The blog is mostly off the next two days, but will return on Monday with the 2010 $10 Wine Hall of Fame. For today, take a look at this -- yet another argument for screwcaps (and much thanks to toneguru at You Tube):
In the Wine Curmudgeon's continual quest for sparkling wine values, I stumbled on the Palais, from the Jura region of France. And stumbled is the right word, because the Jura, which is on the Swiss border and is closer to Geneva than Paris, is little known to begin with, and is known for cheese and ham if it's known at all.
Which is why the Palais (about $14, purchased) is so reasonably priced for a wine made with the Champagne method. It's a step down from Champagne in terms of subtlety and sophistication, but it's also one-third the price. On the other hand, it's softer and more interesting than less expensive wines like Spanish cava, and it has plenty of chardonnay pear and green apple fruit. I was a little disappointed with the bubbles, which seemed underwhelming, but that might have been the bottle I had.
Drink this to toast the New Year or with almost any white wine sort of food. My notes say it's tasty, and I almost never write that for any kind of wine. That shows just how food friendly the Palais is.
• The other Mondavi turns 95: Peter Mondavi, Robert's less famous brother, has celebrated his 95th birthday -- and 80 years in the wine business. Peter's business is Charles Krug Winery, which makes some well-priced and well-turned out wines. And what does Peter think of the way the wine business is run today? "A $1,500 bottle of wine?" he says, shaking his head and laughing. Speaks volumes, doesn't it?
• Sonoma wineries want to change labels: Sonoma County's wineries want a state law requiring wines from its sub-appellations like Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill to also print “Sonoma County” on their wine labels to better promote the winemaking region. Their thinking is that a similar law in Napa helped that region grow in popularity, so why not Sonoma? Federal labeling regulations currently don't require a producer of Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley or Knights Valley wines to mention anything about Sonoma County on the labels. Most do not. I'm curious: If business was good, would the wineries bother with this, given that it will confuse most of us even more than we're confused about appellation?
• Common sense about vintages:From the great Bill Daley at the Chicago Tribune: "Given the American propensity to drink wine as soon as it's bought, age should not be an issue." This is a very nice piece, looking at an issue that almost always confuses most wine drinkers. Generally, as Bill notes, if you're buying inexpensive wine, the vintage is irrelevant. Most wine that we buy is not made to age; it's made to drink right away.
The Wine Curmudgeon loves sparkling wine. In a perfect wine world, we would drink it regularly, and not just on special occasions like New Year's and anniversaries. Bubbly is versatile and surprisingly food friendly, with the ability to fill in the gaps that other wines can't. One example: Recently had a big-time restaurant brunch where the entrees were filet mignon, a tuna-like fish called opah, and Eggs Benedict. The sommelier and I chatted briefly, and we decided on a sparkler from Alsace, Lucien Albrecht Brut Rosé ($40 on the list, about $18 retail, purchased). It was a terrific match, with great bubbles and mouthwatering strawberry fruit. The non-wine drinker in the group wanted to rush out and buy a bottle.
Sadly, though, the world is not perfect. Bubbly, and specifically Champagne (produced in the French region of the same name and the only sparklers that are allowed to be called Champagne), is still seen as something so odd that you can only drink it once or twice a year.
In addition, the sparkling wine business is in tatters. Sales, thanks to the recession, are down, and it's so bad in Champagne that producers are drastically cutting production in an attempt to keep prices up. Throw in the weak dollar, which has raised the cost of imported wine as much as 20 percent over the last year, and it's difficult to find a bargain even among those sparkling wines that have always been a bargain. And it's even more difficult to find interesting sparkling wines that are a bargain.
Nevertheless, there are still some out there -- check them out after the jump:
As noted, Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" may be the best Christmas song ever. So what better way to celebrate the holiday than with this animated version, courtesy of bigwallypants at You Tube? Enjoy the holiday with people you care about and your favorite wine.
The Wine Curmudgeon will return on Monday with some New Year's Eve sparkling wine suggestions.
The blog is mostly off today and tomorrow for the holiday, but the Wine Curmudgeon will return on Monday with sparkling wine suggestions for New Year's Eve. Until then, how about this -- a glass of wine that floats on air (courtesy of simerlab on You Tube?)
The Wine Curmudgeon has long been ambivalent about Barefoot wines. They seem to occupy the middle ground between Two Buck Chuck, which is usually just cheap, and the $10 wines I like, which are cheap and always worth drinking.
The riesling (about $6, sample), though, impressed me at a recent tasting with winemaker Jen Wall. Wall is a tireless advocate for her wines, and she makes the Wine Curmudgeon almost shy by comparison when it comes to cheap wine. The wine has some tell-tale riesling oiliness and minerality, and if it's not especially fruity, it's not especially sweet, either. That it wasn't sweet surprised me; I shouldn't have been. Wall said she wanted to make a less sweet wine, which is something Barefoot drinkers like.
Drink this during the holiday rush (it even has a screwcap) on its own, or with grilled seafood. It's the kind of wine to pick up at the store, leave in the fridge, and pull out when you need a glass.