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 Casa Bianchi L10 Malbec, San Rafael, Argentina: Retail $30. 93% Malbec, 7% Syrah. Fairly dark in the glass with smokey black raspberry, plum, sage, and hints of vanilla and even dark chocolate. The palate, while fruity and weighty, is also light and lively given the high level of tartness. Extremely well-balanced, really nice but would be even better with food. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Valentin Bianchi Malbec Famiglia Bianchi, San Rafael, Argentina: Retail $18. Agglomerated stopper (non-DIAM). 100% Malbec. Deep ruby/purple with plenty of plum and black berry fruit (cassis), with an herbal note (sage?), black pepper, and a hint of campfire smoke. Impressive on the palate with a good balance of fruit and tartness, just a touch of heat (14.6% ABV), and more verve than I expected given the affordability. While Malbec is far from my jawn (Philly term), I could drink this well into the evening. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Valentin Bianchi Malbec Gran Famiglia Bianchi, Vista Flores, Argentina: Retail $30. Big. Ass. Bottle. 100% Malbec. I have stated numerous times that Malbec really is not in my wheelhouse but after tasting several wines from the Bianchi portfolio, I might have to change my stance. Dark, but not brooding in the glass with plenty of dark berry fruit, plum, black pepper, and sage. Delightful. The palate is surprisingly lithe thanks to the abundance of acidity to counter-balance the fruit and weight. This wine can easily stand alone, but it fares much better with a slab of beef beside it, preferably grilled over an open flame. Excellent. 91 Points.
2020 Blackbird Vineyards Dissonance, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $20. Under screw cap. For a winery that produces several wines north of sixty bucks, this wine seems like a steal. And it is. Fairly pale in the glass with oodles of tropical (guava, papaya) and tree fruit (apricot). There is also a bit of white pepper and a seashell/salinity aspect that is quite compelling. The palate is tart, but not overly so, and is paired with great citrus fruit and a lengthy finish. While I don’t ever pretend to be a champion of the variety, this is a lovely iteration. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay Double Oaked, California: Retail $18. Under screwcap. I have now tasted many of the wines from this producer and most of the Chardonnays, which include an “un-oaked” version, a “Naked Reserve” and this “Double-oaked.” Why the need for a “double-oaked” I am not quite sure, but it was aged in both French and American oak and it is, well, okay. Duh. Fairly dark in the glass with rich, opulent lemon curd and honey blossom. And, yeah, oak. Sure, it is a throwback to an older style, and it is certainly not for everyone, but I think there is a place for this wine and I do not mind going there. At least once in a while. Very Good. 88 Points.
2020 River Road Family Vineyards and Winery Chardonnay Reserve Un-Oaked, California: Retail $18. Under screwcap. I have sampled many of the wines offered by this producer and they have all been solid efforts, true to the variety. While this “un-oaked” Chardonnay is laden with fruit (peach, lemon curd, pineapple, etc.), it is richer than all of the un-oaked Chardonnays that I have come across. Instead of serving as a “pure” expression of Chardonnay, to me it comes off as more of a bridge between the oaked, opulent “traditional” California Chards and the “naked”, lean, and tart stainless steel versions that are becoming increasingly popular. And it works. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Two Angels Petite Sirah Red Hills, Lake County, CA: Retail $28. 100% Petite Sirah. Under screw cap. I do not drink a ton of 100% PS, I usually find them a bit too big on my palate. That is not the case here. Sure, it is dark and even brooding with oodles of dark black fruit, mocha, and black pepper both on the nose and the palate, but it is surprisingly rather light on its feet. There is a vibrant tartness that counters all of that “gloom” that not only serves to brighten up the wine but causes the imbiber to seek out some food. Again, I am far from an expert when it comes to PS, but I know this is a particularly compelling iteration of the variety. Excellent. 92 Points.