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).
NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Grand Cru Brut Blanc de Blancs, France: Retail $105. 100% Chardonnay from four Grand Cru vineyards of the Côte des Blancs : Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Mesnil-sur-Oger. The last bottle of this wine I tried I had for over a decade. This one? I’ve had it for about five months. A bit golden in the glass with an incredible nose of lemon meringue, wet rock, and that classic yeasty, freshly baked croissant aspect that is rarely achieved to this level of perfection outside of the Champagne region. The palate is perhaps even more impressive with a perfect balance of fruit, tartness, sparkle, and that oh so seductive dose of brioche. This is one of the better widely available champagnes on the market. Outstanding. 95 Points.
2021 Domaine Bousquet Chardonnay Reserve, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $15. Under screw cap. I have tasted dozens of wines from Domaine Bousquet at this point and I can safely say I have yet to be disappointed. In fact, far from it. This is a case in point. At fifteen bucks retail, this wine punches well above its weight with tree (mostly peach) and citrus (lemon rind) fruit on the nose. The palate is tart, fruity, and even a bit chalky with some weight and depth. For (under) $15? A solid choice in my book. Very Good. 89 Points.
2021 Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Tupungato, Argentina: Retail $18. Heavy bottle. Under DIAM5. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Organic grapes. Why expend the time, effort, and money to grow the grapes organically and put it into these heavy bottles? #DisconnectAnyone ? Quite dark in the glass with a heavy dose of dark berry fruit: blackberry, cassis, with bits of anise, black pepper, and clove. The palate is rich, even quite rich (particularly given the price point) with loads of fruit, touches of earth, and even a bit of verve. I have to admit that on Day One, this was rather, well, boring, but on Day Two? It has come to life and is singing. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Brooks Pinot Noir Old Vine Pommard Eola – Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, OR: Retail $60. Under DIAM10. I am not entirely sure why, but four bottles of this wine landed on my doorstep last month and I decided to pop a bottle while my wife was away. Medium color in the glass with a lovely, albeit subtle, nose of dried black cherry, eucalyptus, and a hint of mint. The palate is gorgeously reserved, with fruit, tartness, earth, and a whole lot of verve. I love the story behind the winery, but I love the wines even more. Excellent. 91 Points.
2018 Castelfeder Pinot Nero Mazon, Alto Adige – Südtirol, Italy: Retail $40. Under DIAM10. I will be honest, when I see an Italian Pinot Noir, I get a bit worried. Even a lot worried. I can safely say that I can count on one hand the number of Pinot Neros that I would consider “good.” Until now. Add one to the list. While upon opening this was more than a bit funky, after a bit of time open this really improved. By a lot. Sure, there was still a bit of funk on the nose but the palate was fruity, balanced, and tasty. While I might need additional data points to change my view of Italian PN, this is certainly a step in a positive direction. Excellent. 91 Points.
2019 Covenant Red C, Napa Valley, CA: Retail $44. Grenache, Syrah, Petite Sirah. Agglomerated cork. Kosher (I have given up trying to explain what a Kosher wine is since I seem to get it wrong every time I try). I received this as a sample a few months ago but I had not yet popped it by the time that I visited the winery last month. Opening this now gives me fond memories of my visit to the urban winery in Berkeley. This is the top wine from their second label, and it is tasty. Great fruit both on the nose and the palate, well on the way to juicy. There is also spice, an herbal component, and just a hint of earth. Very nice. Excellent. 91 Points.
2021 Ron Rubin Chardonnay Pam’s un-oaked, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $15. Under screwcap. Heavy bottle. This is now the third vintage of this wine I have sampled, and this 2021 falls in line with the 2018 and 2020. While there might not be any oak involved, this is certainly a big Chardonnay: juicy, heavy, ripe, no, over-ripe with loads of all kinds of fruit (tropical, citrus, tree, and maybe even “Loops”). Not my style at all and there is certainly some residual sugar involved here (it seems like even more than previous years) but I am pretty confident this wine has an audience. Just not mine. Good. 86 Points.
2021 Castel Sallegg Schiava Lago di Caldaro Bischofsleiten, Alto Adige, Italy: Retail $20. 100% Schiava. Without even the slightest resemblance of a doubt, I would love to drink more Schiava, the problem is I can’t ever find any. This wine comes from the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy, where I would go back to in a heartbeat, no matter what else I had going on. Fairly light in the glass, with plenty of cherry: fresh, dried, black, a whole lot of cherries. Bits of earth and a fantastic mineral aspect round out the nose, all of which comes to life on the palate as well, with just oodles of cherry and a fantastic tartness. Again, I love Schiava, I don’t have a ton of experience with it, but I *need* to find more of it. Outstanding. 93 Points.