Category:California wine

Pinot noir and salmon

Pinot noir really does go with salmon Talk to enough wine people, and the subject of pinot noir and salmon eventually comes up. For one thing, it ?s still considered trendy (even though though Josh Wesson and David Rosengarten wrote a book called Red Wine with Fish almost 20 years ago). For another, it has to do with pinot noir, and that is still considered tres chic in many wine circles.

Which led to a Wine Curmudgeon moment: What about this pinot noir and salmon? Does it really work? Or is it just more winespeak to wade through?

So I paired three pinots, costing $10, $22, and $40, with steamed salmon served with rice noodles and vegetable and saffron broth, to test the theory. And, to make sure the salmon was up to the task, I used wild Copper River salmon instead of a milder, grocery store product. My thinking: The more flavorful the salmon, the more challenge it would pose to the wine, especially for the $10 bottle.

Continue reading

Upgrading your wine for the holidays

image You ?re pretty confident about wine, as far as it goes. You know a good $10 or $12 bottle from a not-so-good one, and if one of your friends needs a recommendation for a decent red wine to take to someone ?s house for dinner, you can offer two or three suggestions.

But there ?s a holiday coming up, and so it seems like the right time to spend a bit more ? whether it ?s as a gift for the significant person in your life or to treat yourself. But if all you know is $10 wine, what do you do?

Consider the following:

? Find out if the $10 wine you like has a more expensive label. Bogle, one of the best $10 wineries, does a couple: The Phantom, a red blend, and a Russian Rover pinot noir, both around $17.

? Buy a less expensive bottle from a winery that makes high-end wines. Ridge and Newton are both expensive and well-regarded California names. But Ridge ?s Three Valleys, a red blend featuring zinfandel, is a steal at about $23. Newton ?s Claret, made with mostly merlot in the Bordeaux style, is another terrific $25 wine.

? Buy a nicer wine from a region that you like. New Zealand is famous for its $16 sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs. So why not try something like Cloudy Bay, whose prices are closer to $30?

? Upgrade your grocery store favorite. Most offer not only a basic line, but one or even two more at higher prices and, usually, better quality. Kendall-Jackson, for instance, sells its vintner ?s reserve wines for $12 to $18. The next step up is the grand reserve, where prices run from $20 to $35.

Randall Grahm strikes again

2005 Ca Del Solo Sangiovese Last year, when Randall Grahm sold his Big House brand, those of us who appreciated unpretentious, good value, everyday wine waited for the other shoe to drop. Would his new venture, freed from what he called the golden handcuffs of success, live up to the reputation of the $10 Big House red, white and pink?

Yes, as it turns out. Grahm has released three wines under the Ca del Solo label ? a sangiovese, a muscat, and an albarino, each for about $15. In fact, these may be better than Big House (even allowing for the higher price). The sangiovese, with lots of dark fruit and a touch of Italian style not often found in California, is one of the best sangioveses made in this country, regardless of price. The albarino, made with the Spanish grape, is cleaner and more interesting than many Spanish albarinos I ?ve tasted, while the muscat has a wonderful balance between sweetness and acid and very bright orange fruit.

One caveat: Availability is spotty, mostly because Grahm made just 8,000 cases total, or just 1/50th of the old Big House production. He is apparently truly terrified of those golden handcuffs.

Merry Edwards and direct shipping

  Merry Edwards, one of the leading pinot nor and sauvignon blanc winemakers in the world, doesn ?t sell her wine to retailers. You can buy it in a restaurant (mostly of the fine dining variety), or you can buy it directly from her, though there is a wait to get on her mailing list. Otherwise, you ?re out of luck.

Edwards has been doing this since her first vintage in 1997, and sees it as something completely logical for small wineries like hers, which make less than 10,000 cases a year. When Edwards was in Dallas, we talked about her distribution model (as the guys in suits call it), which is unusual. Most small wineries still want a distributor, who sells their wine to retailers.

Continue reading

Peter Mondavi’s perspective

Peter Mondavi Jr. Peter Mondavi Jr., regardless of anything else (and there are a lot of anything elses with the Mondavi family), knows wine. He is the son of Peter and the nephew of Robert, two men who are among the handful who have helped California wine become some of the best in the world.

So when Peter Jr. offers his perspective on the state of the wine business, as he did during a recent visit to Fort Worth, it ?s worth paying attention. Today, Peter runs the Charles Krug Winery in Napa Valley, which one part or another of the Mondavi family has owned since 1943. One of his goals? To make wine drinkers once again associate the family name with quality wine. This is something that hasn ?t happened much given the focus on the Mondavis ? various personal and financial woes ? mostly on uncle Robert ?s side of the family — over the past decade.

?It ?s incumbent upon our half of the family to show the Mondavis in as different a light as possible, ? he says. ?We want to continue the family name and heritage. ?

Continue reading