Tag Archives: California wine

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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

winereview

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.

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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 week

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.

winetrends

Kunde Family Winery: Selling less wine to be more successful

Kunde Family Winery

Jeff Kunde

Want to know how much the wine business has changed and how much angst that change has caused? Look no further than Sonoma’s Kunde Family Winery, a quality producer that has long made some top $10 wines, but has decided to cut production by one-third to be more competitive.

Call it addition by subtraction, thanks to distributor and retail consolidation.

The goal, says Jeff Kunde, the fourth of the five generations of his family to run the winery, is to go from more than 100,000 cases to 70,000. That’s because 100,000 cases isn’t big enough to be big any more, but it’s still too big to be small enough to be the artisan- or craft-style producer that distributors prefer if you don’t make one-half million cases.

At 70,000 cases, Kunde says, the winery doesn’t have to worry about being in every grocery and chain in the country and fighting money-losing price wars to keep shelf space. Plus, the change will allow Kunde to focus on the more profitable parts of wine, like its tasting room sales, and direct shipping.

“Consumers are not as loyal as they used to be,” says Kunde, who was in Dallas last month to visit his distributor and make the rounds of retailers and consumers. “They don’t see the wine they buy, as much much as the see the $9.99 price. And it hurts us when that happens.”

Cutting production should also allow the winery to make better wine for more or less the same price, since it won’t need as many quality grapes. In addition, says Kunde, it wants to let consumers know about its 100-year history, that it’s a smaller, family-run business and that it’s part of “the idea that people know where their wine comes from,” says Kunde. All of this will help it do better financially by making less wine.

The wines we tasted were up to the Kunde standard. The 2014 chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.8%) was lightly oaked but with enough vanilla to be California, balanced by fresh, tart pear. The 2014 sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13.8%) was grassy and lemony, with a softer finish than I expected. These wines remain excellent values, and are well worth buying.

The higher-end 2014 Reserve Century Vines Zinfandel ($40, sample, 14.8%) is loaded with sweet black fruit, but it’s not cloying or overly jammy, as so many post-modern zinfandels are. In this, it’s a nice balance between the current style and wine that you get actually drink and enjoy.

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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.

 

wine news

My apéritif with Randall Grahm

randall grahmDallas, finally, seems to be taking to Randall Grahm. The Bonny Doonster sold out a winemaker dinner at the new and much-praised Rapscallion on Monday night, and Dallas winemaker dinners usually don’t sell out unless they feature men who make massive, gigantic Napa-style red wine that costs too much money. Plus, Grahm’s wines are starting to show up on store shelves here, something that hasn’t happened in years.

Grahm’s trip gave us a chance to hold another of our sort of annual visits, where we taste his wines and solve the problems of the post-modern U.S. wine business. This time, we talked before the dinner, which I didn’t stay for since I didn’t want to stop him from schmoozing with the paying guests (schmoozing being winemaker slang for mingling with the customers).

The highlights of our chat and a few notes about three of the wines served with the dinner:

• The California drought cut yields in 2015, but Grahm said that winter rain seems to have helped all but the worst hit areas. One side effect: Many grapes ripened early, so some 2015 wines won’t have as much structure or acidity, and could be more flabby. That’s something I’ve tasted so far, and it has been quite disappointing.

• He says he is “gaining clarity” about how to approach the Popelouchum Vineyard, where he hopes to create 10,000 new grape varieties (last year’s successful Indiegogo crowdfunding project). Grahm is especially excited about using furmint, a Hungarian white grape, and a native Texas rootstock, Vitis berlandieri, that does well in stony soils. Vines are growing on the property, though money remains a problem.

• On so many wineries — that don’t own land or winemaking facilities — being bought for so much money by Big Wine: “It’s like money in the political process,” he said. “Where does it all come from?” That Big Wine is buying producers for nothing more than their brand is difficult for long-time producers like Grahm to make sense of, given that wine is supposed to be about the land the grapes are grown on.

The wines, as always, were top notch. The new vintage of the Vin Gris de Cigare ($15, sample, 13.5%) was less Provencal and more Bordeaux than usual, with a chalky finish, a less crisp mouth feel, and darker, though still subtle, fruit.

The 2012 Le Pousseur Syrah ($26, sample, 13.4%) is what New World syrah should taste like — earthy, peppery, and spicy, with soft black fruit and the tannins to match, while the bacon fat aroma is textbook. The 2012 gets more interesting as it ages, particularly as the fruit softens. This syrah is my favorite Bonny Doon wine, and I’ve even paid for it. That it tastes so fresh and alive after all this time under screwcap should put all that cork and aging foolishness to rest.

The 2011 Le Cigare Volant ($45, sample, 14.2%) is a Rhone-style blend, mostly mouvedre and grenache, that takes this style of wine toward an elegance I didn’t think possible with Rhone blends. It’s also somehow a food wine (lamb?), a contradiction usually only seen in red Burgundy. Look for a long, long wine with sophisticated tannins, layers of flavor that are only just beginning to show, and cherry fruit in there somewhere. It, too, should keep aging — maybe even a decade.