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Mini-reviews 134: OZV, CK Mondavi, Domaines Ott, Tour de Bonnet

ozvReviews 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.

OZV Red 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): Yes, way too much fake vanilla and way too much berry fruit without anything in the back, like tannins or a finish. So hardly balanced. But all things considered, it’s more than drinkable – and if you like this style, it’s a fine value.

CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2019 ($6, sample, 13.5%): Cheap supermarket pinot grigio, which means no character, no flavor, and not much else save some tonic water flavor. One more reason why cheap doesn’t always mean worth buying.

Domaines Ott By.Ott Rose 2019 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): French rose that tastes more California than Provencal and comes in a heavy bottle with these winemaker notes: “Lovely pink hue with glistening golden highlights.” Ouch. This much money should buy a much better bottle of wine. Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA

Château Tour de Bonnet Blanc 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This Total Wine private label is mostly a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff, and not very white Bordeaux-like. This is annoying, since it’s from Bordeaux and not New Zealand. Not to be confused with this wine. Imported by Saranty Imports.

It’s not local wine when you’re buying grapes from another state

local wineColorado craft brewer says its new wine is innovative, but it’s the same approach Big Wine uses

Craft beer made name its name on authenticity and honesty. This was in marked contrast to Big Beer, which kept selling the same worn out and bland fizz for no other reason than because that’s what Big Beer did.

So what happens when a craft beer producer moves into wine? Does it bring the same authenticity and honesty that it brought to beer? Not, apparently, if it’s a leading Colorado craft producer called Odell Brewing.

Maybe Odell Brewing has a reason for making its wine with out of state grapes instead of those from its native Colorado — which is hardly craft, authentic or honest. I asked, but never heard back from the company. Maybe someone there truly believes the twaddle in its news release, that Odell claims it “is dedicated to pushing the boundaries of modern American wine.” And that “we’re committed to making wine that is just as innovative as our beer.”

Because making wine with out of state grapes is the sort of thing that small wine producers criticize Big Wine for doing, and that those of us who believe in Drink Local have been fighting against for years. It’s neither innovative nor boundary pushing; rather, it’s just a way to cut costs, since those grapes will probably be cheaper than buying Colorado grapes.

And Odell’s wines – a red and white blend, plus two roses, and all made with grapes purchased from Oregon and Washington – are hardly breathtaking. And that the wines will come in cans? Not exactly innovative, either, not in the middle of 2020.

Let’s be clear here – Odell can do whatever it wants, and I’m not criticizing the company for making wine. Rather, it’s because Odell is pretending that its wine effort is something that it’s not.

In fact, I can’t help but think that someone at Odell and its wholesaler, Breakthru Beverage (the third biggest in the country) wanted to duplicate the almost unprecedented success of Cooper’s Hawk. That’s the restaurant and winery chain that uses California grapes no matter where its stores are located. For one thing, Breakthru is mentioned in the second paragraph in the news release, and that’s just odd. Why would anyone care who the distributor is?

So good luck to Odell – just don’t expect anyone who knows local wine to pretend your product is local.

Wine of the week: Balnea Verdejo 2018

Balnea VerdejoThe Balnea verdejo is a stunning wine, one of the best of its type I’ve tasted in years

Verdejo is a common Spanish white grape used to make lots and lots of wine, most of it OK and some even more than OK. But the Wine Curmudgeon had not tasted a verdejo as decidedly uncommon as the Balnea verdejo in a long time – if ever.

The Balnea Verdejo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a stunning wine, somehow layered and almost nuanced – but costing nothing more than a bottle of very ordinary supermarket plonk that tastes sweet and syrupy. A wine of this quality at this price, and especially these days, is nearly unprecedented.

Look for almost candied lemon fruit, although the Balnea is not a sweet wine; an almost flinty minerality; and a fullness in the mouth that is rare in verdejo at any price, given how simple most of the wines are and how tart lemon fruit is their reason for being.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame. And it is almost certainly on the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.
Imported by Wines of Spain

Winebits 651: Walmart, Grocery Outlet, neo-Prohibitionists

WalmartThis week’s wine news: Walmart will appeal take Texas liquor store case to Supreme court, plus blog favorite Grocery Outlet wins award and the neo-Prohibitionists strike again

Walmart appeal: Walmart, rebuffed twice by a federal appeals court, will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to be allowed to open liquor stores in Texas. We’ve followed this closely on the blog, since Walmart is trying to overturn a state law that forbids publicly-held or out of state companies from getting a retail liquor license (one of the WC’s favorite three-tier restrictions). Walmart won its case at the trial level, but was rebuffed twice by the the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. There’s no certainty the Supreme Court will take Walmart’s case. But if it does, expect some serious three-tier fireworks.

Award-winner: The Wine Enthusiast has named blog favorite Grocery Outlet as one of its 50 best U.S. wine retailers. This is a big deal, if only because Grocery Outlet — best known for its cheap wine — is still mostly on the West Coast. The award puts Grocery Outlet in the same class as Costco, perhaps the U.S. leader in what the magazine calls “value-driven” wine.

One glass of wine: An influential federal panel, reports Forbes, is recommending that men reduce alcohol intake to one drink per day, and that all Americans should cut back on added sugars. Who knew that a couple of glasses of wine were as deadly as that quart of vanilla ice cream? But that’s the finding from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which says that the extra glass of wine is associated with a “modest but meaningful increase” in death rates.

One of the greatest wine memes ever?

wine meme

How can you beat this wine meme for being both funny and true?

The Wine Curmudgeon is constantly on the lookout for wine memes and wine humor, because we take wine entirely too seriously in the cyber-ether, in wine magazines, in restaurants, and among wine geeks.

Hence this effort, which describes one of the too many things wrong with the wine business. It’s especially relevant these days given all the recent Internet wine dustups that have so little to do with wine.

But none of this is new. One of my earliest memories of doing the blog: A good friend and terrific critic wrote that $30 was a lot of money to pay for a certain wine that had received a 90-plus score from one of the most important wine magazines. The review went crazy on the magazine’s website, and my friend was treated as if he committed a violent crime while dressed in the American flag. My favorite quote from the various tirades? “How could anyone say $30 was too much to spend? That’s an average price to pay for wine.”

Wine is supposed to be fun, despite the wine business’ efforts to make it otherwise. And a tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to my pal Jay Bileti, who sent me off on this direction.

Image: “Marc and the Wine Bottle” by jscatty is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

More about wine humor:
Grant Lyon: What happens during a DWI stop after a wine tasting?
Dear Onion: Local wine is not shitty
Silly wine advice: “I would pair this with a nice microwavable macaroni and cheese”

Winecast 47: Bay area retailer Debbie Zachareas and the new normal

Debbie Zachareas

Debbie Zachareas

Debbie Zachareas: Trading down is going on, even for people who buy $100 wine

Debbie Zachareas is a long-time San Francisco-area wine retailer; currently she helps oversee three wine stores and wine bars in the Bay Area. And of all the surprises during the coronavirus pandemic, among the most surprising has been that even people who buy $100 wine have been trading down. A $15 to $30 bottle, she says, seems to be what they’re looking for these days, what with staying at home and social distancing.

We talked about trading down, as well as what wines are popular — lighter whites instead of the heavier reds that had been in vogue, as well as imported wines instead of California wines. One exception: The incredible wines from California’s Jolie-Laide, a small but, unfortunately, hard-to-find producer.

Plus, customer service has improved during the duration — an odd, if unintended side effect during the duration that I’ve heard about from other retailers.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is almost 13 minutes long and takes up 5 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent (save for a few seconds at the beginning). We’re back to recording on Skype.

Father’s Day wine 2020

Father's Day wine 2020Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud

Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just 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 2020 suggestions:

Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.

Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits

Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2019
Father’s Day wine 2018
Father’s Day wine 2017
Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015