Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

wine of week

Wine of the week: Hess Sauvignon Blanc Select 2014

hess sauvignon blancThe knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily true, and we have the Hess sauvignon blanc to prove the point.

Hess is among the 30 biggest producers in the U.S. and it sells six brands besides its namesake. So why is the Hess sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13.5%) a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s probably $9.99 in many places)? Because not everyone in Big Wine uses the same formula, or any formula at all.

The Hess sauvignon blanc is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line — a requisite amount of grapefruit, a hint of something tropical, and not much of a finish. This wine is the just the opposite. It shouts of the grassy aroma and flavor that defines California sauvignon blanc, and those are followed by some lemon fruit and a stony finish. Plus, it’s fresh and crisp, two of the qualities that make sauvignon blanc so attractive.

Highly recommended — wine from a producer that cares about quality, its customers, and charging a fair price for its products. Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled or roasted chicken.

July-4th-Fireworks-in-San-Jose

Fourth of July wine 2015

Fourth of July wineWhat do many of us do when we celebrate a birthday? Drink wine, of course, whether it’s for a toast or for a birthday dinner. So why not do the same thing when the United States celebrates its birthday?

Best yet, the Fourth of July is a terrific porch wine holiday, a concept that doesn’t get enough attention in our rush to drink as much heavy, over-oaked, and too much alcohol wine because our wine betters tell us we’re supposed to.

So consider these wines as a starting point for your July 4 celebration (and all with a July 4 connection):

Listel Grain de Gris Rose 2014 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This very pale rose, from Camargue in Van Gogh country in the south of France, is unlike almost any French rose I’ve ever had. There’s freshness and lots of soft strawberry fruit, but it’s not crisp or tart. Having said that, it’s still fun to drink, and the bottle is gone before you realize it. And, of course, we wouldn’t have won the Revolutionary War without French money, troops, and ships.

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige NV ($20, purchased, 12.5%): Tried and true California sparkler with firm bubbles and apple and citrus fruit — and is widely available. Price isn’t bad, either, given how ridiculous most Champagne prices are.

Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($14, sample, 13.4%): This California white is only going to get better with age, and it’s well done now — aromatic grassiness and some citrus, plus clean, crisp, and a solid finish.

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2010 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish tempranillo — Spain being another important U.S. ally in 1776 — has lots of oak and cherry fruit in some sort of balance, though not as subtle as more expensive reservas. Still, better than most of the world’s $10 wine, and just what you want for a July 4 barbecue.

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2014
Fourth of July wine 2013
Fourth of July wine 2012
Wine of the week: Josep Masachs Resso 2013

wine of week

Wine of the week: Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Maxwell Creek Sauvignon BlancThe Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc is the wine that could destroy every assumption wine snobs, the Winestream Media, and the wine business make about cheap wine. It doesn’t taste cheap, it’s made by a one of California’s most respected producers, and it comes from Napa Valley. That this wine costs $10, given all of those, speaks volumes about high overpriced so much wine in the world is.

The Maxwell Creek ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a second label from Napa’s St. Supery, long-regarded as one of the country’s top sauvignon blanc producers. This wine offers a hint of citrus, appealing California grassyness, and minerality, and it’s round and especially balanced for a $10 sauvingon blanc. This comes from a little semillion that is blended in, also unusual for a $10 sauvignon blanc.

The Maxwell Creek is not a big, showy wine, and it’s less full, not as intense, and not as sophisticated as the $20 St. Supery, but I’d argue that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to impress anyone; I want wine for dinner that is cheap and well-made, and the Maxwell Creek is not only that, but offers more than enough value for what it costs.

Highly recommended, and the best vintage in recent memory. The catch? It’s a World Market private label in much of the country, so it may be difficult to find if you don’t have World Market near you. Otherwise, almost certain to be in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Guy Saget La Petite Perriere Sauvignon Blanc 2014

sagetThe crisis in the French wine business — too much overpriced wine, and too often crappy and overpriced wine — doesn’t apply to everyone in France. A variety of producers, who focus on the wine and not what the marketing department tells them to make, deliver quality and value. Guy Saget, whose family business dates to Napoleon and the French Revolution, is an excellent example.

The winery, like many of the best French producers, combines tradition and post-modern winemaking to make wine that actually tastes like wine and not grape juice with alcohol. The sauvignon blanc ($13, sample, 12.5%) demonstrates how successfully they do this. For one thing, it’s varietally correct — French sauvignon blanc that tastes like it came from France, with just enough citrus to be noticeable, but mostly minerality and a pleasing green quality that the tasting notes call fern.

For another, the grapes come from throughout France and not just the Loire, which lowers the price by about a third without substantially reducing quality. This is an everyday practice in California (see the Joel Gott sauvignon blanc), but isn’t nearly as common in France, where centuries of tradition make it more difficult to do.

Highly recommended, and especially for past vintages, which cost as little as $10. Serve this chilled with almost any summer salad, grilled chicken, or boiled seafood.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Line39 Sauvignon Blanc 2012In the old days, which in wine means the end of the 20th century, sauvignon blanc came in three styles — California, French, and New Zealand. Each tasted like sauvignon blanc, but was just enough different from each other to be noticeable. Some time after that, the first two styles started to merge toward the third, so that most sauvignon blanc tasted like grapefuit. That’s because the New Zealand style was about as trendy as trendy gets, and we know how the wine business loves a trend.

Fortunately, the styles have started moving back to where they used to be, and especially in California. I’ve tasted a variety of delightful California sauvignon blanc over the past 18 months, where grassiness — the smell of a freshly-cut lawn — is the predominant note. There is also citrus and tropical fruit, but those don’t overwhelm the grassiness, and the wines are refreshing and enjoyable.

A fine example of this change is the Line 39 ($10, purchased, 13.5%), which has worked its way from New Zealand to California over the past several years. In this, it was always more than adequate, but has improved the more California in style that it has become. The 2012, which is apparently the current vintage though a bit old, is grassy, with lime fruit and rich mouth feel. All of this makes it more than just another grocery store sauvignon blanc. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

winereview

Four Arrogant Frog wines

Arrogant fron winesFinding quality cheap wine from France is not as easy as it used to be. The weak dollar is the main reason, but a change in focus for French producers, who price wine to sell to the Chinese because they can’t think of anything else to do, hasn’t helped, either.

Save for exceptions like the Lurton family’s Chateau Bonnet or my beloved Gascony, most cheap French wine knocks off $10 California wine; is junk foisted on U.S. consumers because we’re too American to know better; or is the same as it has been for years, like La Vielle Ferme — OK, but nothing more.

That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited by the recent Arrogant Frog Twitter tasting, where a dozen wine writers sampled four $10 French wines from the Languedoc in southern France and tweeted with winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. The good news is that the wines — a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, and red blend — offer tremendous value for $10. If they’re not quite French enough in style for me (I would have liked more grip), they’re still well made and well worth buying.

Mas was candid and well-spoken: “You must convince people to buy your wine by being consistent. It’s easy to make great wine one year. Try doing it for 30 years.” Plus, he avoided winespeak, something that rarely happens at these things, and there was nary a mention of brix or canopy management.

A few thoughts about the wines after the jump: Continue reading

wine of week

Wine of the week: Carmel SelecteD Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Carmel Selected Sauvignon BlancIsraeli wine has a long and mostly obscure history; if it’s known at all, it’s for kosher wine, which has not traditionally been something one wants to be known for. The Israelis want to change that, and made a U.S. tour — with a stop in Dallas this spring — to tell consumers and critics that they’re a wine region, just like any other, and that kosher is not all they do.

In this, the wines we tasted from Carmel and Psagot reminded me of U.S. regional wine from one of the top couple of states. Some were terrific, with varietal character and terroir, but others weren’t far enough removed from the old kosher days. In addition, price — $25 for an ordinary California-style chardonnay? — was as problematic as it is for U.S. regional wine.

Carmel’s SelecteD sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 12.5%) was one of the former — lots of sauvignon blanc grassiness, some tropical fruit in the middle (melon?), and enough citrus to be noticeable but not so much that it gets in the way. It’s a professional, eminently drinkable wine, and among my two or three favorites of the dozen or so we tasted. That’s not because the SelecteD was one of the least expensive, but because it was one of the best made, regardless of price. The winemaker didn’t try to impose his or her will on the grapes, forcing the wine to be something that it wasn’t. That’s another common problem with regional wine, where winemakers get a style in their head and try to replicate it even when the grapes are best suited for something else.

Serve this chilled, with or without food (grilled shrimp with garlic and parsley? spaghetti with basil pesto?), and enjoy it on a hot summer day. It’s California in style, as many of the wines were, but that’s not a problem with the Selected.