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.
2020 Four Vines Chardonnay Naked Chardonnay, Central Coast, CA: Retail $12, around $8 on the shelf. Under screw cap. You know, this is fine. Nothing really to write home about, but I imagine it is probably hard to beat in this price range. The problem is that I have little to no desire to drink Chardonnay in this price range. Good. 86 Points.
NV Laetitia Winery Brut Rosé, Arroyo Grande Valley, CA: Retail $25. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir, 100% Estate. Laetitia started its life as Maison Deutz way back in 1982. A bit later (but still long ago), when I was living in Marin County as a high school teacher, Laetitia sparkling wines (which, by that point, had changed hands a couple of times) were my go to when I was trying to impress on a budget (while the wines were great, the attempts “to impress” were largely fruitless). Fast forward a few decades, and Laetitia (again, with a new owner) is trying to expand its reach beyond the state of California. And they should. While this will never be confused for a Billecart-Salmon, it is a tasty sparkling rosé. Fruity, floral, and (a bit) funky on the nose with a fine bead and a cotton candy color. The palate is fantastically tart, with some bright fruit, and an active sparkle. At $25? This is about right. Well done. Very Good. 89 Points.
2016 Luigi Tacchino Barbera del Monferrato Albarola, Italy: Retail $24. B.A.B. Under cork. 100% Barbera. Despite being the largest of the three Barbera communes, Barbera del Monferrato is easily the least well-known, particularly in the U.S. (Barbera d’Asti and d’Alba being the other two). This del Monferrato is near inky dark in the glass, with cherry and dark berry fruit, anise, and a hint of oak. The palate is fruity, on the verge of brooding, but balanced with that classic Piedmontese tartness, hints of black earth, and a bit of heft (14.5% ABV which is pretty high for the region). Not much to speak of in the tannin department, so this wine is for short-term consumption. Excellent. 91 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 open 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. 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 which is 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 when the fruit was more assertive. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Raeburn Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $20. Agglomerated stopper. I sampled the 2019 twice and loved it both times. The 2020? Also a fan. Good fruit (tropical dominates but there is also some banana, which does not exactly thrill me), noticeable oak (which works), and just the right amount of acidity. While I rated the 2019 a 90.5 (90 & 91–I sampled it twice), this wine is just a tiny notch below. 89 Points.
NV Roederer Estate Brut Rosé Anderson Valley, CA: Retail $35. Under DIAM. 56% Pinot Noir, 44% Chardonnay. I have tried countless iterations of this wine, which some consider to be the “best” American sparkling wine (I would argue that there are others, cough, Domaine Carneros, cough, in contention) and this is indeed fantastic. But. Based on my notes, it might just be a tad inconsistent between bottlings. My first two stabs at this wine, I rated both wines an 89 but the third I placed quite a bit higher (93). While I am the first to admit that ratings are arbitrary, this now fourth bottle (for which I have written a “formal” note) falls decidedly in between. There are all the requisites to make this a stellar sparkler: great aromatics, fantastic fruit, tangy tartness, lengthy finish. But. This wine, more than the other Roederer Estate Rosés I have tried, comes off as a tad sweet. Not cloying by any stretch of the imagination, but, at a time when sparklers seem to be transitioning to an increasingly drier style, this wine has just a few grams per liter more than I would like. Still, a stellar example of what Californian sparkling wine can be. Excellent. 91 Points.
2014 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley: Retail $24. I last tasted this wine in 2016 and this second bottle has been sitting in my cellar since. Back then, I liked it: “a bit of a playful wine with aromas of musk melon, quince, and a slight funkiness that is nothing short of endearing (in an active six-year old boy kind of way). Past the lips, this instantly becomes more serious, craving a bit of seafood to cut through the laser-like acidity. Make no mistake, this is yummy, but needs food to reach its full potential. Very Good. 89 Points.” While all that remains surprisingly true, I am slightly more enamored here, the fruit has calmed down a bit and while it still is in search of a meal, I find it more balanced, in an-old world way. But that is just how I Rolle (do you see what I did there?). Excellent. 91 Points.