The Random Samples—2/10/2023

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 WaysChardonnay Any Day, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.

2020 Bells Up Winery Cabernet Sauvignon New World, Summit View Vineyard, Walla Walla, WA: Retail $68. I was a bit confused as this Cabernet Sauvignon was bottled in a decidedly Pinot Noir-esque bottle (but ask my kids–I am easily confused). Once past my confusion, I found this needs a healthy decant as it is quite shy and a bit funky on the nose, particularly upon opening. But after some time? Yeah, the wine that I remembered tasting oh so many months ago in barrel comes roaring back. Great fruit is the calling card here as the aim was to make a “new world” Cabernet (in short, more fruit-forward than its earthy “old world” counterparts). Mission accomplished. Mostly dark berry (with some red fruit sprinkled in), a bit of spice, and a lovely herbal quality on the nose. The palate is balanced, but the focus is clearly on the fruit. The tannins are all but integrated, so this is a wine for relatively short-term drinking. 3-5 years max. But that is fine with me! Outstanding. 93 Points.

2021 Domaine Bousquet Malbec Alavida, Tupungato, Uco Vallley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $18. 100% Malbec. Under cork. Kosher. The wine, perhaps as expected, is quite dark in the glass with dark, even brooding aromas of cassis, black plum, clove, black pepper, and a little bit of funk. The palate is quite rich, laden with fruit (the aforementioned black currant), zingy acidity, and perhaps just a smidge of heat on the finish (14.5%). I really do not drink a ton of Malbec and while it is rarely a go-to variety for me, Domaine Bousquet has shown that they do a fantastic job with what has become the signature grape for Argentina. Very Good. 89 Points.

2019 Cecchi Chianti Classico Storia di Famiglia, Tuscany, Italy: Retail $25. 90% Sangiovese, 10% Other Red Varieties. I first encountered the Cecchi wine and family several years ago and they could not have been nicer. And (but?), as much as I appreciated Andrea Cecchi and the rest of his lovely family, the wines were, well, even better. This 2019 Chianti Classico is fantastic. Dark in the glass with plenty of dark fruit (cassis, plum), red and dark earth, clove, and an herbal aspect (sage?). Lovely. The palate is certainly fruity, but not overly so, with fresh, tart fruit (throw in some plum to the aforementioned), great acidity, a hint of tannin with a wonderful finish. Yum. Excellent. 91 Points.

2015 Cecchi Chianti Classico Riserva di Famiglia, Tuscany, Italy: Retail $45. 90% Sangiovese,10% Cabernet Sauvignon. While a Chiati through and through, this wine is both fruitier and richer than most wines that I have tried from the appellation. Great fruit, even over a half a dozen of years out with black cherry and plum taking front stage. Add in some sage and even basil with a healthy dose of earth? Yowza. The palate is also rich, but in an Old World kind of way, with plenty of fruit and a whole lot of verve. Yeah. This is up there with the best Classicos I have tried. Outstanding. 94 Points.

2020 Girasole Vineyards Sangiovese Organic, Mendocino County, CA: Retail $16. Under screw cap. 96% Sangiovese, 4% Zinfandel. For a few years now, I have been tasting these wines and even though the term “value wine” is so over-used, it is appropriate here. Quite fruity on the nose (even in an over-extracted way), which is no doubt inviting to a ton of people. The palate is much of the same: big, luscious fruit up front and all over. The acidity shows up and tries to compete, and does for a heartbeat, but this fruit reassumes control all the way through the finish. Very Good. 88 Points.

2020 Harken Chardonnay Barrel Fermented, California: Retail $15. Big ass bottle. Under agglomerated stopper. Even though this has a bike on the label, I was actually dreading opening this bottle. A $15 Chard that asserts that it is barrel fermented on the front label? I have been down this road before and it rarely ends well. Until tonight that is. This wine is actually quite nice. A bit golden in the glass with ripe citrus notes, vanilla, and noticeable oak. “Uh oh” I thought. But no. The palate is beyond pleasant and firmly on the road to tasty. Good fruit and weight, balanced by ample acidity, a ripeness, and a creamy richness on the finish. While far from an oak monster, the wood is certainly present and accounted for throughout, which is just fine with me–I don’t mind a bit of oakiness when done in moderation and balance. Excellent. 90 Points.

2020 Maggio Estates Chardonnay, Lodi, CA: Retail $35. Under cork. One of the brands from Oak Ridge Winery, a stalwart in Lodi, California. Straw to yellow in the glass with classic Chardonnay aromas of lemon curd, vanilla, and a hint of oak. The palate is rich, creamy, yes, a bit oaky (but only a bit), and balanced. That last point is key–while there is certainly a lot of fruit, richness, and oak, the acidity creates a balance that is quite compelling. Look, I’ll be honest, I was not anticipating that I would like this wine. A Chardonnay from a region that is not necessarily known for the variety? Yeah. Hard pass. But. Wait. This is pretty darn good! Excellent, even. 92 Points.

2021 Muret-Gaston Picpoul Blanc Blanc Boushey Vineyard, Yakima Valley, WA:  Retail $32. Under cork. There is not a ton of Picpoul grown in the U.S. In fact, there is not much at all, which is why I don’t drink it very often. Sure, I could opt for the French version, the famed Picpoul de Pinet, but honestly, those that I have tried from this country have been richer, a bit rounder, and frankly more flavorful than their French brethren. Case in point. I have known Amy and Kyle Johnson, the couple behind M-G (and their main winery, Purple Star) for close to a decade now, and all of their wines have been stellar. This pale straw Picpoul has tons of pear and peach, a bit of lemon rind, and nice mineral notes on the nose. As I mentioned above, this is both racy and round, tart and creamy, with a lengthy, and a bit spicy, finish. Yeah, this is fantastic. Excellent. 92 Points.


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Picpoul, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Wine and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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