Category:$10 wine

Wine review: Bad Dog Ranch Chardonnay 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon is writing about this not just because it ?s quaffable $10 wine, but because it is a product of the legendary and notorious Bronco Wine Company.

Bronco is Fred Franzia ?s wine company ? or, as one magazine called him, The Scourge of Napa Valley. Bronco, by one reckoning, produces more than 60 brands, including Two Buck Chuck, Napa Ridge, and Salmon Creek. The Bronco philosophy, apparently, is to make as much wine as possible, charge a price that pleases the consumer and gives Bronco a fair return while thumbing its nose at the wine business.

So how does the Bad Dog (about $10) fit in all of that? There was not a damn thing wrong with it, and believe me, I was looking. The wine had decent, bright fruit and it wasn ?t over-oaked at all. And, at just 12 1/2 percent alcohol, it was less heavy than a lot of chardonnay I have to taste. Drink this with Tuesday night Chinese takeout or if you want a glass of white wine after work.

The catch? There is no guarantee the wine will taste like this next year or that it will even exist. Bronco, apparently, makes wine when it can get fruit. No grapes that fit the pricing strategy, no wine. There doesn ?t seem to have been a 2006 Bad Dog chardonnay.

Wine review: Corbett Canyon Merlot NV

image Ultra-cheap wine presents a dilemma. At what point is the wine so cheap that quality doesn ?t matter and that it becomes nothing more than an alcohol delivery system, devoid of any pleasure except for the buzz that it provides?

That ?s why the Wine Curmudgeon is so hard on these wines, which can roughly be defined as those that cost less than $6 a bottle. Cheap whiskey is for getting drunk. Wine ? even inexpensive wine — is for enjoyment.

Which is why I was intrigued by the Corbett Canyon, which won the Best of Class for Merlots below $15 at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition included some perfectly acceptable wines, including Red Truck, Cycles Gladiator, Mondavi Private Selection and Wente. The Corbett Canyon is $10 for a 3-liter box, or about $2.50 a bottle.

It ?s certainly worth that, and even a bit more. Don ?t expect a lot of depth or sophistication, and if this wine saw any oak it was a passing glance. But the Corbett Canyon tastes like merlot, and it ?s not too jammy or fruity in the way other cheap merlots are. The tannins are even pleasant. Drink it on its own or with any red wine foods.

The biggest problem is the box. It ?s not easy to get the spigot out of the side of the box, and, if you ?re not careful, the spigot leaks. Make sure to turn the knob hard to the left to shut off the flow.

Wine of the week: Tormaresca Neprica 2007

image And it ?s just as wonderful as last year, when the Neprica was the third best read post on the blog. And, in even better news, it ?s apparently more widely available this year. (Thanks to Kathleen Talbert at Talbert Communications for tracking down availability.)

Why is this wine so wonderful? It ?s cheap ? list is $12, so it ?s probably $10.99 or less at most stores. It ?s well made, with typical Italian acidity and sour cherry fruit. It ?s food friendly, pairing with anything from red sauce to sausages and grilled peppers and onions. Plus, it ?s made with some interesting grapes, including the Italian varietals negroamaro and primitivo. The world does not revolve around cabernet sauvignon and merlot.

And why is the Neprica more available this year? Because, apparently, so many people asked about it. This is an example of consumers convincing retailers they should actually stock something more interesting than the usual bottles they stick on the shelves. A tip o ? the wine glass to everyone who asked about it. You made a difference.

Wine of the week: Domaines Francois Lurton Les Fumees Blanches 2006

image This is the kind of wine that makes the Wine Curmudgeon walk a little quicker down the aisle at the store. That ?s because as soon as I see it, my cheap wine radar goes off.

In this case, my radar worked perfectly. The Lurton is a sauvignon blanc from the Languedoc in southern France, where more and more great cheap wine is being made. (And the Lurtons are one of the great winemaking families of France, producing everything from Cheval Blanc to vin ordinaire like this.)

It probably has too much grapefruit flavor for a French wine, but that's picking nits. There is great stoniness and minerality, and this is about as close to classic white Bordeaux as one is going to find for $10. Even more surprising, this is not the current vintage. If you can find the 2007, it will probably taste a little fresher and a little more interesting. Regardless, it ?s an early candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame.

Drink this chilled — on its own, or with almost anything other than red meat.

Wine of the week: Ste. Genevieve White NV

This was one of the first wines to make the $10 Hall of Fame when I started it for Dallas ? Advocate Magazines almost 10 years ago. It was called Texas White, cost $2.99 and you could buy it at 7-Eleven.

The wine dropped off the list after a couple of price increases and a drop in quality. The winery, Texas ? largest (it also does Peregrine Hills), went through ownership changes and the fate of this kind of vin ordinaire wasn ?t high on the agenda. So when I saw it recently for $3.89 and re-labeled as an American wine, I thought I ?d try it. I didn ?t have high hopes.

Which, once again, shows why one needs to taste the wine before judging it. The Ste. Genevieve ? a blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay, French colombard and pinot grigio from Texas and California — is a bit thin on the back, but not unpleasantly so. Otherwise, it can hold on its own with any $10 wine. There is a floral nose with a hint of sweetness, some green apple, and not enough oak to bother anyone. Buy a case, keep it cool, and open it anytime you want a glass of white wine.

Availability note: If you aren ?t in Texas or surrounding states, it will be difficult to find this.

Wine review: Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay 2007

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Regular visitors to this space know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates Toad Hollow ?s $10 rose. But the rest of the winery ?s efforts are also praiseworthy, though they ?re usually closer to $15. So when I saw the unoaked chardonnay on sale at Dallas retailer for $7.50, I scooped it up. It ?s more than up to its usual standards, with lots of crisp, green apple fruit and some minerality. This vintage also tastes brighter and cleaner than those of previous years. No doubt 2007 will be an extraordinary year for inexpensive California wine.

And, as the late, great Todd Williams always said: ?No trees were harmed in the making of this ? Chardonnay. ?

Drink this chilled on its own or with anything that needs bright fruit and a bit of acid. I had it with homemade egg rolls, and it was a huge success.

Wine of the week: Bieler Sabine Rose 2007

Winter doesn't mean you can't drink rose. The Wine Curmudgeon doesn ?t understand why the experts say rose is only to be enjoyed in the summer. What ?s wrong with rose in the middle of winter, when the days are short, the nights are long, and it ?s too cold to do much except complain about how cold it is?

Hence the Bieler (about $12), which is classic Provencal rose. That means some fruit (strawberry and watermelon in this case) and still bone dry — a style of rose that all should aspire to. It as far removed from white zinfandel as possible.

One caveat: The alcohol is a bit high for a rose, around 14 percent. It didn’t seem to be a problem, but that may because the wine has aged a bit. If it was younger, it might be more noticeable.

Chill this, and drink it before dinner. Or serve it with roast chicken, almost any kind of chicken breast preparation (chicken-fried chicken breast, anyone?) or seafood.