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 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Blanc, California: Retail $15. Under screw cap. 60% Grenache Blanc, 32% Vermentino, 8% Clairette Blanche. This is always one of the samples that I look forward to the most as I really love what Bonny Doon represents both in the region and the American wine scene in general (e.g., innovation, environmental stewardship). I also particularly like their focus on Rhône varieties, including those lesser known to Americans. This flagship white always delivers: great tropical fruit, minerality, and verve, all for around fifteen bucks? Yowza. Very nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant, California: Retail $17. Big Ass Bottle. Under screw cap. 56% Grenache, 30% Cinsault, 13% Syrah, 1% Petite Sirah. Not too long ago, this was a $40+ wine, and the jewel of the Bonny Door lineup. While I am not sure where Randall Grahm would place it now, it is less than half the price and a bit more ubiquitous than it once was. On the light side in color, but rich in aromas of red fruit (black cherry, cassis), spice (clove, black pepper), and herbal (thyme, sage). The palate is nicely balanced with the aforementioned fruit, a dash of spice, and more than enough tartness to go around. Sure, this might not be as complex as previous iterations, but it is a fine quaff. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvée Alexandre Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $25. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Carménère, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. Quite dark in the glass, with a lovely, enticing nose of intense blackberry, cassis, black pepper, black cherry, floral notes, Christmas spice, really a whole bunch going on. The palate exhibits much of the same, along with an intense acidity, drying but subtle and integrated tannins and an impressive finish. I have to admit that on day one, this was rather disjointed and a bit odd, but the time open did wonders: juicy, complex, really fantastic. Thus, decant! Oh. And Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2015 Pieve Santa Restituta (Gaja) Brunello di Montalcino, Italy: Retail $75. 100% Sangiovese. Medium garnet in the glass with a delightful nose of dark red and black fruit, anise, thyme, and even a hint of vanilla. Lovely. The palate is perhaps even more inviting even though it is certainly on the young side (despite being a 2015): plenty of that dark red fruit, but completely held in check by the zingy tartness and a healthy dose of silky tannins. OK. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy Moscato d’Asti La Serra, Italy: Retail $20. 100% Moscato. I do not drink a lot of Moscato since, well, sweet. But every time that I do have a glass or two, I really enjoy it and this is a particularly compelling version. Great fruit, gentle sparkle, plenty of acidity, and yes, quite sweet. Again, not my go to, but this is lovely. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Pascual Toso Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $12. Under screw cap. Fairly dark in the glass with blackberry, plum, and a bit of spice. The palate is much the same, with plenty of fruit, some depth, and a bit of black pepper. Look, this is not trying to be anything else but a relatively fruity quaff with a touch of intrigue. A good choice for a bad movie and a bowl of popcorn. Very Good. 87 Points.
2019 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio,Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT, Italy: Retail $19. Under screw cap. It would be difficult to count the number of times I have written about my general disdain for Italian Pinot Grigio but I am fairly certain that each time I put forth those thoughts, I almost always accompany them with the following: “except when it comes from Alto Adige.” While this wine does not come from that specific DOCG, it is pretty darned close and certainly from the Northern part of the country. So I think I am OK with being consistent. In other words, this PG is quite good (and far from the insipid juice that I have bemoaned). Close to a yellow straw in the glass with good citrus (lemon, grapefruit, mandarin), ample floral (honeyblossom), and considerable minerality. The palate is a tad round for me, at least for a PG, but there are layers of flavor and an above average finish. Very Good. Very Good. 89 points.
2019 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. Under Diam 5. Estate Vineyard, Kubli Bench. 100% Vermentino. I have tasted through several vintages of Troon’s Vermentino and this is, without much equivocation, the best iteration I have tried thus far. It is also the first Troon I have tasted here in Houston since my visit to the winery this past summer. While this might sound cliché or even worse, biased, after visiting the magical spot in Southern Oregon and understanding what Troon is doing with and to the vineyard (converting to 100% biodynamic, replanting the entire vineyard, too much to enumerate here), this wine is not only Outstanding, but on the verge of transformational. While that might sound over-the-top (and I admit, it is), this wine is truly fantastic. Tropical fruit, minerality, depth, and a brilliant acidity, this is a memorable and lovely wine. Outstanding. 94 Points.