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 Beckstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, WA: Retail $18. Big Ass Bottle. Horse Heaven Hills. Under DIAM3. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Muscat Canelli, 1% Malbec. I struggled a bit with this wine as it is certainly not my style. It is quite fruity, maybe even too fruity as the dark berry fruit dominates the nose and palate. But. There is no doubt in my mind that this wine has an audience. For barbecue, red sauce pasts, and hamburgers, this could be a solid choice. Also, as a mid-week drinker to watch the game? Sure. But it is fairly one-dimensional (fruity) and lacks complexity. And this bottle is completely ridiculous. #DoBetter Very Good. 88 Points.
2020 Herdade do Esporão Alentejo Colheita Branco, Portugal: Retail $18. Antão Vaz, Viosinho. Ah Esporão, how I adore thee. I still have very fond memories of my trip to Alentejo a few years ago and what an absolute delight it was to visit Esporão. Lovely people, fantastic wines, and a responsible and admirable approach to viticulture and preserving the rich wine-making tradition. This nearly golden wine is perhaps the essence of Esporão: a blend of native varieties intended for everyday consumption with fantastic citrus and tree fruit, brilliant acidity, depth, and a wonderful finish. Sure, this is not the “best” wine produced by the Alentejano stalwart, but if this were on my table every night for the rest of my life, I would die a happy man. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Herdade do Esporão Alentejo Colheita, Portugal: Retail $18. Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Franca. A bit of a kitchen sink kind of wine with many of the native varieties of Alentejo (with some Cab thrown in). Dark, more purple than ruby, with rich dark fruit (plum, blackberry, cassis), plenty of spice, and a bit of earth. The plate is quite pleasant with rich yet tart fruit, a predominate black pepper aspect, and a mineral, earthy finish. Very nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Herdade do Esporão Esporão Reserva, Alentejo, Portugal: Retail $25. Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Syrah, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Franca. Another kitchen sink wine from one of the leading producers in Alentejo, one of my favorite wine regions on the planet. Rich ruby color with baked black fruit aromas of blackberry, black cherry, and some mocha aspects. The palate is quite tart with some earth and spice notes. Excellent. 91 Points.
NV Imayo Tsukasa Black Saké, Niigata, Japan: Retail $40. Bottled May 2021. Junmai. I do not have anywhere close to any kind of experience with sake, which is likely why I have waited so long to pop this bottle open. Quite clear with a nutty nose of hazelnut and that umami characteristic that appears to be quite common in sake. The palate is smooth and even refreshing with great acid, balance, and that umami thing in spades. Again, I am at best a complete novice when it comes to sake, but this seems to be quite good? Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Lion’s Mane Ordain Red, California: Retail $18. Heavy bottle. Blend? I spent a good deal of time trying to find out the composition of this wine online. Not only did I not find it, but I also could not even find a single variety that is involved. Ugh. Once past that (and the fact that it is a heavier bottle than it needs to be [ugh]), I actually like this wine. It is fruity (just stopping short of being “overly fruity”), crowd-pleasing, easy-drinker kind of wine and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that in my book. Very Good. 89 Points.
2020 Tongue Dancer Sangiovese The Departure, Unti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $49. 100% Sangiovese. As the name indicates, this is a departure for the Tongue Dancer brand as they had previously only produced Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (there was also one vintage of sparkling wine which was phenomenal–please bring it back!?!). The fruit from this wine comes from the fabled Unti Vineyard which has produced countless boutique (even though I hate that term) and sought-after wines. A refined yet still fruity nose that consists of red and black berries, a bit of earth, and only a hint of spice. On the palate, it would be easy to mistake this for a young Old World wine as there is plenty of fruit but the acidity runs with it step for step. There is weight, complexity, and verve, but the key here is balance, the hallmark of James MacPhail’s wines. But. This wine is different. Dare I say a “departure”? Whereas all of James’ wines are impeccably balanced, there is always a nod toward the fruit. This wine? Again, the fruit is present and lovely, but it never takes the lead, it is a mere component, an integral, yet never dominant part of this lovely string quartet. Having tasted countless wines from this master vintner, I have to admit that I am amazed by this wine’s delicacy and finesse. Bravo James and Kerry, bravo. Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.