Category:A Featured Post

Wine of the week: Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 2019

EvolutionHow about a white wine from an Oregon producer in a 1.5 liter box that works out to $9 a bottle?

We’ve heard lots about the west coast grape glut, but we haven’t seen it translate into much in the way of lower wine prices. Sokol Blosser’s Evolution white blend, the Lucky No. 9, might be the first of many.

That’s because it’s unusual to see a wine like the Evolution, a white blend that usually carries an Oregon appellation, in a box at this price. The 1.5-liter box works out to $9 a bottle; typically, the wine costs around $15. So what’s the catch here? It may well be all those grapes. The box has an American appellation, which means 75 percent of the grapes didn’t come from any one one state. My guess, from tasting it, is that it’s Oregon fruit with more than a fair share from California’s Central Valley, the center of the grape glut.

Which is is not say the Evolution white blend ($18/1.5 liter box, sample, 12%) isn’t worth drinking. Because it is – the kind of wine to chill, keep in the fridge, and drink when you feel like a glass. Look for the slightest hint of sweetness, and not nearly as much as I thought there would be. Plus, it’s hidden among a variety of white fruit flavors – some tropical, maybe some peach, and a pleasing sort of apricot stone bitterness.

This is a fine value, and I’m not the only one who think so. Give Sokol Blosser credit – it saw all those grapes sitting there waiting for someone to be creative and figured out how to make a quality cheap wine and still turn a profit. What a unique concept for the post-modern wine business.

Winebits 665: Restaurant wine, intellectual property, legal weed

This week’s wine news: High-end restaurants are selling their wine collections to raise cash to say in business. Plus, an Argentine winery may have stolen an artist’s work and more woes for legal weed

So long, wine collection: Nation’s Restaurant News calls them “great wine cellar sell-offs of 2020.” High-end restaurants, which often spend years putting together award-winning wine lists, are selling their wines to stay in business during the pandemic. One New Jersey chain sold as much as 40 percent of its wine; a New York City restaurant turned its wine into $50,000 when it was closed in March and April. Said the restaurant’s wine director: “For us, if it’s between saving the cellar or the restaurant, save the restaurant. Product can be replaced, but you can’t replace the loyal staff members who have been with you for 10 years. A well-stocked wine cellar is of minimal value without the staff who sells it.” Restaurant wine pricing has come in for a lot of criticism on the blog over the years, but no one likes to see this going on.

Give me back my art: An Argentine winery has allegedly stolen a drawing from a well-known U.S. artist, using the art work to decorate its box wine. ArtNet.com (bet you never thought you’d see that link on a wine site) reports that Shantell Martin says Bodegas San Huberto lifted the label for the company’s Aminga Malbec from drawings she made for a work she created for a 2017 show at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. There’s a picture of the box and the drawing at the link, and they do look quite similar. The story also says Martin’s work appears to be ripped off regularly, and once by retailer Lane Bryant.

More losses for legal weed: One of Canada’s biggest legal weed companies says it lost C$3.3 billion (about US$2.47 billion) in its 2020 fiscal year. Aurora Cannabis saw net revenue fall by some 30 percent and the company laid off thousands. In other words, more bad news for legal weed. And I’m not the only one who feels that way – the comments to the story, posted on the CBC website, wonder how it’s possible to lose billions of dollars selling marijuana. That’s a fair question, eh?

Expensive wine 136: Bellavista Vendemmia Rose 2014

Bellavista Vendemmia roseThe Bellavista Vendemmia rose, an Italian Champagne-style sparkling wine, provides value and lots of quality

Most Italian sparkling wine is Prosecco, which rarely costs more than $15, offers a bit of sweetness, and has decent bubbles. Franciacorta, which is made in the Champagne style and uses the same grapes, is much less common; Italian producers make 200 times more Prosecco than Franciacorta.

Hence, Franciacorta is pricey and not always easy to find. I got to taste the Bellavista Vendemmia Rose courtesy of the Italian Wine Guy, who apparently took pity on me for having to drink wine like this.

Still, the Bellavista Vendemmia Rose 2014 ($44. sample, 12.5%) is well worth the effort to find, and it’s certainly worth its mid-double digit price. It’s a nuanced, sophisticated sparkling wine, and much appreciated after all the stuff I’ve had to plow through the past six months in the pursuit of wine journalism. Look for some brioche aroma, lots of berry fruit (strawberry? raspberry?), those wonderfully tight bubbles that show top-notch Champagne-style wine, and a long, clean, and minerally finish.

Highly recommended. Drink this on its own, but it’s a terrific food wine – socca, anyone?

Imported by TMT USA

Mini-reviews 137: Bota Box rose, Adelsheim, Matua, Angels & Cowboys

bota box roseReviews 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.

Box Box Rose NV ($15/3-liter box, sample, 11.5%): The dry rose that showed just how far pink wine has come is more off-dry this time; no, I don’t know why. But the price works out to $3.50 a bottle, so it’s more than acceptable if you like the “hint of sweetness” style. But it’s not the award winner from the past couple of years.

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2018 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): Very ordinary Oregon pinot noir, and not especially Oregon in style. It’s missing the fruity, brambly zip it should have, and especially at this price. Instead, it’s just dull berry fruit. Very disappointing, given how much great pinot noir Adelsheim makes.

Matua Pinot Noir 2018 ($13, purchased, 12%): This New Zealand pinot noir usually offers terrific value and pinot character. But the 2018 isn’t as pinot-ish as in past years – lighter in body, and less fresh and lively. It’s OK, but there are lots of OK pinots at this price. Imported by TWE Imports

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2019 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This California pink, like the Bota Box, was once exceptional. Now, it’s quite ordinary, and can cost as much as $18. This vintage is thinner with less bright fruit — more like an $8 rose from Big Wine.

Wine and food pairings 10: Lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs

turkey thighsThe Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with lemon rosemary roasted turkey thighs.

The Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, which is uniquely American. How lucky are we, in the history of the world, to have what we have? And, given my appreciation of the holiday, I’ve never been able to figure out why we save turkey for one dinner a year.

Turkey is also uniquely American. In this, it’s plentiful, almost always inexpensive, is versatile, and is delicious when it’s cooked properly (something my mom mastered early on, which helped me appreciate turkey that much more). This recipe fits all the categories — it costs maybe $6 for three or four four adult-sized servings; the lemon and rosemary complement the thighs’ gaminess; and it’s a welcome respite from chicken.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is lemony and herbal white wine food (even rose, if it’s not too fruity). These three suggestions will get you started:

• Granbazan Etiqueta Verde Albarino 2018 ($20, purchased, 13.5%): This Spanish white is more nuanced than the albarino I prefer, the ones that are savory, practically salty, and taste almost lemony tart. The lemon fruit is still there, but it’s softer and much less savory. Having said that, it’s very well done and a fair price given the tariff and how much so many ordinary albarinos cost. Imported by Europvin

• CVNE Monopole 2019 ($11, purchased, 13%): Spain’s Rioja region is best known for red wine, but quality has improved considerably for its whites, often made with viura. The Monopole is a wine to buy, drink, buy again, and drink again. This vintage isn’t as quite as tart and lemony, but remains a  tremendous value. Imported by Arano LLC

•  Kruger-Rumpf Pinot Noir Rosé Dry 2019 ($13, purchased, 12%): This German rose may be difficult to find, but it’s intriguing: A bit of fizz, bright berry fruit, and refreshing acidity. Imported by Skurnik Wines

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

Full disclosure: Once again, I forgot to take a picture of the dish; the one accompanying the post is from the Life Jolie blog. Imagine a little rosemary and lemon garnishing the turkey thighs.

More about wine and food pairings:
Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS 2017

Hedges CMSWashington state’s Hedges CMS red blend remains one of the world’s great cheap wines

The Hedges CMS red blend from Washington state has traditionally been one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why hasn’t it been on the blog since 2013? Chalk it up to premiumization and availability – its price has been as high as $16 or $17, and I haven’t seen it in Dallas in years.

Enough of the bad news. The good news is that the Hedges CMS 2017 ($12, purchased, 14%) remains everything that it has always been – a Washington state red blend that has the state’s tell-tale richness and fruitiness. But it’s also wine, which means it’s balanced and sensible and never once saw a focus group on its way to a store shelf.

CMS stands for the grapes in the blend; in this case, about two-thirds merlot, with the rest more cabernet sauvignon than syrah. Look for lots and lots of dark berries, but  some heft from the cabernet and its tannins to play off the softness of the merlot. Finally, the syrah rounds it all out. It’s just the thing for Friday night pizza, but would also pair with something much more formal.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame and the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year. What’s most impressive about the Hedges is that it doesn’t sit in the mouth like a fruit bomb waiting to explode in a mess of sweet, gooey muck. Rather, it’s so well made that it even appeals to people (like me) who prefer a more Old World style, with less fruit and more acidity. What more can we ask for from a $12 wine?

Winebits 664: Fast food wine pairings, ancient wine, pandemic wine sales

Fast food wine pairings

No, this was not the WC’s favorite hat of all time, though the uniform did turn me off polyester forever.

This week’s wine news: Are fast food wine pairings the next big thing? Plus, 7th century BC wine, and more confusing numbers about pandemic wine sales.

Bring on the Whoppers: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would be able to discuss the fast food of his youth two weeks in a row? But Christine Struble, writing for the Foodsided blog, asks: “Are fast food wine pairings becoming the newest food trend?” Perhaps, but the concept isn’t new. I received a release in the blog’s early days from a brand called Fat Bastard touting fast food wine pairings; I’ve written about it here several times; and I taught them to wine classes at the late Cordon Bleu and El Centro. Because if you’re trying to reach people whose diet consists of fast food, what better way to teach pairings? Or, as I asked one group of Cordon Bleu students, “What do we pair with a Burger King cheese Whopper?” The consensus was supermarket-style merlot; plus, they got to hear about working the broiler at the Burger King on Skokie Road in Highland Park, Ill., resplendent in my polyester uniform and paper hat.

2,700 years ago: Archeologists have discovered the first Iron Age wine press in present-day Lebanon, reinforcing the idea that wine played a key role in the ancient world. They found the press, used to extract juice from grapes, during excavations at the Phoenician site of Tell el-Burak near the present day city of Sidon (an important trading hub in wine and other goods in the Mediterranean region). Grapes were grown in and around Tell el-Burak, which was inhabited from the late eighth to the middle of the fourth century BC. Researchers have also found amphorae, ancient wine bottles, in the area. But no one was quite sure how the grapes were turned into wine until this discovery.

More conflicting statistics? Blake Gray, writing on Wine-Searcher.com, finds even more conflict in wine sales during the pandemic. He cites research from California’s Sonoma State University, which found that even though U.S. wine sales overall are up, 57 percent of U.S wineries say their own sales are down. Or, as we have noted here, there’s little sense in trying to make sense of any of the numbers. Ostensibly, “Big wineries are taking more market share at the expense of small wineries,” said the report. You will also be happy to know, according to one analyst at the same seminar, that Americans may have had more disposable income than ever, despite the pandemic. I wonder: What country is he living in?

Photo courtesy of MeTV, using a Creative Commons license