Category:$10 wine

Wine review: Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2007

Label-Rancho_Zabaco_2007_California_Dancing_Bull_Zinfandel_750ml_-_New ? Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2009 review

Dancing Bull, when it debuted six or seven years ago, was solid, cheap, quality zinfandel. Then, as will happen with these things, the label (part of the Gallo empire) morphed into two: The more expensive Rancho Zabaco, which focused on zinfandel, and the less expensive Dancing Bull, which became a full line (chardonnay, merlot and the like) of ordinary grocery store stuff.

This was disappointing, since the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates zinfandel, and especially solid, cheap, quality zinfandel. But I ?m happy to report that the current vintage of Dancing Bull zinfandel (about $10) is almost what it used to be. The 2007 isn ?t quite as spicy or brambly as those first bottlings, but it does offer lots of berry fruit, subdued tannins, and, blessedly, relatively low alcohol. You can drink two glasses without the need for a field sobriety test.

Pair this with any hearty winter fare (braised short ribs and garlic mashed potatoes come to mind), as well as zinfandel ?s traditional partners ? spaghetti and meatballs and the like.

Wine of the week: Clean Slate riesling 2007

image Riesling is a funny thing. Some people won ?t drink it because it ?s sweet, and other people only drink it because it is sweet. So how about drinking the Clean Slate because it ?s enjoyable?

Sweet wine is neither good nor bad because it ?s sweet, just like dry wine is neither good nor bad because it ?s dry. How often does someone refuse to drink cabernet sauvignon because it ?s too dry? Sweet wine is worth drinking based on whether the winemaker pays attention, and the sweetness should be balanced by the fruit and the acid in the wine.

That ?s mostly the case with the Clean Slate (about $10), a German wine from the Mosel. It ?s a simple wine, but it has enough lemon-lime acidity to balance the sweetness. The Germans have six levels of sweetness, and this is about the second most dry. Drink the Clean Slate at any holiday event, and it will also pair with roast ham and spicy food.

Wine review: Veramonte sauvignon blanc 2008

Last night, the Wine Curmudgeon felt like a glass of wine. But it was Sunday evening, and I didn’t want to go through a lot of wine selection foolishness — would it pair with dinner (leftover pizza that I had made earlier in the week), what were the flavors, and all of that? So I pulled the Veramonte out of the wine closet, unscrewed the top, and poured myself a glass.

This has always been quality $10 wine, and the current vintage is no exception. (Thankfully, the Chilean peso has lost much of its value in the past three months, and this wine no longer costs $12). The Veramonte has grapefruit flavor up front, a decent middle and even a bit of mineral in the finish. It’s not as citrusy as a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, and it doesn’t have the tropical flavors of its California cousins.

All of which means it will pair with typical white wine foods, the odd leftover, and you can even drink it while you’re watching television. With an ice cube in it, to boot.

Wine of the week: Meridian Vineyards chardonnay 2007

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Meridian ?s products are almost always competent and value oriented, and you usually get your $6 worth. But they are rarely more than that.

The chardonnay, though, is grocery store wine done at a level that is way beyond grocery store wine. Winemaker Lee Miyamura has accomplished something special with this vintage, producing a stunning wine that offers two or three times $6 worth of value. Look for bright green apple fruit and a rich mouth feel, as well as balanced acid and a finish that many wines that cost $20 don ?t have. There is even an oakiness that tastes like barrel aging, which Meridian doesn ?t usually do (the company uses stainless steel tanks with oak staves or wood chips). 

Serve this to wine snobs, and make them guess how much it cost. They ?ll never figure it out. Meanwhile, you can sip it before dinner, serve it with chicken or seafood, and think about how smart you are when it comes to wine.

Wine of the week: Osborne Solaz Cabernet-Tempranillo 2006

image There is a chance this isn ?t the world ?s most perfect cheap wine. But it ?s a very small chance. This Spanish red is $7, and it has body and structure that most $7 wines can only dream of. It has remarkable fruit; usually, cheap wine either has body or fruit, but rarely both.

What ?s even more impressive is that the Solaz is consistent from vintage to vintage, something else that you don ?t see in quality cheap wine. Most good inexpensive wines will have a four-, five-, or six-year run, and then fade from the scene like old ballplayers. That ?s what happened to two of my all-time favorites, Hogue ?s sauvignon blanc and a red blend from France, Jaja de Jau. Great wine, and then not great.

But not the Solaz. How good is it? Even Robert Parker agrees with me, and how often does that happen?

This should please the cabernet drinkers at Thanksgiving dinner. But save it for Saturday night when everyone has gone home and you ?re alone and worn out and you feel like take out pizza. Open the Solaz then, and marvel at how they do it.

Wine of the week: Garnacha de Fuego 2007

The Wine Curmudgeon has never been a huge fan of this wine, mostly because it cost as little as $6 and $7 in other parts of the country, but as much as $12 and even $15 in Dallas. Lately, though, the price in this area seems to have settled closer to $10. That makes this Spanish red a fine bargain.

Garnacha is a grape that produces very fruity wines with little in the way of tannins. This one has a lot of red fruit, but it's not especially heavy, which is a testament to Spanish wine making skills. The wine magazines adore this wine, and I've never quite been able to figure out why. One reason, probably, is that it's imported by Jorge Ordonez, who is one of the best at bringing Spanish wine into the U.S.

Drink this on its own, because it's light enough, or with pizza or similar casual food. It will also be more than adequate with Thanksgiving dinner (and don ? tell anyone, but the non-wine drinkers might even enjoy it chilled).

Wine review: Sebeka Chenin Blanc 2008

The Wine Curmudgeon thinks chenin blanc is one of the world’s great unappreciated grapes. When it is made well, it ?s a fine alternative to chardonnay ?- dry and fruity in the New World style or dry and steely in the French style.

The catch, of course, is the phrase ?if it ?s made well. ? Too much chenin blanc is tasting room sweet or sour and green. Fortunately, there is the Sebeka (about $10), a South African wine from the Gallo empire. It ?s a solid Tuesday night with Chinese takeout wine ? a bit sweet, but not unpleasantly so, with lots of tropical fruit. I wish it had had more of an acid backbone, but that doesn ?t detract from its value.