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 Adega Cooperativa de Borba Alentejo Reserva “The Cork Label”, Portugal: Retail $30. B.A.B. 30% Trincadeira, 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Aragonez (Tempranillo), and 20% Castelao. The cork label is, I assume, a nod to the importance that cork production plays in the Alentejano region. As with many a red from the region, this is quite dark in the glass with dark, brooding fruit (plum, cassis), a bit of dark earth, and just a little funk (if it would not be for the touch of irony, I would say this Cork Label wine might be ever so slightly corked?). Funk aside (which I normally love), this is a solid effort and a delightful quaff. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine’s Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, CA: Retail $22. Under cork. While this wine’s suggested retail is north of twenty bucks, it can certainly be found for around fifteen. At that price, I have a dilemma. Recently, I avowed that, at least for me, the difference between an 89 and a 90 point wine was not subtle at all. Simply, would *I buy it*? While this wine does not possess the depth and complexity of most of the Chardonnays that I would buy, it is pretty stinking tasty. Yes, it is fruity, yes, it may even be a tad sweet, but… The pale straw wine exudes some gumption. The nose is fruity (lemon curd and a touch of spice), but, and this is key: inviting. A ton of Chards in this price range either overdo the oak (usually with staves or chips), or go the “pure” stainless route and far too often produce a rather shallow wine. This is not that. There is certainly an oak influence here, but I would put it on the “subtle” end of the spectrum (9 months sur lie, 20% new French). The pale straw wine stops just short of “yellow” and is far from “golden” with lovely aromas of lemon curd, ripe white peach, a nutty aspect (hazelnut?), and a perfumed floral note. The palate is certainly fruit-forward (never a bad thing, well, almost never), with ample acidity coming in on the mid-palate, followed by a little white pepper on the fairly lengthy finish. Listen, I really wanted to dislike this wine, really. But it is pretty freaking good. But. The question: Would I buy it? At fifteen bucks-ish in most grocery stores? Heck to the yeah. Excellent. 90 Points.
2016 Adega da Cartuxa Évora Cartuxa, Alentejo, Portugal: Retail $32. B.A.B. 40% Aragonez, 40% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Trincadeira. When this bottle landed on my doorstop, an immediate smile crossed my face as I remembered the time I spent at the winery during a trip to Alentejo. A near mystical place with wonderful wines. Dark in the glass with rich, ripe, red fruit on the nose with an herbal aspect (sage), vanilla, and a touch of spice. Lovely. The palate is close to magical with rich, deep fruit, buoyed by an intense acidity, an earthiness on the mid-palate, and a bit of tannic grip on the lengthy finish. Very close to a Whoa here. Outstanding. 92 Points.
2018 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $45. B.A.B. Agglomerated stopper (non-DIAM). Every since I started getting into American Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell has always been high on my list. Not only was Gary a pioneer in the Russian River making some of the best Pinots in the 80s and 90s, I would once again consider the producer among the best in the region behind the more than capable hands of winemaker Theresa Heredia. Light in the glass with considerable cherry fruit and earth, this flagship Pinot always delivers. The palate is rich, fruity, and wonderfully balanced with a consistent tartness that accentuates the fruit. Wonderful. Outstanding. 92 Points.
2019 Girasole Vineyards Pinot Noir, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $16. 98% Pinot Noir, 2% Petite Sirah. Under screw cap. The PS was likely added for the color, which is still fairly light, right in the spectrum of what one might expect for a California Pinot Noir. Tons of dark cherry, some forrest floor, even some oregano and mint on the nose. The palate is fruity and tart, with surprisingly good depth and acidity. I have said before that Pinot needs to be around thirty bucks to be a serious wine, but this certainly challenges that assertion. Great value. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Tinto, Alentejo, Portugal: Retail $18. B.A.B. 50% Alicante Bouschet, 30% Touriga Nacional, 10% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I sampled this wine back in March of 2020 and for some reason, they sent me another bottle (which is rather heavy, btw). Here is what I wrote then: “Inky dark in the glass, with blackberry and plum. The palate is quite rich and fruity with oodles of blackberry, some mint, and spice (including black pepper). This is a fruity, fun wine, that is better slightly chilled. Very Good.” Pretty much still spot on, even 15 months later. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Scribe Pinot Noir Nouveau, Carneros, CA: Retail $32. I really have no idea how I came across this bottle, so I am assuming that it was sent to me as a sample, but who knows? It seems as though carbonic maceration (think Beaujolais) is becoming a bit of a “thing” these days, but this might be the first Pinot that I have tried made this way. Light in the glass but fruity, earthy, and fresh on the nose with tons of red berry fruit. The palate is clean, precise, focussed, and fruity, really fruity. I was set not to like this wine, but it really is a lovely quaff. Plop it in the fridge for 15 mins before drinking. Excellent. 90 Points.