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Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess Parker

Mini-reviews 56: Uncensored, Martin Codax, Jordan, Fess ParkerReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Geyser Peak Uncensored White 2012 ($10, sample, 13%): Disappointing California sweet white blend, featuring some unripe fruit, some ripe fruit, and a mix of banana and lemon pith flavors. Why so many producers insist on selling such poorly made wine is beyond me, other than that they figure anyone who likes sweet wine won’t know the difference.

? Mart n C dax Albari o 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A professionally made, as always, Spanish white with lemon fruit, though softer and without the almost salty sea air tang of other albarinos. Price, as always, is $3 more than it should be.

? Jordan Chardonnay 2011 ($30, sample, 13.5%): The archetype for California Russian River Valley chardonnay, with green apple fruit, oak more or less in balance, and a rich mouth feel. Needs food, and especially classic chardonnay dishes made with cream sauces.

? Fess Parker Riesling 2012 ($15, sample, 12.5%): A very pleasant surprise — California off-dry riesling that was more than just sweet. Look for apricot and melon, and even a little honey. Very well done, and highly recommended.

Image courtesy of Talk-A-Vino, using a Creative Commons license

The WC on WGSO in New Orleans

The WC on WGSO in New OrleansI’ll join my old pal Tim McNally at 5 p. m. on Friday to talk about cheap wine, the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame, and plug the cheap wine book on WGSO in New Orleans. You can stream the show if you’re not in the New Orleans area — or, better yet, listen to the podcast.

It’s always a lot of fun to talk to Tim, who knows more about the wine business than most and is very modest about it. Plus, he always asks me easy questions.

Idaho understands regional wine marketing

The Wine Curmudgeon, despite regional wine’s tremendous success in so many other areas, still despairs about local wine’s inability to market itself. The preferred method remains wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’ that the Winestream Media will take pity and announce to the world that it’s OK to drink local wine. Which will happen when the Wine Spectator hires me to eliminate scores from its reviews.

Fortunately, the Idaho wine business understands this. The Idaho Wine Commission recently released a marketing video that does pretty much everything that regional wine marketing should do. It’s subversive, it’s funny, and it sells the product on its own merits without the usual local wine marketing foolishness — appeals to snobbery, invoking Napa Valley, and using phrases like world class. Plus, it only cost $7,000 to produce.

The video is about a minute too long, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. Would that Texas, where the current idea of wine marketing is to do none at all, made something this clever with the only criticism that it’s too long. The video is below, and marvel that no one thought of something like this before.

Wine of the week: Acrobat Pinot Gris 2012

Wine of the week: Acrobat Pinot Gris 2012The Wine Curmudgeon has told this story before, but it’s worth repeating because it proves that all of us are guilty of judging a wine before we taste it.

Several years ago, I dismissed the Acrobat when I tasted it at home, mostly because it didn’t taste like I thought it should. By God, I knew pinot gris, and this wasn’t it. A couple of months later, I tasted the wine blind during a wine competition judging, and gave it a gold medal. The difference, of course, was blind tasting.

The current vintage of the Acrobat ($12, purchased, 12.5%) isn’t quite as wonderful as that wine, but it will do. It’s another fine effort from King Estate, a top-notch Oregon winery, to make affordable pinot gris that doesn’t taste like pinot grigo, something that not many wineries do. The fruit in the 2012 isn’t as bright as in previous vintages; more of a subdued lime, and it doesn’t zing quite as much as the gold medal winner did. But it’s still crisp and fresh and a solid effort that offers value.

Serve this chilled, and especially with seafood, something like spaghetti and clam sauce, or any kind of chicken braised in white wine with garlic and onions. And don’t forget to reserve judgement until you taste it.

Winebits 318: Wine glasses edition

Winebits 318: Wine glasses editionBecause, frankly, who knew there would be so much news about wine glasses?

? Smaller glasses: Scotland’s government, as part of its campaign to urge what it calls more responsible drinking, wants the country’s bars and pubs to promote the sale of smaller measures of wine, including 125-milliliter servings. That’s about one-sixth of a bottle, or only twice as much as a tasting pour. The BBC, in its wonderfully BBC way, reports that the Scottish health minister said that “tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol was one of the government’s key priorities.” Difficult relationship with alcohol, indeed. Isn’t that like being only a little pregnant? Either you drink too much or you don’t. In this country, the NeoDrys don’t hem and haw like that.

? Riedel and Coke: Yes, the world’s premier wine glass manufacturer has devised a glass for the most insidious of beverages, Coca-Cola — at $20 each, no less. This raises all sorts of questions, starting with why: There is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever drink Coke, which has no nutritional value, no health value, rots your teeth, and is too sweet. Or not sweet enough, depending on your point of view. I write this as someone who gave up soft drinks when he started drinking wine, and I don’t miss the former at all.

? No more glasses? A government in a leading New Zealand wine region wants to ban glassware from winery concerts and tasting events. Not surprisingly, this has the wineries furious. Producers in the Hawke’s Bay say using plastic cups instead of glasses would diminish the experience, and that wine in wine glasses makes wine more enjoyable. The ban is apparently part of a wider proposal to limit drinking in Hawke’s Bay that includes closing bars an hour earlier, from 3 a.m. to 2 a.m., and reducing the hours retailers can sell booze from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. to 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Doc McPherson, 1918-2014

Doc McPherson, 1918-2014

Doc McPherson, left, and son Kim, who owns McPherson Cellars in Lubbock — drinking and talking about wine.

One of worst parts about this job — probably the worst — is writing posts like this. Obituaries are bad enough, but how do you sum someone up in 300 words in phrases optimized for Google’s search robots?

You can’t, and especially when it’s someone like Doc McPherson, the retired Texas Tech chemistry professor, World War II bomber navigator, Peace Corps instructor, and one of the three or four people who made the Texas wine industry possible. So I’ll just write, and Google be damned. More, after the jump:

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Why don’t these wines have screwcaps?

scewcapsThe Wine Curmudgeon has been tasting mostly red wine this month, and especially cabernet sauvignon, in an effort to get more wines that I don’t normally drink on the blog. Quality, even around $10, has been surprisingly good, but there has been one major disappointment. Not only do most of the wines have corks instead of screwcaps, but they come in heavy, old-fashioned bottles.

Which raises the question, which I’ve raised before and which is worth raising again: Why don’t these popularly-priced wines use screwcaps and come in lighter bottles? That would make the wines less expensive to produce, lower their carbon footprint, increase profit, and even possibly lower cost. And neither would affect quality.

Consider: The bottle for a 2003 white Burgundy — about as high end as wine gets — weighs 22 ounces and is closed with a cork. The bottle for the $5 Rene Barbier wines, closed with a screwcap, weighs 14 ounces. Yet most of the producers whose wines I’ve tasted use some kind of cork and unnecessarily heavy bottles, often closer to the white Burgundy than the Barbier. Some examples:

? The $11 Pigmentum malbec from France, 19 ounces, artificial cork.

? The $12 Errazauriz cabernet sauvignon from Chile, 15 ounces, screwcap. Ironically, the producer recently changed bottles, cutting the weight by 12 1/2 percent. Otherwise, it would be 17 ounces.

? The $12 Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon from California, 22 ounces, natural cork.

? The $16 Bonterra zinfandel from California, 23 ounces, artificial cork. The irony? That Bonterra is one of the best selling green wine brands in the country.

? The $17 Downton Abbey claret from France, 19 ounces, natural cork.

In these cases, sadly, appearance is all. The Downton Abbey is the most obvious example, but even the others work from the assumption that consumers expect quality wine to come in heavy bottles with some kind of cork. We can argue forever about screwcaps vs. corks, but the one thing that isn’t in debate is that screwcaps are perfectly acceptable for most of the wine we drink. And there is absolutely no debate about the bottle. This isn’t 1890, when bottle weight mattered, protecting the wine from the perils of 19th century shipping. Lighter weight, given today’s bottle technology, is just as effective. Fifty million cases of Two-buck Chuck are proof of that.

Obviously, what’s in the bottle matters most. At some point, though, the bottle and closure itself is going to matter, whether producers believe it or not.