Most wine drinkers see Bordeaux as a great black hole made up of wine speak, unimaginably high prices, and an incredibly complex system of chateaux and classifications.
Which makes this wine (about $15) all the more welcome. It's a merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend in the classic Bordeaux style, but without any of the pretensions noted above. Classic means it's not a fruit forward popsicle, full of blueberry and cola, like most inexpensive Californa merlots. Rather, it has less fruit, more earthiness, and tastes more interesting. I stumbled on this when I was looking for a red Bordeaux to use for my Cordon Bleu class tastings, and it more than filled the bill.
Serve it with most beef (hamburgers on the grill wouldn't be bad at all) and even some meatier vegetable dishes.
And it’s mostly good news, if my experience yesterday at a 20-winery tasting in Dallas is any indication. Oregon is best known for its world-class pinot noir and chardonnay, and there was plenty of that on hand. But the state’s producers are working with a variety of other other cool climate grapes, including and especially German varietals.
That said, the 2006 harvest had its problems. I tasted a surprising number of flabby and uninteresting wines, including too many that were overly alcoholic. That almost never happens in Oregon. I was told that this development has more to do with the difficulties in 2006 (not enough sun, too cool) than with any style shift. I hope so. Oregon is famous for its accessible, fruit-driven wines, which are a welcome relief to so much that comes out of California.
? Now that’s a bribe: Tip o’ the wine glass to Dave McIntyre, who passed this along. Wine magnate Bernard Magrez has outraged a group of journalists by offering each of them a Cartier wristwatch worth more than $2,600. The writers attended a wine lunch and got a bag when they left that had a press kit and a box with the watch, which most did not open until they had left the restaurant. Decanter, which ran the story, reports that that the majority of watches have been returned.
? Wine writers hall of fame: Silly, I know, but there it is — the first inductees will be honored June 16. (No word on whether they will receive pricey Cartier watches.) The group includes Italian specialist Burton Anderson; Hugh Johnson of World Atlas of Wine fame; Edward McCarthy, the co-author of many of the Wine for Dummies books; the Robert Parker; Frank Prial of the New York Times; the Jancis Robinson; and Kevin Zraly, whose Windows on the World is probably the best introductory book about wine. Posthumous inductees are pioneer wine writers Alexis Lichine and Frank Schoonmaker.
Or yet another reason why the Wine Curmudgeon likes Washington state wine.
This is a well-made, unpretentious red blend (cabernet sauvignon and merlot, with syrah, malbec and cabernet franc for good measure) that is everything so many Napa and Sonoma wines aren’t. It’s easy to drink, yet also food friendly.
It’s a touch pricey at $13, but considering how many decent red blends cost half as much more, that’s not a huge problem. Plus, one has to appreciate the humor in both the wine’s name and and the winery — the Magnificent Wine Co.
Serve this at room temperature with hard cheeses (or even cheese puffs). I made chicken in red wine with it, and then served the wine with dinner.
Which made this story, which I wrote for the Fort Worth newspaper, so fascinating. Flavored vodkas, which barely existed a decade ago, are huge, hundreds of million dollar labels. Flavored vodkas may have accounted for $1 out of every $6 spent on spirits in the U.S. in 2006.
Why the growth? Spirits companies want a slice of the key 21- to 35-year-old female demographic, and that group loves flavored vodka. After all, you can’t make a Dutch Chocolate martini with bourbon, but you can with chocolate flavored vodka.
Availability is the great challenge in the wine business. This is just as true for inexpensive wines as it is for the limited production, big score, highly-rated cult wines that get so much attention.
Which means you should always keep your eye on a couple of readily available wines that can be found in grocery stores that are food friendly and easy to drink. The Escudo Rojo (about $14), a red blend from Chile, is one such wine.
It’s made with carmenere, which has evolved into the national grape of Chile (after winemakers there thought it was merlot for a century or so). Carmenere is a little softer than merlot, and with a little more herbal quality. Blend it with cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cabernet franc, as is done here, and you get a New World, fruit forward style wine that is also balanced. (And, since this is made by a Rothschild company, you also get 12 months of oak.) Serve this with barbecue or hamburgers.
Mariani is one of the country’s leading food and wine writers, so when he says something, people pay attention. Which means this is a big deal: “I came away impressed with how they have evolved over the past decade.”