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 Lucia Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $60. Big. Ass. Bottle. Under cork. There are few that would disagree with the statement that the Pisoni family is California wine royalty and all the Lucia wines I have tried from the family have been stellar. This Chardonnay is no exception, but the bottle is beyond stupidly heavy. The wine is fantastically good, though: yellow straw in the glass with loads of fruit (pear, peach, tangerine) on the nose along with vanilla, candle wax, and subtle oak. The palate is truly fantastic with great balance–the fruit is certainly at the forefront, but the tartness does a nice job of keeping the fruit in check. Nice weight and multi-layered, this is very nice. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Lucia Chardonnay, Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA: Retail $65. Heavy bottle. Under cork. Yellow straw in the glass with lemon curd, wet rock, white acacia flower, moderate oak, and a touch of vanilla all present on the nose. The palate is spectacular. Sure, it is clear that this wine spent some time in barrel, but the oak influence is moderate and works well with the fruit and tartness, both of which are on point. The weight is great as well, with several layers of complexity on the way to a lengthy, complex finish. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2020 Maggio Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, CA: Retail $40. Big. Ass. Bottle. 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot. I was doing a mini-wine tasting for some friends, comparing two Chardonnays and two Cabs at different levels of quality. I chose this for the “less-expensive” Cab option. Whoops. While certainly not “expensive” this wine at forty bucks should be expected to hold its own in many (most?) such situations. And held it, it did. In spades. Certainly a New World style with tons of fruit, there is also more than ample acidity and a nice, albeit a tad brief, finish. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Qupé Syrah, Central Coast, CA: Retail $20. Under screw cap. Really dark in the glass, on the verge of brooding, but this does not transfer onto the nose as this is quite fruity and vibrant: bright fruit (red raspberry, plum, blackberry), spice (cardamom and clove), herb notes (basil, oregano), and earth. The palate is initially about the dark fruit, but then ebbs into the tartness, and finishes with the spice. While this is not the most complex, earthy Syrah that I have had the pleasure to taste, it is particularly compelling. Very Good. 89 Points.
2019 Red Phoenix, California: Retail $25. 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot, 2% Zinfandel. Most of the fruit (75%) comes from Lodi and it shows: quite juicy and expressive with loads of raspberry, red plum, pomegranate, red rose, and clove on the nose. Close to a Whoa. The palate is juicy as well with all that red fruit, a bit of anise, some spice, and a quick dose of tannic grip coming through right before the finish. This is a fantastic wine and for twenty-five bucks? No need to feel guilty about opening a second bottle for the second half of the game. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Red Phoenix Rubeus, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $60. Big. Ass. Bottle. 95.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4.2% Merlot. 89% Napa Valley. I was impressed with the Red Blend from Red Phoenix, and this wine, at more than twice the price, is also pretty darned fantastic. Fairly dark in the glass with dark red fruit: cassis, black plum, and blackberry. It does not end there with pumpkin spice and a decided mocha aspect. The palate is all about the fruit: rich, red, and juicy. Sure, the acidity ties to keep up and there is a hint of tannins on the finish, but it’s the fruit. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $65. Big. Ass. Bottle. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I was part of an online tasting with the winemaker at Titus way back in March, but I opted not to pop the bottles then since, well, the tasting was well before the time of day when it makes sense to drink. I am finally getting to them now and while this Cab is delicious, it is difficult to get past this really effing heavy bottle. #DoBetter As for the wine? Whoa. Dark and brooding in the glass, nearly black, in fact, with all kinds of dark fruit: plum, blackberry, cassis. The palate is equally ominous, in search of some fresh meat as an accomplice. Fruity, but balanced, weighty but lithe, tart but tannic, this wine really runs the gamut. Outstanding. 93 Points.
2020 Trivento Malbec Reserve, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $12. Under screw cap. I am pretty sure this is 100% Malbec, but I could not confirm that. Trivento is a huge producer in Argentina and while I am sure that they are still celebrating their World Cup victory over my beloved Bleus, this wine was in bottle well before the opening kick of the 2022 edition in Qatar. Dark color, good fruit, plenty of tartness, and a touch of spice–in other words, all one would want from a Malbec. While this falls short of a, well, world beater, it would certainly do during penalty kicks. Very Good. 88 Points.