Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
• Lagar de Cervera Albarino 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white offers $12 worth of value, and it’s not especially albarino like. It’s a little soft wiithout the citrus zip, not all that savory, and not especially fresh. Very disappointing. Imported by Golden State Wine Co.
• Renzo Masi Chianti Rufina 2018 ($15, sample, 13%): Very ordinary Italian red, made in a soft, fruity, less tart New World style so that it lacks all of the things that make Chianti interesting. Meh. Imported by HB Wine Merchants
• Eberle Cotes-du-Robles Rouge 2017 ($34, sample, 14.1%): You get exactly what you pay for — rich, full and well-made Paso Robles red blend that has structure and restraint. But since it’s Paso, that means very ripe black fruit that keeps coming and coming.
The La Fiera Montepulciano is Hall of Fame quality $10 wine from one of the world’s best quality and value importers
Premiumization continues its rampage through the wine business. It’s getting more difficult to find wine costing less than $15 that’s worth drinking; I’m writing a longer and more thorough post about the premiumization crisis that will run in the next week or so. Until then, be grateful for wines like the La Fiera Montepulciano, which still offer value and quality for $10.
I’ve tasted the La Fiera Montepulciano ($10, purchased, 13%) twice over the past four months, and it has gotten earthier and more interesting That’s an impressive achievement for any wine, especially for a $10 wine, and especially these days.
That it has done that is a testament to the importer, Winesellers Ltd. in suburban Chicago, whose wines show up a lot on the blog (and who I wrote about recently in a wine business trade magazine). The Sager family, which has owned Winesellers for 40 years, doesn’t follow trends. It searches for value, and would that more importers did that anymore.
The La Fiera is an Italian red made with the montepulciano grape in the Montepulciano d/Abruzzo region. As such, it comes from a less well known region and is made with a less respected grape, which usually means better pricing for consumers.
In this wine, it also means a little earthiness is starting to show, and the wine is a touch heavier and more serious than it was in February. Again, impressive for a $10 label. Look for zippy cherry fruit, balance, and tannins hiding in the background.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Hall of Fame. It’s a terrific food wine as well as a reminder what an importer can do who cares about the consumer and not focus groups.
Barefoot wine review 2019: The cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay have a dollop or three of residual sugar, but otherwise taste like they should
This is the 12th Barefoot wine review I’ve written, and one thing is as aggravating today, for Barefoot wine review 2019, as it was 12 years ago: No screwcap. Why E&J Gallo, Barefoot’s owner, still uses a cork closure on most of its labels is beyond me. The only time these wines are “aged” is after they’re opened, when they sit in the refrigerator for another day. A screwcap would make that kind of aging so much easier.
The Barefoot wine review 2019 features the non-vintage cabernet sauvignon ($5, purchased, 12.5%) and the non-vintage chardonnay ($5, purchased, 13%). Both, save for a dollop or three of residual sugar, are among the best Barefoot efforts in years. Yes, that’s damning with faint praise, given the quality of the wines in many of the previous reviews. And their sweetness left that dried out feeling in my mouth for 20 or 30 minutes after tasting. But that Barefoot varietal wines taste like their varietal is worth noting. Put a couple of ice cubes in the glass, and the wines are certainly drinkable, if too simple and not very subtle.
The cabernet tastes of dark berry fruit (boysenberry?), and there are soft tannins, a certain acidity, and restrained fake oak. No chocolate cherry foolishness here, though the sweetness gets more noticeable with each sip and may annoy wine drinkers who expect cabernet to be dry.
The chardonnay, ironically, is less sweet than the cabernet. Take away the sugar, and it’s a pleasant California-style chardonnay — almost crisp green apple fruit, that chardonnay style of mouth feel, and just enough fake oak to round out the wine. There’s even a sort of finish, which was about the last thing I expected. Once again, though, the sweetness gets in the way — would that Barefoot had the courage of its convictions to make a dry wine dry.
It’s two red wines for the 2019 version of Dallas’ almost annual major power failure
I lost power for five hours on Tuesday, which was two days after the storm that came through Dallas on Sunday. That’s the storm that caused almost 300,000 outages, damaged thousands of homes, and led to one person’s death. I was lucky, even with the two-day thing; many in my neighborhood and the nearby Lake Highlands area were still without electricity almost a week later.
As such, this post started as a screed aimed at the Texas Legislature and the state’s utility regulators, whose boobery and incompetence have made our almost annual major electricity failures possible. But I threw that one away. You don’t need to read that, and especially on a wine blog.
So know that I drank a couple of bottles of red wine on Tuesday night, and I recommend them if your power goes out and there isn’t any ice to chill the whites. In addition, you can check out the other wine and power failure post — Wine to drink when the power goes out, 2014 edition — if you need more suggestions. Which, hopefully, you won’t.
And, if nothing else, all the power outages have helped me figure out a way to bake bread on top of the stove. I had a loaf rising when we lost power. Rather than dump the dough, I rigged a contraption using a cast iron skillet, a baking rack, and wok. It mostly worked, too.
The Tuesday night reds:
• Renzo Masi Erta e China 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This Italian red blend (half sangiovese and half cabernet sauvingon) was surprisingly balanced and Italian-like. Maybe it was my mood sitting in the dark, but I expected something soft and annoying. It had that wonderful tart cherry Italian fruit, a touch of minearalty, and some backbone from the cabernet. It needs food, but is well worth drinking even when the lights are on. Imported by HB Wine Merchants
• Angulo Innocenti Malbec Nonni 2016 ($8, purchased, 13.3%): This Argentine red is “thumb and forefingers touched together” close from being a $10 Hall of Fame wine. It’s a significant step up from the usual $10 malbec, which means it tastes like wine and not vodka mixed with grape juice. The black fruit is more balanced, some tannins and acidity peek out, and the wine is enjoyable in a way most of the others aren’t. And this comes from someone who doesn’t much care for New World malbec. Imported by Vineyard Brands
Father’s Day wine 2019: Four wines to make Dad proud
Every year at Father’s Day, we’re told to buy Dad a big red wine. Because, after all, isn’t that what Dad is supposed to want? Maybe. But the most important thing to know is to buy Dad what he likes for Father’s Day wine 2019. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.
Father’s Day wine 2019 suggestions:
• Eberle Syrah Steinbeck Vineyard 2017 ($32, sample, 14.2%): This red wine from California’s Paso Robles is balanced and almost nuanced — which doesn’t happen all that often with Paso syrah. Look for black fruit, a little earth, a just enough richness, and a wine that is clean and full on the finish. Highly recommended, assuming the price doesn’t scare you off.
• Ryder Estate Pinot Noir Rose 2018 ($14, sample, 13%): This is what the once-legendary Toad Hollow rose demonstrated to in the old days — tart cherry, a little ripe strawberry, and a long and pleasing finish that shows off the fruit. Not sweet, but fruity in the California style. Ryder is making a name for itself as one of the best $10 and $12 producers in the country. Highly recommended.
• Pedroncelli Friends.white 2018 ($12, purchased, 12.9%): Yes, a corny name, but this California white blend from one of my favorite producers is always well made and a value. The gewurtztraminer balances the sauvignon blanc, but doesn’t sweeten the wine. Pleasantly tart, fresh, and enjoyable — some citrus (lemon?) and an appealing crispness. Highly recommended.
• Chateau St. Jean Brut Rose NV ($15, sample, 13%): I expected almost nothing from this California bubbly, and was once again proved wrong — taste the wine before you judge it. Quality charmat method wine with a little more style and appeal than Prosecco, including some very nice berries and a creaminess that one doesn’t expect in charmat sparkling.
The Naia verdejo is $10 Spanish white wine that speaks to the great quality and value of Spanish white wine
A couple of years ago, not even wine geeks paid much attention to verdejo, a Spanish white grape. Today, though, verdejo is showing up more often; hence, prices are often way out of line with quality, while cute labels are all over the place to make up for the lack of quality. Through all of this, the Naia verdejo has been a beacon of consistency and value.
The Naia vedejo ($10, purchased, 13.5%) reminds us of the tremendous value in Spanish wine. It tastes of tart lemon, as it should, but there is also an undercurrent of tropical fruit (pineapple?) that you don’t usually get in a $10 verdejo. It’s not so much that it’s very well done, but that the producer understands the role of $10 wine – that it’s not supposed to cost $15 just because.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame. And yes, dad will enjoy this over the weekend, whether it’s porch sitting while his family celebrates Father’s Day or as something to sip while grilling chicken or shrimp.
If anything, the four wines that were sold in the U.S. before the producer lost its importer in 2018 are even a little better than before. The white blend and the rose were always top notch, but the chardonnay and the sauvignon blanc – often inconsistent – are much improved.
Here’s a look at each of the wines, made in France’s Gascony region. There’s also a new one, a sweetish, riesling-style white. The wines are imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons; all are highly recommended:
• Domaine Tariquet Classic 2018 ($10, sample, 10.5%): Fresh, crisp, and low in alcohol – how often does that happen? This vintage’s fruit is a little more lemon-lime than white grapey, but that’s just the wine geek in me. Buy a couple of cases of this white blend, keep them chilled, and enjoy.
• Domaine Tariquet Chardonnay 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This was probably the best of the three whites, which is saying something since it was usually boring and could even be a little off. But this vintage was crisp and aromatic, with almost green apple and a little tropical fruit. If anything, it sort of tasted like chardonnay from France’s Macon, which is always a touchstone of inexpensive quality.
• Domaine Tariquet Sauvignon 2018 ($10, sample, 11.5%): Much better than past vintages, which tended to taste like New Zealand kockoffs. This time, though, the wine had a bit of a grassy aroma, not too much citrus, and a certain Gascon fruitiness.
• Domaine Tariquet Rose 2018 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This pink wine is dry but not Provencal in style. Look for darker fruit, less zippiness on the finish, and a little heft in the mouth. But it’s not heavy so that it’s a rose for red wine drinkers, and so sits somewhere between the Bieler Provencal rose and the Charles & Charles from Washington state.
• Domaine Tariquet Les Premières Grives 2018 ($17, sample, 11.5%): Professionally sweet, with an almost honeyed finish and mostly balanced. It’s a different and interesting wine, in the style of a German just-sweet riesling like a kabinett. The only question: Is it worth $17?