Category:California wine

Expensive wine 88: Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014

Boony Doon Old TelegramI rarely discuss wine with the person who made it; what’s the point with most of the grocery store plonk I taste? But talking about the Bonny Doon Old Telegram with Randall Grahm was a treat.

The wine, of course, was even better. The Old Telegram ($45, sample, 13.9%) is a classic Bonny Doon effort – top-notch, if unusual, California fruit (mourvedre, in this case), exquisite technical winemaking, and the sense that there is something going on that you won’t find in too many other places.

Grahm, during our visit this spring, insisted that I taste the Old Telegram, saying it was one of the best he had ever made. I’m glad I didn’t argue with him. Somehow, the mourvedre – a Spanish grape also grown in the south of France – produces a Bordeaux-like, earthy, forest floor sensibility that you only get anymore in traditional and very expensive red Bordeaux. There is also some baking spice and Grahm’s trademark funky fruit (blackberry?).

Highly recommended, and the wine to give as a gift to someone who appreciates Old World sensibility or wants to try something that isn’t full of sweet fruit. Pair this with anything you’d eat with high-end red Bordeaux, including roast lamb and almost any combination of beef. It’s also young, and will only get more interesting as it ages over the next decade.

Mini-reviews 87: Lindemans, Toad Hollow, Dancing Coyote, Mont Gravet

stockwine2Mini-reviews 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. This month, two whites you’ll enjoy and two reds you probably won’t.

Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($6, sample, 13.5%): It’s not so much that this Australian red tastes like a $6 cabernet, with overly sweet black fruit and lots of fake chocolate oak. It’s that so many wines that cost two and three times as much taste the same way (albeit with better grapes).

Toad Hollow Merlot 2014 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Red from a once great California producer that tastes more like cabernet than merlot, complete with manly tannins. One fix? I put ice cubes in my glass, which toned down the wine enough so that it tasted like merlot.

Dancing Coyote Gruner Veltliner 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): California white is a well-made, varietally correct version of the Austrian sommelier favorite – which is saying something given the Wine Curmudgeon’s lack of enthusiasm for gruner. Look for citrus and peach and a crisp finish.

Mont Gravet Cotes de Gascogne 2015 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This is yet another well made and value-drive French white from the region of Gascony, with lots of citrus and a clean finish. It’s not quite white grapey enough for me, but well worth buying and drinking.

Fourth of July wine 2016

Fourth of July wine 2016This weekend, we’re supposed to get our first 100-degree days in Dallas. That means lighter and fruitier – though still tasty and value-driven – Fourth of July wine 2016.

Keep the concepts behind summer wine (and porch wine) in mind as you decide on wine for this holiday weekend. It’s not so much the food that matters, but that lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s hot, humid, or both.

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2016 suggestions:

Muga Rosado 2015 ($12, purchased, 13.5%) This Spanish pink is consistently one of the best roses in the world. Look for crisp red raspberry fruit, bright acidity, and a long mineral finish. It’s so well done, in fact, that if I raise the price ceiling on the $10 Hall of Fame next year, this wine will be one of the main reasons.

Dancing Coyote Albarino 2014 ($12, sample, 13%): This California white helped introduce albarino to U.S. consumers, and I am most grateful. Look for crisp green apple fruit and minerality, though it’s not quite as salty (really) as a Spanish albarino. A tremendous value.

Hey Mambo Red 2014 ($10, sample, 13.5%): Great cheap California red blend the way it should be, with something else besides lots of berry fruit. That means freshness instead of that horrible cloying fruitiness, as well as proper soft tannins. Very well done, especially for Big Wine, and an example for others who think Americans will only drink wine masquerading as Kool-Aid.

Scharffenberger Brut Excellence NV ($20, sample, 12%): California bubbly that is softer than Spanish cava, not as sweet as Italian Prosecco, and a better value than Champagne. Look for some of the latter’s yeastiness and caramel, though the fruit is almost berryish from the 40 percent pinot noir. The bubbles are tight and long lasting, and the wine improves the longer it is open.

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2015
Fourth of July wine 2014
Wine of the week: Charles & Charles rose 2015

Mini-reviews 86: Meh wine edition

meh wineReviews 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. This month, meh wine — four wines you probably won’t want to buy.

Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2015 ($6, sample, 12.5%): $6 worth of pinot grigio in the cheap Italian style, more tonic water than anything else. It’s certainly drinkable for people who like this sort of thing, and in its own way an honest wine. But you can do much better for not much more money.

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, sample, 13.5%): Nicely done California white, as always, with varietal grassy character. But not for $18 (after a price increase from last year), and it’s not twice as enjoyable as a quality $10 sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux.

Camino del Peregrino Albariño 2015 ($5, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white is almost varietally correct, but there is almost nothing going on save some tart lemon. Certainly drinkable, but probably not worth buying again, even for $5.

Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($8, sample, 12.5%): Thinnish, simple, $8 grocery store white from New Zealand that is OK as long as you don’t have to pay any more for it. This is what’s left after the recession-induced collapse of the high quality Republic of Sauvignon Blanc label, and it’s not nearly the same thing.

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.

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.

Mini-reviews 84: Beso de Vino, Graffigna, Our Daily Red, Albero

Beso de VinoReviews 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.

Beso de Vino Syrah/Grenache 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): The sort of wine that I am always wary of, given the cute front and back labels. So it’s not surprising that this Spanish red blend doesn’t taste much of Spain, syrah, or grenache – just another International style wine with way too much fruit.

Graffigna Reserve Centenario Malbec 2014 ($15, sample, 14%): Competent Argentine grocery store malbec with sweet black fruit, not too much in the way of tannins, and just enough acidity so it isn’t flabby. Not what I like and especially at this price, but this is a very popular style.

Our Daily Red Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This California red is juicy, simple, and zesty, with more red fruit than I expected. There isn’t much going on, but there doesn’t need to be given what it’s trying to do. Enjoyable in a “I want a glass of wine and this is sitting on the counter” sort of way.

Albero Cava Brut NV ($8, purchased, 11.5%): One day, I’ll find a wine at Trader Joe’s that will justify its reputation for cheap, value wines. This Spanish sparkler isn’t it — barely worthwhile, with almost no fruit and not even close to Segura Viudas or Cristalino.