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: Drink Them and It Will Come, Summer is Here, So That Means (More) Rosé, If It Doesn’t Sparkle, It Doesn’t Matter.
Other times, I get just a bottle or two that do not have any apparent connection or link. Instead of holding on to those bottles until the “right” combination comes along, I decided to link all these “random” bottles together, making their own category (and, being the math geek that I am, “random sample” has a bit of a double entendre).
2017 Domaine Carneros Voluspa, Carneros, CA: Retail $89. Comes with a Voluspa candle. Not sure of the composition or winemaking. Yeasty and citrusy in the glass with a bit of wet rock and a smidge of dried apricot. Quite dry initially on the palate, with a bit of sweetness coming in on the mid-palate. Great fruit and balance and just the right amount of dosage. I have tasted through almost all of the DC offerings at this point and this has to be at or near the top of my favorites. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2019 Donnafugata Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé, Sicily, Italy: Retail $40 (375ml). Under cork. 100% Zibibbo. There are few wines on this planet that get me as emotional as one from Donnafugata. I have been fortunate enough to visit the winery on a couple of occasions and it is spectacular. The winery on the Western half of Sicily is beautiful, of course, but the people there are what makes the trip memorable. Warm, inviting, hospitable, and genuinely nice, what a treat. But it was not until I took the short plane ride to Pantelleria, the small island off the coast of Sicily, that I really started to understand the Ben Ryè. The island is breathtaking, between the vineyards, the caper farms, and the Mediterranean, what possibly could be more breathtaking? Perhaps this wine. Dark amber in color with aromas of caramelized orange peel, candied peach, and even a bit of natural cola, this wine is stunning even before the first sip. On the palate? Holy cow. Nutty, fruity, sweet, but not unctuous, tart, but not biting, rich but not overpowering. Whoa. I do not drink much sweet wine these days and this Ben Ryè might be the reason why–other wines just can’t match up. Extraordinary. 97 Points.
2021 Covenant Pinot Noir Landsman, Carneros, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $45. Under non-DIAM agglomerated cork. Kosher. I have tasted a few wines from Covenant now and I even stopped by the Berkeley winery when I was in the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed with this Carneros Pinot which is under the Landsman brand (which basically means “local” or “native”). Bright fruit, but held in check by the balancing zinginess, and is accompanied by hints of earth and spice. Tasty. Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, Texas Hill Country, TX: Retail $50. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (I could not find the breakdown). I am starting to delve a bit into Texas wines these days, but this is my first wine from Fall Creek Vineyards in Driftwood, Texas. I really did not know what to expect as Texas wines can be a bit all over the place, but this wine, while rich and certainly fruity, has plenty more going on: dark in the glass with ripe, black fruit (cassis, plum), some spice (cardamom, black pepper), and herbal notes (sage, bay leaf). The palate is also rich with plenty, plenty of fruit, but both spice and tartness come through shortly thereafter, serving to balance the wine. Nice. Excellent. 90 Points.
2011 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $200. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I am not sure what I did or whom I flattered to end up with a 12-year-old, $200 Napa Valley Cab, but I would gladly do it all again, whatever it was. Whoa. Initially, this was quite closed and nondescript, but after a bit of time open? Holy cow. Dark, even really dark fruit with cassis, bramble berry, and black raspberry, yowza. The palate is dark, even really dark, with all that black fruit that introduced itself on the nose, but here accompanied by a subtle tartness that was otherwise hidden. Some earth, some spice, and silky, nearly integrated tannins. Whoa. This only got better once open, and while the $200 tariff (library wine) is steep, it might well be worth it. Outstanding. 96 Points.
2019 Klipsun (Terlato) Cabernet Sauvignon Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain, WA: Retail $150. Really heavy bottle. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 7% Syrah. Under cork and wax. I was gifted this bottle from the fine folks at Terlato for hosting a wine tasting of Chimney Rock at my home with winemaker Elizabeth Vianna. I was excited to taste it since a) it is a Red Mountain wine and b) the retail is waaaay out of my price range. Almost immediately after pouring the wine, I realized that this was not my style of wine: big, bold, boisterous, and, above all, fruity, this strikes me as a quintessential Napa Valley wine from, well, Washington. Really dark in the glass with mostly dark plum and black pepper coming through along with some clove. Again, not my style, but it seems to be well done while in the glass. The palate is certainly big and fruit forward, which actually might be the understatement of at least this month. Rich, jammy, and really close to unctuous, I can see the audience for this wine and most of them, I would guess, have at least a few bottles of Caymus in their cellars. Oddly, I really like this wine even though, again, it is not my style. Excellent. 92 Points.
2021 Troon Vineyard Druid’s Fluid White, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. 65% Vermentino, 22% Marsanne, 13% Roussanne. Under DIAM. Biodynamic. The Vermentino was foot-trodden (!), the Roussanne and Marsanne were whole-cluster pressed. All were fermented in oak and remained for eight months, then transferred to tank before blending. If you love the planet, you have to love Troon. It boggles the mind all that Troon does to preserve the earth, way too much for a tasting note, but it is astounding and commendable. And the wine?
Fantastic. The nose is busy, but in a good way: lemon, lime, hazelnut, lemon grass. The palate continues on with the theme but also introduces balancing tartness along with a lengthy finish. If you want to have your wine and preserve the planet, too, look no further than Troon. Excellent. 92 Points.
2021 Troon Vineyard Druid’s Fluid Red, Applegate Valley, OR: Retail $25. 27% Tempranillo, 23% Malbec, 22% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 6% Grenache, 5% Cinsault and 2% Carignan. Under DIAM5. Biodynamic. This wine sees some whole cluster fermentation, is aged for a year in neutral French oak, and is completely delicious. Fruity on the nose and palate, this is bursting with red berry fruit, a bit of earth, and some eucalyptus. There is plenty of tartness to carry this wine to the finish and beyond and would be fantastic with some brick oven pizza or Texas BBQ. No, it is not the most complex wine, but it is a joy to drink. Excellent. 91 Points.