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 Benziger Family Winery Pinot Noir Bella Luna Vineyards, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $49. Big ass bottle. Made from Demeter certified biodynamic grapes. I think that those last two statements seem to be at odds with one another, but maybe that is just me? I think it is safe to say that I drink a ton of Pinot, not as much as my buddy Rusty Gaffney, but I try. Having said that, I would classify this wine at the fruitier end of Pinot, for sure, with that rich, characteristic Bing cherry on both the nose and the palate. There is also some earth, spice, and a decided tang (that really comes through on the finish). This is bigger than I usually prefer my Pinot, but good golly is this tasty. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Domaine Bousquet Malbec Virgen, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $15. 100% Malbec. Under screwcap. I have been fortunate to follow Domaine Bousquet over much of the last handful of years and have enjoyed their largely affordable wines. This “Virgen” Malbec is a perfect example; made from organic grapes, this wine exudes plenty of dark red fruit (raspberry, blackberry) in the glass, along with an herbal note (basil, sage). The palate is fruity, tart, and perfectly delicious. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Gustave Lorentz Pinot Blanc Reserve, Alsace, France: Retail $18. 100% Pinot Blanc. Under screwcap. I have written many times in this spot about my affinity for Alsace. I studied there in college, I have since visited multiple times, it is, in essence, my “home” in France. And while I have never visited the Gustave Lorentz winery, which was established in 1836 in Bergheim, I have chatted with the kind folks there over Zoom (which is the next best thing, right?). For me, perhaps next to Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc is the red-headed step-child of Alsace (Pinot Noir is gaining in esteem it seems, and might achieve Grand Cru status in the near future), and it shouldn’t be (as witnessed by this wine). Loads of apple and peach with a bit of lime on the nose and a balanced palate of fruit, modest acidity, and some depth. Yum. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 The Paring Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, CA: Retail $25. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Under cork. I have had a few wines from this producer now and while I would not say that any of the wines have changed the trajectory of my life, they all have been solid, particularly for their price point. Take this Sauv Blanc, varietally correct, quite tart, bright fruit, but also round and well-balanced. Really a delightful quaff. Excellent. 90 Points.
2017 The Paring Red Wine, California: Retail $35. 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot. Here is a potential line for The Pairing (even though they would never use it): “Lovely wine at reasonable prices.” I would classify this as “on the light side” when it comes to color, but “full-bodied” on the nose with rich dark fruit (cassis, blackberry), tobacco leaf, ground coffee bean, and dark earth. The palate is rich and luscious, with plenty of fruit, a balancing tartness, and a lengthy finish. On the road to a whoa. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Ron Rubin Chardonnay Pam’s un-oaked, Russian River, CA: Retail $15. Under screwcap. This is the second vintage of this wine I have sampled and this 2020 certainly is reminiscent of the 2019: laden with fruit (both tropical and tree fruit) as well as plenty of weight and body. Yellow to golden in the glass, even though this is technically “un-oaked” it is not for the shy as it is certainly on the bold side (and even comes off a shade sweet). Not my style, but still Very Good. 88 Points.
2019 Sosie Rossi Ranch Red Blend, Bennett Valley, CA: Retail $43. Big. Ass. Bottle. 51% Grenache, 34% Mouvèdre, 15% Syrah. A GSM blend from a fantastic Sonoma County producer? Yes please! Initially a bit shy in the glass with at best muted fruit and some spice. But after some time open and paired with binge-watching one of our favorite Netflix shows? It began to sing. Rich red, but mostly dark fruit, with even more spice, and an intense floral component. Yowza. The palate holds up its end of the bargain with plenty of fruit, a zingy acidity, floral and herbal notes, and a slightly tannic finish. Yeah. More please! And, OK, Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard FIZZante, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $35. 50% Sangiovese, 50% Montepulciano (co-fermented). This is the latest addition, I believe, to Troon’s line of Ancestral Method sparkling wines, and after tasting all three today, I believe this is my favorite. Reminiscent of a dry Lambrusco, this Fizzante has a radiant plum color and intense blackberry aromas. The palate is fruity and full, with a slight sparkle and a lasting finish. As the back label suggests, give me a pizza and a glass and a bit of time and I will be a happy boy. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard Kubli Bench Piquette, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. I am not sure if even the winemaker is sure what the varietal makeup of this wine is. What is Piquette? Well, briefly, it is a slightly sparkling wine made from the juice leftover in the skins after it has been pressed for white or rosé wines. You take all those skins, water them down, let them soak and macerate overnight, then press off the “new juice.” Once it starts to ferment (with native yeasts), it is quickly bottled so that it will create a sparkle as it finishes fermenting. If you are not a fan of Pet-Nat, you sure as heck are going to have issues here. This is a process that has been used for centuries as a way to reward winery workers for their hard work during harvest, but it is funky and different. An enticing pink grapefruit color, this is quite cloudy in the glass (as one would expect) with tart rhubarb (and a hint of strawberry) and a distinct funkiness (I was going to say “yeasty” but it is more than that). The palate is quite tart and really funky, but I dig it, particularly with a bowl of popcorn and the game on (my wife on the other hand? not so much). Now, if you spent 25 bucks expecting champagne, you are going to be bitterly disappointed, but if you taste this with the knowledge of why (or how) this wine exists, there is no way it won’t put a smile on your face. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Troon Vineyard Pét tanNat, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $30. 100% Tannat. Crown cap. Here is what I wrote about the 2019 (and inaugural) vintage of this wine: “There are few certainties in this world, but there are several absolutes: no one makes it out of this alive, Spam (the food) will never spoil, and no one will agree on Pet-Nat. Pet-Nat is the great uncle of the traditional method (aka méthode champenoise) where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle. There are, of course, a few differences but that is for another post. What is not disputable, however, is that this is the first and only #PetNat of #Tannat that I have ever seen or tried. Funky (in a very good way) with some tree and citrus fruit, and funky. Yeah, funky. Tart and irreverent on the palate, yet another case that proves that Pet Nat is an acquired taste. And this wine requires considerable realignment as to what it means to be a sparkling wine. Excellent.” All of that remains true, but this 2020 seems more robust (and a tad less funky). Excellent. 91 Points.