Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Charles & Charles Rose 2015

Charles & Charles roseThe Charles & Charles rose from Washington state has played a key role in the rose revolution and embarrassed the Wine Curmudgeon. Both are reasons to recommend it.

First, its role in the revolution, in honor of July 4 this week. The first vintage of the Charles & Charles rose ($11, purchased, 12.2%) in 2008 more or less coincided with the idea that rose was worth drinking, something the U.S. wine industry hadn’t really embraced before then. The Charles & Charles was dry, crisp, and just fruity enough to give wine drinkers a quality pink that was in national distribution just as demand started to increase.

This year’s Charles & Charles rose is another top-flight wine, and should return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. The 2014 was a touch softer and not as enjoyable, and I was worried that trend would continue. But the 2015 is crisp, fresh, and alive, bursting with tart watermelon fruit and even a hint of herbs (perhaps the Washington version of garrigue). It’s one of the world’s great roses, and just the wine to drink over the long – and forecast to be 100 degrees here – holiday weekend.

And how did it embarrass me? In November 2013, I gave a sold-out seminar at the American Wine Society conference, focusing on unappreciated grapes, wines, and regions. So we tasted all my favorites – a nero d’avola from Sicily, a Gascon white, cava, a Texas red, and the Charles & Charles rose. My point? That in the chardonnay-, cabernet sauvigon-, merlot-dominated wine business, we overlooked a lot of cheap, terrific wine.

The Charles & Charles rose was the biggest hit, and even people who didn’t drink pink loved it. One woman was so excited she asked where she could buy it, and I had to tell her that it was sold out. It was November and the end of rose season, and the producer didn’t make enough given rose’s new popularity. I literally got the last six bottles in the U.S. for the tasting.

I will always remember the dirty look the woman gave me as she asked: “Why did we taste a wine that we can’t buy?” It doesn’t get much more worse for the WC.

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.

Wine of the week: Moulin de Gassac Guilhem 2014

Moulin de Gassac GuihemThe Wine Curmudgeon’s crankiness, as regular visitors here know, is not an act. It’s because I am forced to taste so much insulting wine that is sold by retailers who don’t care as long as they make their numbers. Hence $8 wine with a $15 price tag and private label junk dressed in winespeak and a cute label.

So when I find something like the Moulin de Gassac Guilhem ($12, purchased, 12.5%), I buy two bottles. Or even more. This is cheap white wine – and French cheap white wine at that – that reminds us what cheap white wine is supposed to taste like. And that it is made with the little known grenache blanc and the even more obscure clairette doesn’t hurt, either. Take that, fake oak chardonnay!

Look for amazing acidity, tempered by just enough white fruit (barely ripe pears?) and a certain white pepper spiciness. It’s easy to tell that the producer, best known for some highly-rated and pricey wines from southern France, cares about the cheap stuff, too.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 $10 Hall of Fame.

Father’s Day wine 2016

Father's Day wineHow do you decide how much to spend on a Father’s Day wine gift? Check out the cyber-ether, and one suggestion calls for $1,500? Which struck the Wine Curmudgeon as totally inappropriate – not because one shouldn’t spend a lot of money on Dad, but because how many dads would want their children to waste money like that?

Hence the blog’s annual Father’s Day wine post, in which we offer sensible, quality and well-priced wines to buy. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.

This year’s Father’s Day wine suggestions:

Feudo Zirtari Rosso 2012 ($12, sample, 13.5%): If all international style was made like this, the WC wouldn’t be nearly as cranky. The nero adds earthiness and dark plum, while the syrah makes it taste a little less Sicilian. Nicely done.

Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($12, sample, 13%): More than a one-note New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and an example of what Big Wine can do when it wants to. Yes, citrus, but also some tropical in the middle and minerality on the back.

La Fleur de Francois Rosé Brut NV ($16, sample, 12%): French sparkling wine from Bordeaux with lime and raspberry fruit, a clean and crisp finish, and an almost flowery aroma. More like cava than Champagne; no oak showing. Very well done.

Conde Pinel Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12%): Yet another well crafted, solidly made Spanish rose (this time with tempranillo), complete with strawberry fruit, a little slate, and lots of crispness.

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2015
Father’s Day wine 2014
Wine of the week: Ontanon Rioja Viticultura Ecologica 2013

 

Wine of the week: Kopke Fine Tawny Port NV

kopke tawny portThe Wine Curmudgeon likes port. I just don’t drink much of it, mostly because the price/value ratio is completely out of whack. Too much cheap port – and that means anything less than $20 – is not worth drinking. So when I find something like the Kopke tawny port ($13, purchased, 19.5%), I run to the keyboard as quickly as possible.

Port has its own vocabulary and can be quite complicated, but don’t let that intimidate you. Know that it’s a dessert wine, sweet but balanced, and that a little goes a long a way thanks to the high alcohol. A couple of small pours after dinner can make a terrific meal that much better.

The Kopke is amazingly well done for the price, and I didn’t expect nearly as much as it delivered. This is another example of a simple, well-made wine that doesn’t try to do more than it should. Look for fresh red fruit, some dried fruit (plums?), brown sugar sweetness, and just a touch of oak to round it out. You may also notice a sort of nutty aroma, which is typical for well-made port. I’d open the bottle well before you want to drink it; it actually gets rounder and more interesting after being open for a couple of days.

Highly recommended, and especially as a Father’s Day gift. And, if I expand the price range for the 2017 Hall of Fame, the Kopke may well get in.

Expensive wine 88: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignonm 2013

Penfolds Bin 407The post-modern Australian wine business deals in more irony than a pulp detective story has bad similies. One of the most ironic is that Penfolds, for decades the best known and among the best Aussie producers, is owned by Treasury Wine Estates, which is giving new meaning to the term Big Wine.

Somehow, Penfolds still makes great wine. I’ve been lucky enough to taste the Grange, generally considered the greatest Australian wine, and it is. The Bin 407 ($57, sample, 14.5%), which costs about $500 less than The Grange, shows how committed Penfolds remains to quality.

Look for that unique style of Aussie black fruit – deep and rich and generous and sweet, but because it’s Penfolds, not overdone and surprisingly in balance. Also, layers and layers of other flavors, including lots of pepper and spice. The tannins, too, are firm, and don’t disappear in a wave of fruit.

Highly recommended, and especially for any fathers who appreciates cabernet. The wine is still a little young, but is ready to drink now, and would pair with almost any Father’s Day barbecue.

Wine of the week: Château Bonnet Blanc 2014

Château Bonnet BlancThere aren’t many wines that I would drink every day, but the Chateau Bonnet Blanc is one of them. What higher praise does a cheap wine need?

The Bonnet has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since I started the blog, and it has never been anything other than consistent, delicious, and a value. Quality cheap wines come and go, but not the Bonnet – something I wish the rest of the wine world understood. That the Bonnet doesn’t do better in the annual best cheap wine poll is surprising and may speak to distribution difficulties for inexpensive foreign wine in the U.S. One retailer told me his store, part of good-sized chain, was at the mercy of the wine’s distributor, which brought the wine in from France when it wanted to, and not when the retailer needed it. Regardless, the Bonnet Blanc – as well as the red and rose – is worth looking for and asking your retailer to find if he or she doesn’t carry it.

What do you need to know about this version of the Chateau Bonnet Blanc ($10, purchased, 12%)? It’s a white blend from France’s Bordeaux region, mostly sauvignon blanc, but also semillon (typical of white Bordeaux), plus muscadelle to add interest. Look for some tropical fruit aromas; clean and long throughout; some, but not a lot of citrus; and even white flowers from the muscadelle.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any kind of summer food that isn’t big and beefy. Highly recommended, and this time the marketing blurb on the website isn’t more annoying gratuitous foolishness: “In 2014, Château Bonnet produced a wine in keeping with its legendary reputation.”