Nothing illustrates the foolishness of the three-tier system more than the Anne Amie winemaker’s select. This Oregon producer isn’t especially big, and only has distribution in 39 states. Which means that those of you in the other 11, including Pennsylvania, can’t buy it.
Which is a shame, because the Anne Amie winemaker’s select ($24, purchased, 13.6%) is a steal, perhaps the best pinot noir at this price I’ve had since I started writing the blog. If nothing else, it is varietally correct. To find a pinot that tastes like pinot at this price is the equivalent of my beloved Chicago Cubs winning two or three World Series in a row, and they haven’t won one in more than 100 years.
And there is much more than varietal correctness. This is a beautiful and delightful Oregon-style pinot with zingy red fruit (very red cherry), a touch of bramble and blackberry on the nose, soft and relaxing tannins, and more oak than I thought. This wine is still very young, and the oak should fade into the background over time, letting the fruit show a little more. It also shows how a talented winemaker can work with a warm vintage to produce a balanced wine.
Highly recommended (though the price may be higher elsewhere), and another reason why Anne Amie is one of my favorite producers in the U.S. I just wish more people could buy its wines.
One of the most nefarious developments in the wine business is the $15 wine that is only worth about $10. You’ll see this a lot at grocery stores, but it shows up elsewhere as well. The point of these wines is to add value not through what’s in the bottle, but what’s on the bottle — a clever name, a funny label, or paragraphs of winespeak.
That these wines trick consumers into paying more than they should is bad enough, but they also sour the market for $15 wines that are worth that much money, like the Anne Amie. How is a wine drinker, faced with the grocery store wall of wine, going to know that the Anne Amie is an honest wine that delivers value and not something made to fool them?
That’s why I’m here. Anne Amie in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is one of my favorite U.S. producers, making smart, value-driven wines with grapes that aren’t for the faint hearted. The Amrita, for example, is a blend of 10 grapes, including chardonnay and riesling, a combination designed to warm even the most curmudgeonly heart. The Cuv e A ($15, purchased, 12.6%) does the Amrita one better.
Muller-Thurgau is a white German grape not much planted anywhere anymore, even in Germany. It’s sort of like riesling and gewurtztraminer, but with its own characteristics. That means it’s crisp, but not necessarily fruity. The 2012 Cuv e A is softer than previous vintages, almost off-dry — which isn’t a bad thing. Look for white pepper and spiciness, with honey and apricot flavors. Exceptionally well done, and the kind of wine that’s perfect as spring arrives.
This post was going to be a wine of the week for a different wine from Oregon ?s Anne Amie ? the muller-thurgau, one of my all-time favorites. But bizarre fog last year did something to the grapes, and rather than make a crappy wine, Anne Amie winemaker Thomas Houseman decided not to make it at all. How often do I get to write that?
So we ?ll have to settle for the Amrita ($15, sample), a white blend that is a fine wine in its own right. It’s mostly chardonnay and riesling (plus eight other grapes for good measure), and is fresh and lively and without the stilted, heavy fake oak that so many wines at this price use to compensate for poor quality fruit, to cover up a winemaking flaw, or to add oak flavor because they think it makes a more popular wine.
The Amrita, like the muller-thurgau, is a food wine with enough sweetness to pair with spicy food (look for a little citrus and apricot fruit), but not enough to offend people who think sweet wine means white zinfandel. In this, it would be a huge hit at Thanksgiving, what with turkey and cornbread dressing.
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. Today, wines to enjoy over the Labor Day weekend:
? Schug Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2010 ($25, sample): Elegant chardonnay that is a huge bargain at this price. It retains California freshness and fruit while showing some of the length and breadth of a fine white Burgundy.
? Anne Amie Pinot Noir Cuv e A 2010 ($25, sample): Classic Oregon pinot (and always a favorite), with berry fruit and earthiness that balance each other, and a fine value at this price.
? Acrobat Pinot Noir Rose 2011 ($10, purchased): Nothing really wrong with this Oregon rose, but mildly disappointing if only because it ?s not up to the quality of the Acrobat pinot gris. Tastes of red fruit with almost sauvignon blanc-like acidity.
? Colores Del Sol Malbec 2010 ($12, sample): At $8, this is a nicely done grocery store wine, featuring the typical blueberry cola aroma. But, unfortunately, it doesn ?t cost $8.
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:
? Anne Amie Estate Riesling 2009 ($19, purchased): Lots of petrol on the nose, acid and lime fruit to balance what sweetness there is, and a nice slate-y finish. It’s not what I expected — a little more sweet and not as honeyed, but that’s more my problem than the wine.
? Fattoria Montellori Chianti 2009 ($13, sample): Thin but adequate, with black pepper and some red fruit. But there are better examples of Chianti that cost less.
? Raimat Castell de Raimat Albarino 2011 ($8, purchased): Simple, basic wine with lemon and some varietal character, but won’t be confused with better examples of albarino. A decent value and something to keep on hand if you want a glass for dinner.
? Cline Pinot Noir Cool Climate 2010 ($18, sample): Lots of red fruit (cherry and strawberry?), but not overly sweet, with some pinot earthiness and character. Just not sure if it’s $18 worth of wine.