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.
Today, on the tenth anniversary of a rather scary health moment for me, I focus on wineries that are family-owned and operated. For, as I think back on that day a decade ago, I realize that family is really the only important element.
2019 Georges Dubœuf Fleurie Domaine des Quatre Vents, Beaujolais, France: Retail $25. 100% Gamay. It has been a couple of years since Georges Dubœuf died now, but I still feel a tinge of melancholy with every bottle that I open from his eponymous winery. I would have to ponder a bit to determine which of the estate wines in the portfolio is my favorite, but this is certainly in the running. A gorgeous property that produces lovely wines (particularly with a bit of age). This 2019 is no exception: bright and fruity on the nose with just a hint of that classic Beaujolais bubblegum aspect, this wine is rich and layered on the palate with a tantalizing tartness that coats the more than ample fruit. Delicious. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Gustave Lorentz Gewurztraminer Reserve, Alsace, France: Retail $25. Under screwcap. As I have mentioned countless times in this space, I studied in Alsace and I consider it my “home” of sorts in France (I have spent far more time in Paris since, but that is neither here nor there). Of the six Alsatian varieties, Gewurztraminer has to be my least favorite since, well, it is just too aromatic for me (is that even possible?). But I can wrap my arms around this one. Although it is not bone dry, it is far from “off-dry” and nowhere near “sweet.” It does prove (at least to me) that the variety needs at least a splash of sugar to mellow it out. Floral and fruity with that distinct Gewurz nose, this wine is quite pleasant on the palate as well. Fruit, spice, just a hint of sweetness, and tons of acidity all are present. Excellent. 90 Points.
2019 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay Olivet Lane Estate, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $40. Under cork. I am a bit on the fence over the whole unoaked Chardonnay “movement.” Maybe it’s not a “movement” but rather a “trend.” Whatever it is, I am not sure if a) it is necessary or b) it moves any anti-Chardonnay folks. This wine, though, is fantastic. Bright citrus, intense tanginess, and a lengthy finish, really all of the elements are there. Honestly? I would like a little bit of oak influence here–it does not have to hit you over the head, but enough to round out the wine just a bit. Saying that, this really is quite nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Chardonnay Olivet Lane Estate, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $50. I had received a slew of Olivet Lane wines from Pellegrini and decided to take them back to California for our cycling/beach vacation on the Central Coast. We had been pleased with all of the wines up until this point, and, well, this wine perhaps surpassed the previous in that regard. Lemon curd with the slightest hint of oak on the nose, it is a bit subdued, quite honestly in the glass. On the palate, however? This wine really sings: rich, unctuous, layered, and luscious. Holy cow. While stopping short of a “big” Chardonnay, this really packs quite a punch. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2017 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Estate, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $65. Under cork. I packed up a bunch of samples from Pellegrini to take with us on our trip to California for a few days of riding with our good friends. Sure, there were plenty of bubbles and a few other Chards (in addition to the two from Pellegrini), but this was the only Pinot Noir (if you don’t count the Nouveau of Pinot, below). And it was stellar. Fairly light in color (even for a Pinot), but heavy in aromas with black cherry, considerable earth, and just a hint of eucalyptus. Yowza. I go through a ton of Pinot, and I would have to place this near the top. Whoa. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Nouveau of Pinot Noir Olivet Lane Estate, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $40. Outside of Beaujolais, I tend to steer clear of carbonic maceration wines. While it works in that area of France, it seems to be, well, a bit of a disaster elsewhere. Why? I am not sure but I would guess that often it is the wrong grape variety or an inexperienced winemaker or both. Here? Well, Pinot and Gamay are pretty close to each other, at least in flavor profiles and while I know next to nothing about the winemaking team at Pellegrini, what I find in the glass here suggests that they have done their homework. Light in color and almost translucent, this, as one would expect, is quite fruity and exudes that classic bubblegum aspect on the nose. The wine (served slightly chilled) on the palate is simply delightful. Yes, it is different from just about every Pinot I have tried, but it is also lively, fruity, tart, and delicious beyond my expectations. While I am not sure that this makes me a Carbonic Convert, it is the best non-French version I have tried and it has assured me there are wines to be made in this fashion outside of Beaujolais. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Pellegrini Family Vineyards Chardonnay Late Harvest Olivet Lane Vineyard, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $40. 375ml. 96 cases produced (that’s not a lot, in case you were wondering). I don’t drink a ton of dessert wine anymore and I can count on perhaps one finger how many Late Harvest Chardonnays I have tried. But I do know that this one is pretty darned good. Golden, close to amber in the glass with apricot, lemon rind, hazelnut, and honey on the nose. The palate is not nearly as sweet and cloying as I thought (feared?) it would be. It is still sweet, even really sweet, but far from over-the-top and the combination of acidity and nuttiness really carries this into the “delicious” realm. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
NV Louis Roederer Champagne Collection 242, France: Retail $55. 42% Chardonnay, 36% Pinot Noir, 22% Pinot Meunier. OK, this is more than a bit complicated, particularly for a tasting note, but this is what is replacing the Brut Premier, Roederer’s flagship wine for so many years. Why “Collection 242”? OK. Buckle up. The house was founded in 1776. Add 242 years (=2018) that was the year the wine was bottled. Subtract one (=2017), that was the year that represents the base vintage. Got it? Math is hard, but this appears to be Roederer’s way to let you know how “old” the wine is in the bottle. I think. Golden in the glass with a fantastic citrus nose loaded with brioche and fresh croissant. Yowza. The palate is classic champagne: rich, tart, loaded with yeastiness and fruit. And the balance. And the finish. And the math (I love me some math). Outstanding. 93 Points.