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 10000 Hours Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $30. Big. Ass. Bottle. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec, 4% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. I lost count as to how many vintages of the Aquilini brand I have sampled, but it is close to a handful. This 10000 Hours Cab is both compelling and housed in a completely ridiculously heavy bottle. Really? I have already lamented the fact that Canadians (e.g., the Aquilini Family) try to posit themselves as environmental stewards, but this bottle? Holy environmental Holocaust, this is an abomination. Wait, the wien? You are wondering about the contents of this weapon of murderous proportions? Yeah, I hate to admit it, but it is pretty darned good. Dark fruit (cassis, plum), clove, pine needle, and verve reside in the glass, with fruit, tartness, earth, and, well, verve, also come through on the palate. Close to a whoa. But that bottle? Holy mother of jesus. #DoBetter Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) Cabernet Sauvignon Los Vascos Cromas Gran Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile: Retail $20. Heavy bottle. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 2% Carménère. Under cork. I have been sampling quite a few wines from Chile in recent weeks, and I have to say that they have been impressive regardless of the fact that they have also been fairly inexpensive. Case in point. This Cab, which retails at twenty bucks (probably less than that on the shelves), is stellar. Fairly dark in the glass, with dark fruit (plum and blackberry) dark spice (black pepper, clove), an herbal aspect (can herbs be dark?), and, wait for it, some dark earth. Despite all that darkness on the nose, the palate is rather bright and tart. Good fruit, nice acidity, earth, and spice, this is really close to a whoa. And for under twenty bucks? Giddy-up. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 C.V.N.E. (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) Ribera del Duero Arano Moradillo de Roa, Spain: Retail $30. Responsible bottle. 100% Tinta del País (Tempranillo). OK. Honesty: I have never been to Spain (as a wine writer) and my access to the wines of Ribero del Duoro has been limited (more or less). And that is Too. Bad. This wine is, to borrow a phrase, “amaze-balls”. Dark in color and aromas with black cherry, anise, and plum at the forefront of the nose, along with tartness, clove, and, yeah, verve. Really good fruit, funk (I love the funk), and a bit of spice. Yeah, this is the real deal. Excellent. 92 Points.
2016 Echeverría Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition, Central Valley, Chile: Retail $25. Obnoxiously. Big. Ass. Bottle. This wine was corked, not terribly so, but corked, nonetheless. What was worse, by far, was how ridiculously heavy this bottle was. Holy-you-know-what. Why not just admit you have absolutely no regard for the environment and just build Hummers? #DoBetter Not Rated.
2021 Pisoni Family Vineyards “Lucy” Pico Blanco, Monterey County, CA: Retail $22. Under DIAM5. 70% Pinot Gris, 30% Pinot Blanc. The Pisoni family is California wine royalty and while this is a second wine for the family, it by no means plays second fiddle. This Pico Blanco is evidence. Close to colorless in the glass with tropical notes of guava and banana on the nose. The palate is fruity, round, rich, and fantastic. Close to a whoa. The tartness, which is just right, comes in on the midpalate, and carries the wine to, and through, the finish. I think this may be the first Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc blend I have tried and that is saying something. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Roger Goulart Cava Reserva Brut, Spain: Retail $20. 50% Macabeo, 35% Xarel-lo, 15% Parellada. While I drink a ton of sparkling wine, a ton, hardly any of it is Cava. Like zero. Why? Well, most of the Cava I have had in the past just was not very compelling. Like at all. The best I could say about most of the Cava I have tried is that “they make a good Kir Royal.” Not exactly high praise. Well, this bottle, made me pause for at least a bit. While I will not be dumping any bottles of champagne in my cellar to make room for it, this is a solid effort. Yellow delicious apple, a bit of lemon, and a suggestion of yeastiness on the nose, along with a nice mousse and a pale straw hue in the glass. The palate is bright, fruity, tart, and quite nice. It lacks some complexity, but that is just nit-picking, I guess. Excellent. 90 Points.
2020 Tongue Dancer The Departure Sangiovese, Unti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $49. 100% Sangiovese. As the name indicates, this is a departure for the Tongue Dancer brand as it 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 of 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 is right there, running 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 not 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. And Whoa. Outstanding. 94 Points.