Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Ferraton Cotes du Rhone Blanc Samorens 2015

Ferraton SamorensThe Ferraton Samorens is a white blend from the Rhone region of France with two odd grapes, which is one reason why the Wine Curmudgeon liked it. The other? How about terroir and value?

The Ferraton Samorens ($13, sample, 13%) is the kind of wine I wished we saw more often in the U.S. But since we’ve been told we have to drink varietal wine, you have to look harder for something like the Ferraton Samorens.

What will you find if you see it on a shelf? A white blend with grenache blanc and clairette, about as far removed from Big Wine chardonnay and pinot grigio as possible. That means a certain floral aroma, with soft pear and apple fruit and what one review called liveliness – despite not having a lot of the acidity usually found in white wines at this price.

In this, the price is the only disappointment. A couple of years ago, the Ferraton Samorens would have been closer to $10, and the weak euro should have kept it that way. But we’re seeing producers, importers, and distributors keep prices up, and that’s the cost of enjoying this 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.

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan Vieilles Vignes 2015

Mont Gravet CarignanLet’s not waste any time – the Mont Gravet carignan is the best cheap red wine I’ve tasted since the legendary and too long gone Osborne Solaz. To quote my notes: “This cheap French red couldn’t be any better and still be cheap.”

What makes the Mont Gravet carignan ($10, purchased, 12.5%) so wonderful? It’s not dumbed down for the so-called American palate. It’s varietally correct, not easy to do with a blending grape like carignan. It tastes of terroir, not common in $10 wine. I tasted this wine over and over, looking for flaws, because that’s what the Wine Curmudgeon does. I couldn’t find any.

What will you find? An earthy and fruity (blackberry?) wine, with a welcoming, almost figgy aroma, acidity that sits nicely between the fruit and the earthiness, and just enough tannins to do the job. It’s everything you could want in $10 wine – or $15 wine, for that matter. This is the kind of the the $10 Hall of Fame was made for.

Finally, a word about the importer, Winesellers Ltd., and the tremendous job it does finding great cheap wine. I recommend the company’s wines a lot, and that I have to find a retailer who has them and pay for them, as opposed to getting a sample, isn’t an obstacle. These are wines I buy not just to review, but to drink.

Wineseller looks for producers who care about the same things that I do – quality, value, and making wine that is distinctive and reflects where it came from. How many others do that, let alone for $10 wine?

Vinho verde review 2016

vinho verdePremiumization has come to vinho verde, the cheap Portuguese white wine with a little fizz and a greenish tint. In this case, though, that’s not a bad thing.

Too many of the vinhos in the U.S. are non-vintage blends that are indifferently made, with the focus on cranking out as much as possible. The Portuguese, seeing a chance to upgrade quality and sell more expensive wine in the process, have started offering single varietal and vintage vinhos to Americans. The good news is that theses wines are better than the traditional blends, yet still cost around $10.

Our vinho verde primer is here; also know that the wine can be slightly sweet and should usually be served as cold as possible. These four wines will get you started, but these days, there are many to choose from.

Quinta de Raza Rose 2015 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Find this for $9, and buy a case – it’s almost sweet, refreshingly tingly, and with summery red fruit. It’s a little simple for $10, and hence the caveat, but still well made and enjoyable pink wine.

Gazela Vinho Verde NV ($6, purchased, 9%): This is probably the best of the traditional $5 and $6 vinhos that include Santola, Sonalta, and Famega (and that are made by the same couple of producers). That means fizzy and almost sweet, and with soft lemon-lime fruit. You can drink it all day and barely notice.

Quinta da Lixa Pouco Comum 2015 ($13, sample, 13.5%): Vinho as wine and not as a novelty. That means no fizz and varietal character – made with the Portuguese version of albarino, though it’s a little more tart than its Spanish cousin, with more lemon. Nicely done.

Broadbent Vinho Verde NV ($8, purchased, 9%): A step up from the Gazelas and Famegas, though more traditional this year – more fizz, less structure, but still top quality vinho.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2015
Vinho verde review 2014
Vinho verde review 2013

 

Porch wine for the long, hot summer

porch wineHas the hot weather made you as cranky as the WC tasting 15 percent chardonnay? Then take a long, cool sip of the porch wine post.

We haven’t hit 100 in Dallas yet, but 99 for the last week or so is close enough. And, from what I hear from my pals in the rest of the country, it’s too damn hot where they are. Which means it’s time for a porch wine post – focusing on lighter wines, red and white, that are lower in alcohol and that offer relief from the heat. The idea with a porch wine is to drink something that won’t make the sweat bead on your forehead.

These four wines are excellent examples of the type, and should give you an idea about what to look for:

Nik. Weis Urban Riesling 2015 ($15, sample, 9%): Well-made German riesling is difficult to find in Dallas, which makes no sense given how warm-weather friendly the wine is. The Weis is made in a more modern style, with fresher apricot fruit instead of dried and brighter acidity, but it’s also layered with the traditional honey notes. Nicely done, and will even age a little.

El Coto Rosado 2015 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): The El Coto is is one of my favorite Spanish roses, and if it’s not quite as well done as the Muga, it’s still delicious and a tremendous value. Look for strawberry fruit, plus a little earthiness and even orange peel from the tempranillo that’s in the blend.

Torresella Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): This Italian sparkler reminded me why I love wine. I much prefer cava to Prosecco, so it’s always a pleasure to find a Prosecco worth writing about – not too sweet, firm bubbles, surprisingly balanced, and more apple and pear fruit than most others. Highly recommended.

Drouhin Domaine des Hospices de Belleville Fleurie 2014 ($25, sample, 13%): Top-notch red from the French region of Beaujolais that has nothing in common with most of the plonk made there these days. Firm but not overbearing, with red fruit and soft tannins, and something you can drink on its own or with food. The only drawback is the cost, but given how expensive this quality of French wine has become, it’s not overpriced.

More about porch wine:
Wine terms: Porch wine
Wine when the air conditioning is broken
Wine of the week: Angels & Cowboys rose 2015
Wine of the week: Chateau Bonnet Blanc 2014

Wine of the week: Domaine de la Gaffeliere Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere 2015

Les Hauts de la GaffeliereSo much for bellyaching about the lack of quality cheap white Bordeaux. Since that rant, I’ve found several top-notch bottles, and the most recent is the Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere.

Why the Wine Curmudgeon’s fixation with white Bordeaux? It’s French, sometimes a blend but always made with sauvignon blanc, and have offered value, quality, and terroir for decades. If you wanted a cheap white wine, but weren’t sure what to buy, white Bordeaux was always an excellent choice.

That has changed since the end of the recession, as prices went up and quality didn’t get any better. A $10 wine that costs $15 or $18 isn’t a value, and that has been happening all too often.

But the Les Hauts de la Gaffeliere ($12, purchased, 12%) is. This is a delightful white Bordeaux, made entirely with sauvignon blanc, that offers a sort of flowery aroma, lots of lemon, and the minerality and long, clean finish that sets it apart from sauvignon blanc made elsewhere in the world.

Drink this chilled with almost any kind of chicken or grilled fish. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.