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.
2017 Dow Douro Vale do Bomfim, Portugal: Retail $12. Under cork. From the bottle: “50% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional, 30% field blend.” No indication what makes up the field blend. This is a great representation of what I see as a large segment of the Portuguese wine sphere: an inexpensive, tasty, uncomplicated easy sipper. Red and dark fruit with a little funk (I love the funk), a bit of spice, and plenty of tartness. All that for twelve bucks? Sign me up. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Henry’s Drive Shiraz/Cabernet, Padthaway, South Australia: Retail $40. Under screw cap. 68% Shiraz, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have had a couple iterations of this wine now, and I have to say that the consistency is impressive. The previous vintage that I sampled (2017) while a slightly different blend, had many similarities to this 2019. Great fruit both on the nose and the palate without being boisterous or over-bearing. Instead, that fruit folds nicely into the acidity, balancing into a harmonious one. While the soft, integrated tannins suggests this is a wine for the “now” (and I don’t disagree), all that tartness will shield this wine for at least a half-a-dozen years of cellar time. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Henry’s Drive Shiraz, Padthaway, South Australia: Retail $45. Under screw cap. 100% Shiraz. Having twisted this cap shortly after the Shiraz/Cab blend, I immediately preferred this wine. Don’t misconstrue, the Shiraz/Cab blend was fabulous (91 pts.) but this wine just had, well more. Not more in the bottle (although that would have been nice), but more concentrated fruit, more spice, more intensity in the tartness, just more verve. Verve? Me likey. Ripe red berries, a splash of plum, just a touch of vanilla, and dusted with black pepper and just the slightest herbal note (oregano?). Yes, I love me a solid Syrah but when you pair it with a sexy Australian accent. Game over. Outstanding. 93 Points.
These next three wines are a bit special. Sure, they are all Grenaches, but that is only part of the story. Just about two weeks ago, I hosted an online tasting for the Rhone Rangers on International Grenache Day. After a hiccup right out of the gate, I think I recovered fairly well and the rest of the event proceeded without even the slightest of hitch. I thought the video of the event would be up on their website by now, but I have no link to share. Thus, I can declare, without equivocation, that this was the single greatest online tasting in the history of the Rhone Rangers (unless, of course, you saw it and then, well, …).
2018 Copia The Story Copia Vineyard, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, CA: Retail $48. Edna Valley. Under cork. 97% Grenache, 3% Syrah. Varinder and Anita Sahi are relative newcomers to the Paso Wine scene, but they are certainly making a pretty big splash. When I moderated a panel for International Grenache Day this past week, Varinder shared his experience as a new proprietor/winemaker and his excitement about bringing in his first crop of estate fruit this week. His joy was palpable. If this bottle of The Story is any indication, buckle your bootstraps and get ready for some full-throttle Grenache coming out of the tiny (1,500 cases) estate. Dark (but short of brooding) in the glass with intense red and black fruit on the nose along with some graphite and white pepper. Worhty of a “Whoa” right there. The palate is equally bold, but also balanced, with plenty of fruit, spice, and tartness, all in relative harmony. While I don’t know the “whole story” behind this wine, this prologue is more than promising. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Jaffurs Grenache, Santa Barbara County, CA: Retail $34. Under cork. 100% Grenache. I have not had a ton of Jaffurs, but when I was asked to moderate a Zoom conversation for the Rhone Rangers on Grenache Day, I was stoked (California term: excited) that Jaffurs was one of the wineries on the panel. While known primarily as a “Syrah House” they do make this one Grenache every year. Based on this bottle, they should make a ton more. Light in color in the glass, with oodles of red fruit and a bit of spice, this is a completely captivating nose. The palate is both reserved and intense as the subtle fruit, when given time, becomes quite expressive and layered. Buoyed by a bit of Christmas spice and a fairly intense acidity, this is a stunning wine. I think I will hold onto the second bottle for another handful of years, at least. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2018 TH Estate Wines Grenache Skins, Paso Robles Willow Creek District, CA: Retail $70. B.A.B. 100% Grenache. I was asked to moderate a panel for Grenache Day for the Rhone Rangers and when I saw that TH Estates was one of the panelists? I was pumped. Then, when I saw that winemaker Phil LaMontagne had chosen this wine, the Skins (named thusly for owner Terry Hoage’s time with the Washington Redskins), to showcase, I knew, as a diehard Eagles fan, I was going to have to just suck it up (although I did still mention it). Perhaps a shade or two to the dark side in color when it comes to Grenache, this wine has a plethora of red and blue fruits on the nose, along with some graphite and freshly tilled earth. Whoa. The palate is equally mesmerizing with plenty of fruit upfront, followed by a refreshing and intense wave of acidity, which carries all the way through to the finish. Yowza. I was fortunate enough to taste three wonderful Grenaches for the Zoom tasting and this was likely the best of the trio (although it was close). Outstanding. 94 Points.