $40). But as I become more familiar with the variety, Nebbiolo just has it. I will not waste time comparing it to Pinot Noir since many far better versed than I have already gone there, but the grape (when afforded the proper attention) has a near-divine combination of delicate fruit and earth—the wine world’s equivalent of surf and turf. Dark cherry, a touch of anise, and forest floor (without the over-powering pine). The palate is neither rich nor acidic; the story here is the balance between the two. Late in the game, the earth and then some silky tannins show up, with both wonderful additions. No, this is not a game-changer Barolo. Given my limited knowledge of the wines, this is neither a starter nor a second-stringer. No, it is a bench player but with wonderful moves and the ability to make a shot that might cause you turn around to see if anyone else was actually watching in order to share a moment. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée, Sonoma Valley, CA: Retail $20. 81% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. Under DIAM 5. Gundlach Bundschu is one of those wineries that have been around for ages in Sonoma County, is still family-owned, and you really wish you were confident in the pronunciation (I know I am not). Fruity, fun, and on the verge of introspective (particularly on day 2); at twenty bucks (probably around $15 at your local retailer), this falls into my favorite category of wine—the no-brainer. Laden with fruit and more-than-sufficient levels of depth, earth, acidity, and intrigue, there is no doubt in my mind that this bottle will be emptied on short order (as soon as you are comfortable with inviting your Uncle Cletus over once again). Pop the cork, pour it into a decanter, wait, and then wait a little longer. You will be rewarded. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Maggy Hawk Pinot Noir Edmeades Vineyard, Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $50. It would not take long to count the number of still white Pinot Noirs that I have tried (the sparkling ones, naturally, would take a whole lot longer), but this is the second I have tried in as many weeks. Slightly golden straw in the glass with lovely aromas of peach, pear, white acacia, and ginger spice. The palate is deliciously balanced between the subtle fruit and racy acidity. Although the information about this wine is rather scant, I did discover that it spent nine months in neutral oak, which has no doubt softened that tartness just a touch. Lovely wine. Outstanding. 93 Points.
NV Pasqua Vigneti e Cantine S.p.a. Hey French You Could Have Made This But You Didn’t, Veneto IGT, Italy: Retail $45. Wax and cork closure. B.A.B. Edizione Uno. Garganega, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc (but I could not find the percentages). This is a multi-vintage wine is a blend of four of the best years of the last decade: 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 (but, again, no percentages given). So. I have a few issues here. First, the heavy bottle. Ugh. Next, if you are taking a little shot at the French (even though I’m a francophile through and through, I have no problem with that), why is the name written in English? Last, if the French *could* have made this, where would that have been, exactly? Since, to my knowledge, the variety is not grown in France (maybe the Languedoc??)–if I am mistaken, please let me know. OK, that all out of the way, two decided positives. First, I wish more winemakers would experiment with blends across vintages–they do it on the regular in Champagne but the list is very short after that. Second, the wine. Very nice, fantastic, even. Great fruit (lemon curd), floral notes, and minerality on the nose to the nines. The palate is rich, fruity, layered, and complex. I read where someone called this a “Super-Soave” (gismondionwine.com) which seems quite apt. Wonderful. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 VDR Very Dark Red, Monterey County, CA: Retail $25. A blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. B.A.B. On the website, this wine claims to be “California Certified Sustainable” and the bottle adds “100% Produced using renewable wind energy.” Fantastic on both counts, really. But. Why in the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks do you then use this ridiculously heavy bottle? Ugh. Ugh^2. Either wineries are serious about improving the climate or they are not. Come on Scheid Family, go all in and use responsible glass (and get rid of the foil, while we are at it). The wine? Well, it lives up to its name for sure, this might just be the darkest wine I can remember drinking. Blackberry, cassis, plum (and every other dark fruit you can think of), dominate the nose to the point of eliminating any opposition. The palate is big. Really big. Rich, really rich. Holy mother of Jesus, this is huge. Not my style, and that is for sure, but it is good at what it tries to do (although I am not sure what the really heavy bottle is trying to do). Excellent. 90 Points.