Mini-reviews 85: Eden Ridge, Campo Viejo, Bonny Doon, Planeta

campo viejoReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

Eden Ridge Chardonnay 2013 ($13, sample, 14.5%): This California white shows everything that is wrong-headed about premiumization – $7 or $8 worth of wine that costs one-third more. It’s hot, with an alcoholic tang; stemmy and bitter; doused with oak; and without all that much fruit.

Campo Viejo Rioja 2014: ($10, purchased, 13%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that proves not all Spanish wine is a great value. It’s grocery store plonk that tastes about as Spanish as a glass of water, with sweet fruit and too much oak.

Bonny Doon Gravitas 2014 ($16, purchased, 13.5%): Proper white Bordeaux channeled through California, so brighter citrus fruit, less flinty, and a little rounder, but still delicious. The difference between this wine and the first two is so vast that it’s difficult to put into words.

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 ($20, purchased, 13%): This red blend from one of my favorite Sicilian producers was sadly disappointing. Though it’s well made, with red fruit and some spice, there’s not enough going on for what it cost: Not complex enough, with almost no finish; not enough Sicilian dark fruit; and not earthy enough.

Memorial Day and rose 2016

rose 2016This year, as we celebrate the blog’s ninth annual Memorial Day and rose post at the traditional start of summer, we have much to enjoy. Not only have the hipsters and the Hamptons elite embraced rose, but so has Big Wine – Dark Horse, an E&J Gallo label, has released a dry rose, something I don’t remember Gallo brands doing very often (though the wine isn’t quite up to this post’s standards).

So let us rejoice. The rest of the wine world might be going to hell in a hand-basket – premiumization, consolidation, Millennialization and all the other -ations that have taken so much fun out of wine – but rose remains cheap and delicious and widely available.

This year’s recommendations are after the jump. You should also check out the rose category link, which lists eight years of rose reviews. The blog’s rose primer discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. Vintage, in fact, is especially important this year; I didn’t see as many 2015s on shelves as I should have, and there seemed to be more older wines. In rose, older does not usually mean better. Continue reading

Wine of the week: Angels & Cowboys Rose 2015

angels & cowboys roseMaybe the Angels & Cowboys rose isn’t the greatest rose in the history of the world, and maybe the Wine Curmudgeon’s enthusiasm for it is a bit overblown.

And then again, maybe not.

The Angels & Cowboys rose ($15, sample, 12.8%) won a platinum medal at this year’s Critics Challenge. I tasted it blind with San Francisco wine critic Leslie Sbrocco, who almost went more gaga than I did. We looked at each after we tasted it, shook our heads in disbelief, and started with the superlatives. Later, I tasted it with a friend who loves rose as much as I do, and he said it was so good he could give up red and white wine and drink only rose from then on.

So expect to taste complexity that is not only rare in a rose, but rare in most wines at this price. Look for wonderful crispness, a Provencal-like minerality, and tart fruit (cranberry?), and then some soft fruit (cherry?) in the back. The wine almost smells like a flowery spring day, and if that’s corny and not something that I usually write, then so be it.

Highly recommended, either on its own or with almost anything you can think of to eat with it, including a massive piece of red meat from the grill. This is the kind of wine that liberates my soul from the grocery store junk that I have to drink too much of to do my job, and is the perfect rose to lead into this week’s ninth annul Memorial Day and rose wine extravaganza.

Winebits 439: Rose wine edition

rose wineBecause, as we prepare for this week’s ninth annual Memorial Day and rose wine post, the rose boom means  news and recommendations are coming from the least likely places.

To your health? If rose is booming, then it’s just a matter of time until someone touts its health benefits. Because we wouldn’t drink it otherwise, would we? This piece is silly enough to lift the blog’s wine and health news ban, and it includes a Left Coast dietitian with a book called “The MIND Diet” advocating roses. We should also drink rose, says the story, because they’re lower in calories than red wine, since they have less alcohol.

Only expensive rose counts: Or so says this piece, crediting the rose boom to the Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt rose, another rose that costs $100, and Andy Warhol’s Campbell soup can. And because it’s from New York, the infamous Hamptons’ rose shortage is mentioned. I wonder: Do people really believe this stuff? Isn’t it enough that rose became popular because it’s cheap and tasty?

Making recommendations: The About.com sites – think of them as Wikipedia written by one person – do an OK job with wine, and this season’s rose picks aren’t bad – Charles & Charles, long a favorite here, and the South African Mulderbosch. My only objection? The piece includes more rose closer to $20 than to $10, including a $16 Chilean rose. To which I have just one one thing to say: Muga.

Los Angeles International Wine Competition 2016

Los Angeles InternationalForget the three-hour shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel. Who cares about the overcooked $30 room service cheeseburger? The Wine Curmudgeon judged four flights of riesling at this year’s Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and my panel gave 24 of the 51 wines gold medals.

To say that is unprecedented is to damn with faint praise. My panels don’t give 24 gold medals in two or three competitions combined, let alone in four flights of a two-day event. The wines reminded me why I love wine and what honest winemaking is all about, and that terroir and varietal character are all. And that rieslin, now that we’ve rescued rose, may be the best wine no one drinks.

We judged the wines blind; I’ll post the best of the best when the results are announced on June 1.

The others 150 or so wines weren’t quite as good, but we gave more gold medals than I expected, and only a couple of flights were truly awful. I’m not sure why. The quality of wines I’ve judged this year has been better than in years past, and maybe that’s a trend to enjoy and not worry about. Some of it might have been the competition. Maybe L.A. attracts those kinds of wines in a way that others don’t. In which case, I hope they ask me back in 2017. Besides, we only had to judge 100 wines a day, something other competitions should note.

Plus, much of the wine I’ve judged this year hasn’t been especially commercial; that is, hybrids, odd grapes (diamond, anyone?), and wine made in the U.S. that isn’t California. If you’re making wine that the Winestream Media doesn’t pay attention to, it might be easier to make it the way it should be made, instead of making it so it will score 92 points.

Finally, a tip of the WC’s fedora to the people I judged with, who were even more open-minded about hybrids, odd grapes, and lesser-known appellations than I am. We gave a gold medal to a concord, and I was the only one on the panel who had doubts. Which has never happened to me before; usually, it’s all I can do to get the other judges to take a concord wine seriously.

So thank you, Jim Trezise of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, who is one of the world’s best riesling people; Ann Miller of Missouri’s St. James, who works for a winery that has turned hybrids into quality wine that is also commercial; and Chris Braun, an importer, who should teach a seminar in how to judge wine objectively.

Winecast 27: Yoav Gilat, Angels & Cowboys

yoav gilat

Yoav Gilat

The Wine Curmudgeon is among the least likely of fanboys; one of the first pieces of advice I got in the newspaper business was “Don’t god up the ballplayers,” a reminder that someone who did one thing very well wasn’t necessarily any better than anyone else.

So how to explain my almost teenage enthusiasm for the Angels & Cowboys rose, which is the focus of this podcast with winery co-owner Yoav Gilat? Maybe it’s Gilat’s enthusiasm for well-made and fairly-priced rose – he told me he doesn’t understand winery business models that revolve around making wine that’s too expensive for anyone to buy.

Gilat, a reformed lawyer who turned to wine as part of his rehabilitation, is an ardent proponent for rose and how it should be made – not a pink version of white wine or something heavy to appeal to red wine drinkers, but a rose. And that means an affordable wine with its fruit, acidity, and minerality in balance, and something the Angels & Cowboys rose does in award-winning fashion.

What better way to get ready for next week’s annual rose preview than with this podcast? Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 1/2 minutes long and takes up 8 ½ megabytes. The sound quality is good.

Beverage management at El Centro

elcentroMy third class at Dallas’ El Centro College ended last week, the first in the Beverage management format. Which means there are now 15 culinary students armed with the knowledge that restaurant wine prices are too high, the three-tier system is not our friend, and that vodka is more adaptable to cocktails than Scotch.

Beverage management replaced the wine/beer and spirits format I started with, as part of the plan to upgrade the Food & Hospitality Institute curriculum (part of which, rumor has it, involves giving adjunct instructors like the Wine Curmudgeon a desk). Beverage management focuses more on the theory and skills the students will need when they work in the industry; hence, a terrific presentation from Eddie Eakin of Dallas’ Boulevardier and Rapscallion restaurants on bar management and especially on how to cost cocktails. Who knew how expensive a dash of bitters was?

Having said that, there is still a consumer side to the class, and we will do 11 class tastings in the fall, from sparkling wine to craft beer to single malt Scotch to cocktails. The goal, over the long term, is to offer beverage management as well as separate wine and beer and spirits classes. Until then, taking beverage management as a continuing education student is one of the best values in the wine world – $177, which includes not only the tastings and some smart and fun guest speakers but my lectures, which are more or less like getting the blog in person once a week.

Finally, a word about this semester’s class. I have taught some version of this class for almost three years, first at the soon to be late Cordon Bleu in Dallas and now at El Centro, and every day I do it I understand why so many teachers enjoy teaching so much. The students paid attention, wanted to learn, and hardly ever used Snapchat in class (because, as cranky as I am, I notice these things). We had intelligent discussions about pairing food not just with wine but with beer and spirits, whether terroir existed in beer (very controversial), and the value of three-tier system. Some of them even disagreed with me on that one, which made me smile that much more.