Tag Archives: syrah

winereview

Thanksgiving wine 2015

thanksgiving wineThis year’s “Why did they bother?” Thanksgiving wine press release offered two roses, costing $65 and $100, as the perfect holiday wines. We’ll ignore for the moment that the point of rose is to cost much less than that; rather, why would anyone need or want to pay that much money for wine for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because it isn’t about money or showing off, but because it’s about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the food and the wine.

Needless to say, my suggestions for Thanksgiving wine cost much less and almost certainly offer more value. Guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

? King Estate Pinot Noir 2013 ($26, sample, 13.5%): I tasted this Oregon red at an American Wine Society dinner, where we also had a $160 California red. Guess which one I liked best? This is is not to take anything away from the California red, but to note the King Estate’s quality and value, and especially for pinot noir — lighter but with a touch of earthiness, cherry and raspberry fruit, and a wonderful food wine. Highly recommended.

? Pierre Sparr Cr mant d’Alsace Brut R serve NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Sophisticated sparkling wine from France’s Alsace that got better the longer it sat in the glass, and which surprised me with its terroir and sophistication. Look for stoniness and minerality with ripe white fruit.

? Bonny Doon Le Pousseur 2013 ($26, sample, 13,5%): This California red is my favorite Randall Grahm wine, not necessarily because it’s better than any of the others, but because of what it is — syrah that somehow combines New World terroir with old world style. Lots of black fruit, soft tannins, and that wonderful bacon fat and earthy aroma that makes syrah so enjoyable.

?Domaine Fazi le De Beaut 2014 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): A Corsican rose made with a grape blend that includes sciaccarellu, the best known red on the French island. Maybe a touch thin on the back, but an otherwise more than acceptable rose with a little tart red fruit and that Mediterranean herbal aroma known as garrigue. And yes, I’d take 10 bottles of this over any $100 rose.

? Muga Rioja Blanco 2014 ($13, sample, 13%): Spanish white made with mostly viura has some oak, tropical fruit, and refreshing acidity, and why the Spanish don’t bother with chardonnay. Muga is one of my favorite Spanish producers, and almost everything it makes is affordable, well-done, and worth drinking.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
?Thanksgiving wine 2014

? Thanksgiving wine 2013
? Thanksgiving wine 2012

 

wine news

Winebits 387: Syrah, canned wine, Chablis

canned wine ? So long to syrah? Talk to retailers, and they’ll tell you they can’t give away syrah. Now there are Nielsen figures to back that up. Syrah’s sales in grocery stores are down 16 percent over the past year, the worst performance of the nine wines surveyed and three times as bad as the second worst, merlot (also interesting, and probably worth a post on its own). How did this happen? Chalk it up to the usual short-sightedness from the wine business and its allies in the Winestream Media, which kept telling consumers they should drink wine that was undrinkable. And when consumers said they’d had enough, which they’ve done, there was no Plan B.

? Can I have that in a can? What do you do if you’re a Big Wine company and sales tank? Put your wine in a can. That’s what FlipFlop, the Barefoot knockoff from The Wine Group, is doing. The producer will do a four-pack of 250-milliliter cans (about 1 1/3 bottles) for $12. Canned wine, other than as a novelty, has never been popular in the U.S., and this may be an attempt to breathe life in a brand that hasn’t done as well as The Wine Group hoped.

? Fake Chablis: A French wine producer has been accused of using grapes from other parts of the country to make Chablis, chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. All of which is bad enough, but he has apparently been doing it for a decade without anyone noticing. Wine-Searcher.com reports that the Maison Fromont winery put grapes from Provence and the Rh ne Valley, where there is very little chardonnay, in the company’s Chablis. How they got away with this for 10 years, until tax records tripped them up, is stunning. Did no one taste the wine? Chablis’ taste is unique, even for white Burgundy. One clue: The company exports 95 percent of its wine.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Feudo Zirtari Nero d’Avola-Syrah 2011

Feudo Zirtari Nero d'Avola-Syrah One more reason that Sicilian wine deserves to enter the mainstream — the Zirtari ($12, purchased, 14%), a funky wine that is delicious yet does not seem especially Sicilian. One knows a wine region has found its niche when you can write that about one of its wines.

First, the Zirtari is almost one-half syrah, hardly a grape indigenous to the island. Second, the syrah gives it an almost Rhone-like character, richer (almost fatty) than similarly-priced Sicilian reds. Plus, there isn’t much earthiness, but there is well-balanced black fruit and the particular character that the Sicilian nero d’avola grape adds to a well-made wine.

In all, a wine that is enjoyable, dark, and almost brooding. It’s intense enough for summer barbecue and red meat, but not so heavy, with its 14 percent alcohol, to be be off-putting in hot weather. It was a most pleasant surprise to find when I was looking for something else.

wine of week

Wine of the week: Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone Rouge 2012

rhone_sud_saint_cosme_cotes_du_rhone_rouge_2012The Wine Curmudgeon has long been a fan of Saint-Cosme’s cheapest wines, the wonderfully-named Little James Basket Press red and white (and I can’t believe I haven’t done the white as a wine of the week yet). So I had high expectations when I stepped up a notch to the winery’s basic Cotes du Rhone red ($13, purchased, 14.5%).

These hopes were not disappointed. The rouge, made of syrah, was full of dark fruit (currants?), some earthiness and even a touch of licorice, which seemed like a lot to get from something at this price. Best yet, the high alcohol — about a point more than I expected — doesn’t get in the way of the wine. The higher alcohol seems natural, and not forced on it to get more fruit flavor and higher scores, as often happens in California. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the tasting notes are almost apologetic about alcohol level.

Highly recommended, and another example of what a French wine can be that hasn’t sold its birthright to the International Style of Winemaking. This is a winter wine for stews and soups and strong cheeses after tramping snow and ice off at the front door.

 

Expensive wine 45: Terlato Vineyards Syrah Block #9 2007

block9Shortly after I started the blog, I was invited to attend a huge, big-deal wine event featuring five of California ?s best-known expensive red blends, including Dominus and Opus One. The wines were all terrific, if terribly expensive and kind of same-tasting, and I had a surprisingly good time.

The irony in this ? because, given that it involves the Wine Curmudgeon, there is always irony ? is that none of the five were my favorite that day. The wine I liked the best was a $30 syrah from Terlato Family Vineyards, which sponsored the event. It was very little like the red blends, earthy and distinctive.

Since then, I have always appreciated Terlato ?s syrah, and the Block #9 ($48, sample) did nothing to change my mind. It combines a New World focus on fruit with the Terlato earthiness that takes syrah in a direction it doesn ?t go often enough.

Look for beautiful fruit, with a peppery aroma and blueberry notes that last through the entire wine. The finish isn't quite as long or what one would expect from a wine at this price; in this, it ?s still young and the finish should flesh out over time.

This is Christmas beef wine, ready to drink now, or a gift for someone who wants to put it down for another couple of years. Availability may be limited, which is about the only bad thing I can say about it.

Wine review: Cline Cellars Cool Climate Syrah 2010

image from www.clinecellars.comYears ago, when the Wine Curmudgeon was only a little crank, Cline Cellars made nifty cheap red and white blends called Cotes d'Oakley, a play on the French Cotes du Rhone wines. Sadly, Cotes d'Oakley went the way of too many inexpensive wines, and it's not available today.

And, frankly, Cline wasn't the same winery without it. Its wines went more upscale in price and style, becoming very post-modern — lots of fruit and lots of alcohol, and closer to $20 than $10. Or, as one comment on CellarTracker, the unofficial wine inventory software of the blog, said of the winery's 2009 syrah: "I may be wrong, but it is getting worse. Medicinal, industrial, uninspired effort."

Which is why I was intrigued when I recently received several samples from Cline, including the cool climate syrah ($18, sample). Cool climate is a wine term that implies a less alcoholic, less fruity wine, since grapes grown in a cooler region aren't supposed to get as ripe. (Whether this is true or not, given modern winemaking techniques, is a post for another day). In other words, this wasn't supposed to be a post-modern California wine.

And it isn't. Though the cool climate is not inexpensive, it is very well done. There is lots of dark fruit (plum?) and black pepper, and it's missing the sweetish, over the top fruit common to most Australian and California shirazes (syrah and shiraz being the same grape). And it's just 13 1/2 percent alcohol, which is about one point less than most shiraz-style wines.

The cool climate is not quite up to the level of the Randall Grahm syrah, which pioneered this more traditional style, but given the previously noted indifference with which so much syrah at this price is made, it's certainly worth drinking. Pair this with lighter red meat or smoked or roasted chicken.

Wine review: Mandolin Syrah 2009

image from www.mandolinwines.com

This is a good news and bad news wine. The good news is that it’s a tremendous value, another Mandolin wine that is much better than its price. The bad news? Availability, of course. It’s not sold in the Dallas area, and its Texas distributor is small with limited capabilities. And, given the way the wine world works, if that happens in a market as important as this one, that means the Mandolin is likely to be difficult to find elsewhere.

Which is wrong. The syrah ($10, sample) is a wine that deserves to be in lots and lots of stores. It’s impressive — balanced and varietally correct, with just enough berry fruit to be fruity but not to be annoying. In this, there is acid to balance the fruit, which almost never happens with this style of wine, as well as a touch of oak and even some tannins, both of which provide even more balance.

Which, again, are two items that are rarely done well in wine from this part of California that costs $10. There is either way too much oak, to cover up a flaw or to give it a fake-y chocolate taste, or no tannins, to make the wine “smooth” and to appeal to people who don’t like red wine. In fact, one reason why I don’t drink much of this kind of wine is that it doesn’t taste like wine, but something designed by a focus group.

Serve this wine on its own or with a weekend or holiday meal featuring beef or roast chicken (and yes, even for the holiday that must not be named). Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame.