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 Bending Branch Winery Malbec Bending Branch Estate Vineyards, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $45. Stupidly. Big. Ass. Bottle. Honestly? This is one of the heaviest bottles I have ever encountered. Holy crap is this an environmental disaster not to mention a potential health risk (torn rotator cuff anyone?). Trying to get past the recklessness of the bottle, this is actually a pleasant wine with plenty of red and black fruit (albeit heavily extracted) with black cherry cola and spice. The palate is all about the fruit, which is black-cherry Kool Aid a go-go and plenty of tartness. Look, this wine goes through a lot of manipulation (cryogenically frozen, e.g.) and is put into a really stupid bottle, but somehow I like this wine. Very Good. 89 Points.
2017 Duchman Family Winery Aglianico, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $40. Heavy bottle. Under DIAM5. “I do not drink a ton of Aglianico” said 99% of the wine-drinking population and “wait, this is from Texas?” is uttered by just about all that remain. Not released until a whopping five years after harvest, this wine is certainly a bit brooding in the glass. Black fruit aromas (plum, cassis) abound with touches of spice and red rose petal. The palate carries on with the theme but there is a surprising amount of tartness and a wonderful balance. This is close to my first “Whoa” for a wine from Texas. Excellent. 92 Points.
2018 Pedernales Cellars Block Zero, Texas: Retail $55. Big. Ass. Bottle. 49% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Tannat, 14% Sangiovese, 5% Malbec. The last vintage of this wine after Pedernales decided not to replant the vineyard (the first planted at the winery, hence “Block Zero”) which always had difficulty ripening. Medium to dark in color with a heavy dose of oak, which dominates the nose and only serves to mask the dark fruit (plum, cassis, red raspberry), earth, and spice. Nicely balanced on the palate with plenty of oak up front, followed by a tart cherry, and finishes with lovely clove. I really like this wine, but it could improve with a slightly less prominent oak component (and a much lighter bottle). Excellent. 92 Points.
2019 Spicewood Vineyards Tempranillo, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $40. Heavy bottle. Under cork. Medium to dark color in the glass with plenty of dark fruit (plum, cassis, black raspberry), noticeable oak (almost to the point of heavy-handed), and a touch of spice. The palate is dominated by the fruit initially, followed by the oak, frankly, and then the tartness. I do not have a ton of experience with Texas wine, but it seems that this wine is pandering to its Texas public, with a rich, fruity, oaky wine. But being a Texan (at least for now), I can really see how this works. Excellent. 91 Points.
NV Domaine Bousquet, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina: Retail $15. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. I have long been a fan of Domaine Bousquet–they make fantastic wines and they seemingly are doing it the right way by focusing on organically farmed grapes and terroir. This sparkling wine is a fantastic bargain with great green apple fruit both on the nose and the palate with nice acidity and a lengthy finish. While I would have liked a bit more of the yeasty aspect that defines the traditional method, at fifteen bucks? This is a solid effort. Very Good. 88 Points.
2015 Kautz & Kramer Cabernet Sauvignon Block 50, Lodi, CA: Retail $35. Big. Ass. Bottle. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It has become beyond frustrating reviewing wines in bottles that weigh more than most Thanksgiving turkeys. Good berry fruit, mostly dark (blackberry and plum), with black pepper and some spice. The palate was quite fruity, even on the verge of overly so, with a particularly jammy aspect that seems overly extracted. Look, this is a nice wine and certainly has an audience, but it seems a bit manipulated and, given the ridiculous bottle? Yeah, um…. Very Good. 88 Points.
NV Bruno Paillard Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut, France: Retail $80. 100% Grand Cru Chardonnay (Côte des Blancs). Bruno Paillard has long been one of my favorite producers and it has done nothing but climb that rather short list. While I mostly pop the Première Cuvée, this Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs for about twenty bucks more, is certainly worth the extra cash. Quite pale in the glass with just a touch of straw, it is loaded with considerable tree fruit (white peach) but also plenty of citrus (lime zest and pink grapefruit). Aromas of white flower a healthy brioche quality, and a touch of nuttiness. The palate is rich and creamy with considerable minerality. It is also on the dry side of champagne (only 5 g/l), which really helps to highlight the fruit and mineral aspects of this gorgeous wine. Outstanding. 94 Points.