Category:Expensive wine

Holiday wine gift guide 2018

holiday wine gift guide 2018The Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2018 — because no one wants to give the wine equivalent of a fruitcake

• Holiday wine trends 2018

How to avoid giving tacky wine gift bags — “for the wine lover on your lists” — or overpriced, celebrity-endorsed wine accessories (because if an A lister likes it, we should buy it)? The Wine Curmudgeon’s holiday wine gift guide out 2018, of course. Because why waste money on bad gifts when you can use it for quality wine?

Keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10). Both have passed the WC’s lengthy, real-life testing process — which means I use them over and over and over. And over.

Plus:

• Kevin Zraly’s new edition of the “Windows on the World” wine course (Sterling Epicure, $18) is probably the best one-volume wine book available. That means it’s worth buying, whether for beginning wine drinker or cranky wine critic. Plus, Zraly’s memoir is scheduled to be published in the next year or so, chronicling his 40 years in the wine business.

Chateau La Tour Carnet ($38) is a red Bordeaux that offers quality but doesn’t cost a fortune, given the prices of red Bordeaux. This French blend, more cabernet sauvignon than merlot, combines modern winemaking with traditional Bordeaux style and terroir. Older vintages like the 2010, which may be more expensive, will especially show that combination. This is the red wine for someone who thinks cabernet begins and ends in the Napa Valley.

The L’Conti Blanquette ($15) is sparkling wine from the Limoux region of France, and tastes nothing like any other French sparkling wine. It’s probably closer to Spanish cava, with lemon and green apple fruit. Plus, you can tell people you tasted a wine made with the mauzac grape. Highly recommended.

• Those who know Italian wine find refosco, a red from northern Italy, to be an acquired tasted. I’ve acquired it, and you’l find quality in refosco from $10 to $20. The Tenuta Luisa ($20) is dark but also bright; a little savory but also a little spicy. It’s more interesting than the less expensive versions, and surprisingly available.

• My new weakness is white wine from Spain’s Basque region made with the hondarrabi zuri grape, most costing around $20. The labels include the phrase “Getariako Txakolina,” which is the name of the region. I haven’t had one yet that wasn’t well-made — almost herbal, with citrus and stone fruit, a little fizz, and some minerality — but not sweet. This is about as far from chardonnay as you can get.

More holiday wine gift guides:
• Holiday wine gift guide 2017
• Holiday wine gift guide 2016
• Holiday wine gift guide 2015

Mini-reviews 115: Rioja, German rose, Youngberg, Umani Rochi

german 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. This month: a German rose, plus Oregon pinot noir, a Rioja, and an Italian white for Black Friday 2018

Vallobera Rioja Crianza 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): Heavy, old-fashioned Spanish red that isn’t very interesting – sweet cherry fruit, not much orange peel or earth, and almost flabby. Very disappointing. Imported by Evaki

Villa Wolf Pinot Noir Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 11.5%): This German pink is sweet (not quite white zinfandel, but noticeable) and fizzy, with almost crisp cherry fruit. Neither sweet nor fizzy is a bad thing, and there will be people who will like it. But not for anyone expecting a dry rose. Imported by Loosen Bros. USA

Youngberg Hill Pinot Noir Jordan Block 2014 ($49, sample, 14%): This is a well-made wine, and the winemakers apparently accomplished what they were trying to do – an Oregon pinot noir that is heavier and more California in style than Oregon. It doesn’t have any brambly fruit, but more concentrated, rich black fruit.

Umani Rochi Villa Bianchi 2016 ($9, purchased, 12%): This Italian white is not quite $9 worth of wine – very tart (citrus fruit?), too simple, and not crisp or fresh enough to balance the tartness.

Expensive wine 114: Alberto Nanclares Dandelion Albarino 2016

nanclares dandelion albarinoThe Nanclares Dandelion albarino is not only worth what it costs, buts shows how stunning an albarino can be

The Wine Curmudgeon paid $23 for the Nanclares Dandelion albarino, and I will pay it again. And again. And again. It’s not only worth the money, but it’s one of the best albarinos I’ve ever tasted. It puts most of those $17 and $18 albarinos – which sell only because the grape has become hip and with it – to shame.

The Nanclares Dandelion albarino ($23, purchased, 13..5%) is savory and salty in a way that other albarinos can only dream about, even though that’s one of their reasons for being. The albarino grape, used to make this white wine, is grown in the Rias Baizas in on Spain’s Atlantic coast, and it’s accepted as fact that the location lends an oceany, almost saline flavor to the wine.

Most albarinos, including several highly regarded ones, focus on tart lemon fruit, and the savory character is a second thought. In this wine, though, the lemon fruit is in the background. That means the wine isn’t as tart, and has a much richer mouth feel. In all, more complex, more subtle, and more enjoyable

Highly recommended, and especially for a holiday celebration with shrimp, lobster, and even turkey. This is yet another wine that proves that prices can make a difference when the winemaker makes wine for the consumer and not for scores.

Imported by Llaurador Wines

 

Expensive wine 113: Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Justin Cabernet SauvignonThe Justin cabernet sauvignon shows off Paso Robles’ terroir in an enjoyable and value-oriented approach

The Justin cabernet sauvignon is so approachable and so well put together that I had to look twice at the label. Could this really be a red wine from the Paso Robles region of California, which is best known for ripe, almost over the top efforts?

It is, and is yet another label from Justin that shows off the wine and not the winemaker. In this, the Justin cabernet sauvignon ($27, sample, 14%) does something I wish more high-end California producers did: Make wine and not points. This vintage shows it’s possible to to combine Paso Robles’ rich, full style with wine that most of us will enjoy drinking.

Call the Justin cabernet sauvignon a surprisingly well mannered Paso Robles cabernet. That means structure, with aromas of cedar, mint, and green herbs, and flavors of rich black fruit. The tannins are soft, but they’re there, so they balance all that fruit. Perhaps most surprising? That the wine is still quite young, and will get deeper and more complex as it ages. It’s amazing how interesting a wine can be when the producer takes the terroir into account.

Highly recommended, and a value at this price. And yes, it’s even a Thanksgiving wine, and especially if the alternative is a sweet, insipid, 14.5 percent pinot noir that costs $35.

 

Expensive wine 112: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2015

Chateau Montelena ChardonnayThe Chateau Montelena chardonnay remains classic California white wine

The Big Guy and I were drinking pricey California chardonnay, which is probably worth a blog post all by itself given our devotion to white Burgundy. The point here, though, is that the wines we tasted, which included the Chateau Montelena chardonnay, reminded us that California producers can make some of the best wine in the world.

The Chateau Montelena chardonnay ($48, purchased, 13.5%) remains the kind of California wine that helped earn the world’s attention at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. It’s elegant and balanced, without the too much of one thing or another that makes me crazy when I taste high-end California chardonnay. Yes, some of my colleagues may consider this a fuddy-duddy approach to winemaking, but it’s their problem if they can’t appreciate grace and virtuosity.

What makes the Chateau Montelena chardonnay so classic? Taste this – even just one sip – and you can tell it’s Napa Valley chardonnay. That means more fruit (a lovely, barely ripe green apple) and an undercurrent of minerality, as well as layers of structure. The oak is decidedly New World, but it isn’t over the top and will integrate into the wine over the next several years.

Highly recommended. This is a delicious wine that will only get better over the next five years and could last even longer.

Expensive wine 111: Pehu Simonet Champagne Face Nord Extra Brut NV

Pehu SimonetThe Pehu Simonet is quality Champagne, but not necessarily the kind of Champagne that you’re used to drinking

These days, when Champagne is sold in grocery stores and retailers like World Market, it’s often difficult to remember what all the fuss is supposed to about. Bubbly with toilet paper and rag rugs? Hardly the luxury profile that the Champagne business wants for its product. But that’s where something like the Pehu Simonet figures in.

The Pehu Simonet ($50, purchased, 12.5%) is a remarkable wine, a bubbly from a small family producer that shows off the region’s diversity and quality. In this, it demonstrates that not all Champagne has to taste like Veuve Clicquot.

Call it beguiling, but not for everyone; missing is the brioche and caramel of more commercial bottlings. But it also isn’t made in the fruit and acid-driven style driven style of something like Ruinart, which I enjoy every much. For one thing, the Pehu Simonet is drier than most bubbly (extra brut is more dry than brut, which is the usual designation for a dry sparkling wine). For another, to quote the importer’s tasting notes, the palate is “surprisingly rugged, kind of like skirt steak.”

I don’t know that I’d go quite that far, but you get the idea. There is green apple fruit, almost ripe, and it does eventually show through the wine’s impressive and almost unending minerality. This is Champagne to be considered as much as it is to be enjoyed, and I wasn’t prepared for that when I first tasted it. Halfway through the bottle, though, I was finally beginning to understand what was going on. And I was glad I made the effort.

Imported by Skurnik Wines

Expensive wine 110: Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris Dundee Hills 2016

Eyrie Vineyards pinot grisThe Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris is substantial, age-worthy, and delicious – who cares what score it got?

How useless are scores? The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris got 88 points on Cellar Tracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software). Just 88 points for one of the best-made wines I’ve tasted in my life? So yes, past useless.

The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris ($22, purchased, 12.5%) is a dazzling Oregon white that doesn’t rely on showy limeade fruit to make its point. Rather, it’s about spice and white pepper, a full and complex mouth feel, and layers and layers of subtlety. In this, what fruit there is (lime peel?) is just one of its many attributes.

But why not? The Lett family behind Eyrie has been making Oregon wine for as long as there has been Oregon wine, and every Eyrie wine I’ve ever tasted reflects their history and passion. This is a substantial wine, as “important” as any chardonnay is in the foolish hierarchy that is part of how wines are scored. Or, as a nationally known expert once told a judging panel I was on: “If it isn’t cabernet, chardonnay, or pinot noir, it doesn’t get a gold medal.”

Highly recommended – not only one of the pinot gris I’ve ever tasted, but a steal at this price. This is a substantial wine that will age for maybe a decade, but is delicious now. Pair this with roasted or grilled seafood and chicken dishes (no heavy sauces), and marvel at what second-generation owner Jason Lett has accomplished.