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.
2018 Alma de Cattleya Red Blend, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $27. DIAM5 closure. A blend of mostly Syrah with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot also in the blend (I tried to find the percentages for this vintage to no avail). I have been sampling Bibiana González Rave’s wines for a few years now and they have consistently impressed. This blend, priced at a modest $27 is no exception: bright red fruit (blackberry and plum) wafts out of this fairly dark wine along with considerable spice and just a bit of funk (I love the funk). Initially quite fruity, but quickly followed by an intense acidity and then subtle tannins. This wine is ready for food now, but it might mellow out some in the short-term. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal: Retail $18. Under cork. 100% Loureiro. Esporão, the Alentajano stalwart in southern Portugal, purchased this winery in the northwest corner of the country a few years ago and has steadily set out to both transform the vineyards to organic and improve the overall quality of the brand (the two are intrinsically intertwined). My view? Mission well along the path to success. Pale straw with pear and tropical fruit in the glass and the palate is delightful: tart, bright, subtle fruit, wonderful balance. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Herdade do Esporão Douro Assobio Quinta dos Murças, Duoro, Portugal: Retail $17. 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Touriga Franca. Under cork. As Esporão, the Southern Portugal producer based in Alentejo, continues to make inroads in the climes of Northern Portugal, they are focusing on *dry* reds. And while this four-year-old Assobio remains quite fruity, so fruity that it comes off as sweet, it is actually completely dry according to the winemaker. Medium color in the glass with a potpourri of aromas: blackberry, anise, boysenberry, a bit of anise and black pepper. As I mentioned, the palate is fruity, even *quite* fruity, but with enough acidity to balance it out. A lovely expression of what a dry Douro can be. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Herdade do Esporão Douro Minas Quinta dos Murças, Duoro, Portugal: Retail $24. Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz. Fairly dark in the glass with oodles of black fruit on the nose: blackberry, plum, cassis, even anise (yeah, not a fruit). The palate is also quite fruity, but in a reserved, Old World meets New kind of way (if that makes any sense). The fruit is bookended with ample acidity and an earthy aspect that comes through right before the finish. Very nice. Very Good. 89 Points.
2012 Melville Chardonnay Estate, Sta Rita Hills, CA: Retail $36. Under DIAM. I was sent this bottle as part of a Zoom tasting hosted by DIAM to highlight the advantages of the agglomerated stopper. It was my third tasting of the morning/afternoon so I decided not to pop all of the wines supplied for the event. Thus, a few months later, I decided to pop this wine as I was preparing dinner for my in-laws’ anniversary dinner (no, it was not a wine to share with them). A couple of months ago, many of the other participants in the Zoom were quite effusive about this wine, lauding its attributes nearly a decade out. Back in the day, when Greg Brewer was the winemaker, I was a huge fan of the brand, but since he left, I have lost touch a bit. Now in the hands of Chad Melville, son of the founder, the wine has certainly taken on a bit of a stylistic change. Fairly golden in the glass with some citrus and considerable salinity on the nose, this wine seems to have moved onto a secondary/tertiary flavor profile. The palate bears this out, with subtle fruit but intense acidity, this is still hanging in there quite well. No longer “fresh as a daisy” this is more of a “mature” wine with honeysuckle, minerality, and just a hint of oak more prominent than the aforementioned fruit. This is my first foray into this vintage, which is too bad as I would have loved to have seen this where the fruit were more assertive. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Ponga Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand: Retail $12. Under screw cap. According to the label, “pong” is the Maori (the indigenous people of NZ) word for a silver fern that is native to the islands. What that has to do with this wine, I have no idea, but this is a pretty good representation of the NZ SB “style.” Pale straw in the glass with a green hue, the wine has that grassy, cat-pee, bright fruit freshness in spades on the nose. The palate follows suit with a zingy acidity, oodles of tropical fruit, and a distinct minerality on the above average finish. If the NZ style is your thing, this is tough to beat at twelve bucks. Very Good. 88 Points.
2017 Vietti Langhe Nebbiolo Perbacco, Langhe DOC, Italy: Retail $30. Under DIAM. 100% Nebbiolo. I picked up the bottle and noticed it was leaking. As soon as I pulled the cork, the bottle essentially exploded and the wine was lost. I was able to spare a few ounces and it was fantastic, but, nevertheless, a huge Bummer. Not Rated.