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 Alpha Omega Cabernet Sauvignon Vine Trail Sunshine Valley, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $300. Big ass bottle. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. A while back I received a couple bottles of wine from the Vine Trail folks and, as a cyclist, it was a cause that appealed to me. But at $300? Well beyond my price range. Initially, this was extremely tight, with not much fruit (or anything else for that matter) on the nose or palate. So I let it sit. For a while. Once I returned to the wine (a day later), holy cow. Not only were there oodles of fruit (mostly dark: plum, cassis, blackberry), but also spice (clove, black pepper, cardamom), depth, and length. Whoa. The palate is surprisingly tart, even tart-driven, with all that fruit, considerable depth, and noticeable tannin on the finish, which was quite lengthy. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.
2019 Be Human Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, WA: Retail $18. 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot. Barrel aged for 19 months in 33% new American oak. This is now the second vintage of this wine and this 2019 is a nice follow-up to the inaugural 2018. Dark in the glass with ripe blackberry, plum, and a bit of cassis highlight the very fruity nose with hints of black pepper and clove. The palate is even fruitier than the nose (which I did not think would be possible), will all the aforementioned dark fruit, but also a slight Kool-Aid extracted aspect, which is only a slight detraction. Quite good. Very Good. 89 Points.
NV Domaine Bousquet Brut Rosé Méthode Traditionelle, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $15. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. I tried the standard Brut yesterday, so I thought I would pop the rosé today while watching the Astros in the playoffs (since it is not champagne, I figured I was not jinxing the game with a premature “celebration”–yes I actually thought about that). Nice nose with a predominate biscuity nature, followed by some red berry fruit, and a bit of minerality. The palate is quite fruity as well as tart, with a pretty good balance between the two. Listen, no one is going to confuse this with a Grand Cru champagne, but at fifteen bucks? this easily qualifies for a quality everyday drinker kind of bubbles. Very Good.Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Cattleya Syrah The Initiation Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $70. Under cork. Heavy bottle. I do not have an extensive experience with American Syrah north of fifty bucks, but I am always willing to dive in. Initially, after popping the cork, this was, honestly, not very good. Tart, acrid, on the verge of offensive, this was a Yowza in the decidedly wrong direction. Having been down this road a number of times over the course of my wine journey, I decided to put a cork in the bottle and revisit it the following day. Good idea. Still quite tart, but a day later the fruit is more prominent and, well, tasty. Holy cow. Fruit, tartness, balance, depth, length, Yeah. Decant or at least wait a bit. This is really fantastic. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2019 Cattleya Chardonnay Call to Adventure Pratt Vineyard, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $80. Under cork. Fermented and aged in French oak (30% new) for 11 months. I have been sampling Bibiana’s wines for several years now, but this is the first time, I believe, that I have tried her premium line. Whoa. This comes from the Russian River Valley’s Pratt Vineyard, which many (including me) consider being an American “Grand Cru” site. I have tasted dozens of wines from the vineyard, and this rates right up there with the best. Brilliant straw in the glass with lovely apple, pear, and tropical notes (pineapple, lemon meringue pie). Add in some honeysuckle, a kiss of oak, and roasted, sliced almonds. Whoa. The palate is nothing short of decadent: rich, layered, unctuous, and full-bodied, this wine is both elegant and muscular with a depth that characterizes the best wines from Sonoma. As I said, this was my first time with this wine, and I truly hope it is not the last. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2019 Chasing Rain Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $25. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I have chronicled numerous times in the space the virtues and challenges around the Aquilini brand in Washington state. The Canadian family bought up a ton of acreage in Washington state and within a brief time started creating fantastic wines. Case in point: A $25 Cab from Red Mountain? Unheard of. Great fruit, tartness, and more than a modicum of verve do more than most wines at this price point.
On the other hand….
The palate is nice, even quite good, but lacks some of the intensity and depth that the nose portends. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun, fantastic wine, but honestly, given the reputation of Red Mountain and the history of this brand (albeit quite brief) I expected more, bordering on much more. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 St. Francis Zinfandel Old Vines Tres Viejos, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $52. Big ass bottle. As one would expect from a Sonoma County Zinfandel, there is plenty of fruit on the nose, mostly dark (plum, black cherry, black raspberry), but some red fruit (cherry) sneaks in along with some spice (clove) and plenty of black pepper. The palate is equally fruity, again, most of it dark, which results in a somewhat brooding nature to the wine. And there really is nothing wrong with brooding (at least when you are talking about wine). Excellent. 91 Points.