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.
2019 Benziger Family Winery Chardonnay, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $16. Under screw cap. 100% Chardonnay. I just recently started receiving samples from Benziger and I have to say, I have been really presently surprised at the quality of the wines, across the board. With each bottle, Benziger shows that very nice wines can be made for under $20 and this is no difference. Good fruit (some citrus, apple, pineapple), noticeable oak (but not over-bearing), and a distinct nuttiness (cashew?). The palate is round and smooth, with the oak coming through a bit more and with the acidity working overtime to keep up. Look, this is not my favorite Chardonnay of the year, but for around twelve bucks? You could certainly do a whole lot worse (and I have). Very Good. 88 Points.
2019 Domaine Bousquet Pinot Noir Reserve, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $20. B.A.B. Before I get into the wine itself, it really bothers me a lot when a producers proclaims so proudly on the label “Made with Organic Grapes” but then puts the juice in a container that probably could qualify as a deadly weapon. This bottle is so heavy that it likely undid any good for the planet that was done being made organically. And then some. The wine? Fairly fruity and complex with notes of dark cherry, vanilla, basil, and mocha on the nose (which is a bit odd for Pinot). The palate is equally inviting with good (but tame) fruit, balancing tartness, and even a bit of verve. But that bottle. Yeesh. Very Good. 89 Points.
019 Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Reserve, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $18. Under screw cap. B.A.B. I have been a fan of Domaine Bousquet for a while now. Good quality, affordable, organic grapes, what is not to like? Well, the excessively heavy bottles would be one thing, but this wine, like the others in the lineup is quite good. A pale straw 100% Chardonnay that is loaded with plenty of fruit (yellow apple, peach, orange peel), a decided floral aspect (acacia), and a touch of white pepper. There is plenty of acidity and weight on the palate with just a kiss of oak and creaminess. Very Good. 89 Points.
2016 Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior, Portugal: Retail $30. 50% Touriga Nacional, 25% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Roriz, 5% Souzão. One of my bucket list items this year is to the visit the Duoro (I have never been, yeah, I know) and the dry wines are the reason why. Dark in the glass, even really dark, with blackberry, cassis, forest floor, and even some bright cherry on the backend of the nose. The palate is dark, not quite Darth Vader-brooding dark, but not far off either (particularly for an Old World wine). Dark, chewy fruit, and plenty of earth, but it is paired with that classic Duoro tartness which confirms that you are not going over to the dark side (at least not yet). Very nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2016 Quinta do Crasto Douro Reserva Old Vines, Portugal: Retail $30. A blend of 30 different varieties whose vines average 70 years old. Whoa. Dark in the glass with a compelling nose of intense black and blue fruit, anise, a floral aspect (too easy to say “rose” but that is what I am getting). The palate is rich and layered in an Old World way–all that fruit balanced by a zingy tartness. This wine is 5 and a half years out from harvest but I think it could still use a bit of time–it is rich and complex but a bit nervous, relying on that acidity for structure. Once it settles down a bit more? Watch out. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Kay Brothers Griffon’s Key Reserve Grenache Amery Vineyards, McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $75. 100% Grenache. Under screw cap. One does not see a ton of wines north of, say, thirty bucks, but it is much more common Down Under and I am just fine with that. On top of that? This is a really light bottle: Go Kay Brothers! As one would expect from a 100% Grenache, this is fairly light in the glass and translucent. The aromas and flavors, however, are anything but light with plenty of fruit (black cherry, blackberry, raspberry), with some dark earth and spice. The palate really showcases the fruit, particularly initially, followed by some balancing tartness and depth. My initial thought, before the first twist of the cap? A $75 Grenache from Australia would likely underwhelm. But this is Kay Brothers, which I have always found impressive. This is a lovely wine, one that I could drink all night long. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Kay Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon The Cuthbert, McLaren Vale, Australia: Retail $60. Under screw cap. 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot. Ho hum. Another stellar wine from the fine folks at Kay Brothers, the oldest winery (est. 1890) in McLaren Vale still owned by the original family. This Cabernet is the second wine from this esteemed producer that I have sampled in as many days and this dark, opaque, even brooding wine is a fabulous second act. Dark fruit (blackberry, cassis, and even some black raspberry), dark earth, and dark spice make an impressive triple play and this wine is absolutely singing. There is also plenty of acidity to accompany all that fruit as well as some impressive tannins on the back end, which suggest a fairly long life ahead of this wine, and that is such a lovely thought. Outstanding. 93 Points.