Category:Red wine

Wine of the week: Stephen Vincent Crimson 2016

Stephen Vincent CrimsonThe Stephen Vincent Crimson is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine

Call this wine of the week, the Stephen Vincent Crimson, a bit of serendipity – a $12 California red wine that doesn’t taste like it has been tarted up, dumbed down, or manipulated to please a focus group.

The Stephen Vincent Crimson ($12, purchased, 13.9%) is a red field blend (mostly petite sirah this vintage), which means it’s made with whatever grapes are available that year. The 2016 offers ripe cherry aromas and lots of dark berry flavors, but finishes bone dry.

That it was dry was actually surprising, since the fruit was so ripe and because so many sweet reds pass themselves off as dry these days. In fact, I kept swallowing, over and over, figuring that the cotton candy sign of residual sugar would eventually show up in the back of my mouth.

But it never did. And that that’s a sign of how well made the Stephen Vincent Crimson is. In addition, most wines of this style and at this price wouldn’t bother with tannins or acidity. But there are tannins, are soft but noticeable, and the acidity is just below the surface, tempering the fruit.

This is an excellent example of that vanishing California breed, a well-made and enjoyable cheap red wine (and you can even drink it slightly chilled). Pair this with barbecue as summer winds down, or even something a little spicy, like pork chops tandoori. That’s what I did, and it was one of this summer’s great wine dinners.

Expensive wine 123: Long Meadow Ranch Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2016

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir shows California’s Anderson Valley to its best advantage

My friend, the New Orleans wine judge, critic, and radio host Tim McNally, regularly rants about the decline in pinot noir quality and value. Tim would rant less if he tasted the Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir.

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir ($40, sample, 13%) is red wine from California’s Anderson Valley, one of the world’s great – if less known – pinot noir regions. The best Anderson Valley pinot noirs are more restrained than many of their New World colleagues, sitting somewhere between France’s Burgundy and Oregon in style. Which is a damn fine place to sit.

The Long Meadow Ranch pinot noir is classic Anderson Valley pinot – earthy with spice and green herbs in the front, almost silky dark berry fruit, elegant tannins (perhaps the most interesting part of the wine), and wonderfully restrained oak. All in all, this is a New World pinot noir that isn’t too big or too overpowering, yet still tastes like the New World and not a lesser Burgundian knockoff.

Highly recommended, and given the price of very ordinary California pinot, a fine value. Drink it with any sort of lamb (crusted with a garlic and herb paste, perhaps?) or a Mediterranean vegetable platter marinated with herbs, garlic, and olive oil.

Wine of the week: Cortijo Tinto 2016

cortijo tintoThe Cortijo Tinto is is another reminder that Spain’s Roija produces some of the world’s best red wine — cheap, expensive and everywhere in between

The Wine Curmudgeon has watched in horror this summer as several of Dallas leading retailers stuffed much too old vintages of cheap wine on their shelves. How about a $10 white Bordeaux from 2011?. They’re playing off the consumer perception that old wine is better wine; in fact. most old cheap wine is vinegar. Unless, of course, it’s something like the Cortijo Tinto.

The Cortijo Tinto ($10, sample, 13.5%) is a Spanish red made with tempranillo from the Rioja, which produces some of the world’s best red wine, cheap, expensive and everywhere in between. The Cortijo is no exception – that it can provide so much interest and character, despite the vintage, speaks to the quality of Rioja, the producer, and the importer.

Look for lots of dark fruit (blackberries?), but where the fruit doesn’t overwhelm what Rioja wines are supposed to be like. That means a bit of floral aroma, some spice, a bit of smokiness on the finish, and just enough in the way of tannins to hold everything together.

This is one of my favorite wines to keep around the house, so I know I’ll have something worth drinking when I feel like a glass of red wine. It’s fine on its own (you can even chill it a touch), and it pairs with almost everything except delicate fish.

Imported by Ole Imports

Mini-reviews 123: Sauvignon blanc, Trader Joe’s merlot, chambourcin, mencia

Trader Joe'sReviews 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.

Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Autoritas 2018 ($8, purchased, 12%): Something very odd going on with this Chilean white — either that, or lots of winemaking to get it to some point I can’t figure out. Not especially Chilean in style, with barely ripe grapes and almost no fruit at all — just some California style grassiness. Imported by Pacific Highway

Trader Joe’s Merlot Grower’s Reserve 2017 ($6, purchased, 13%): This California red, a Trader Joe’s private label, is a bit thin on the back and a little too tart. Plus, the residual sugar shows up after three or four sips. Having said that, it’s easily one of the most drinkable and varietally correct wines I’ve had from TJ — for what that’s worth.

Oliver Winery Creekbend Chambourcin 2016 ($22, sample, 13.4%): Professionally made and varietally correct, this Indiana red shows how far regional wine has come. I wish it showed more terroir and less winemaking — it too much resembles a heavier wine like a cabernet sauvignon and it doesn’t need this much oak.

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%): There are quality grapes in this Spanish red, which is the best thing about it. Otherwise, it’s a very subdued approach to the mencia grape, taking out much of the darkness, earth, and interest. And $17 is problematical.

Photo: “Coburg wine cellar tour” by hewy is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 

Expensive wine 122: Ridge Lytton Springs 2016

ridge lytton springsThe Ridge Lytton Springs zinfandel blend speaks to quality and value in the finest California tradition

The premiumization debate should not obscure the fact that there are expensive wines that deliver value and quality. Perhaps the foremost of those is anything from Ridge, the California producer that has been the watchword of the faith for anyone who believes in value and quality. As evidence, we have the Ridge Lytton Springs.

The Ridge Lytton Springs ($45, purchased, 14.4%) reminds us of everything that is possible with California wine. It speaks to terroir and to Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley and its particular style of earthiness. It speaks to aging – this wine, ready and delicious now, has at least a decade of life in it, when it will become rounder and less ripe and much more interesting.

Best yet, as with all Ridge wines, it shows the rich, ripe style of California, but done with structure and and almost elegance. Look for dark fruit (black cherry? black raspberry?), a wonderfully peppery middle, and one of best uses of oak I’ve tasted in years on the finish. Plus, the tannins are not an afterthought, as with so many zinfandels (even expensive ones), but an integral part of the wine.

This isn’t a swaggering Lodi zinfandel. The fruit and alcohol aren’t piled on for show, like frat boys seeing who can chug the most beer. Rather, the Ridge Lytton Springs is rich and ripe because zinfandel produces rich and ripe wine. And because it’s a blend (four grapes, including some two-thirds zinfandel and one-quarter petite sirah), winemaker John Olney can use the blending process to make the sum greater than the parts.

Highly recommended. I decanted this about a half hour before dinner, which seemed about right. It’s a food wine, but not just red meat. I served it with roasted pork shoulder studded with rosemary and garlic, which worked more than well.

Wine of the week: Zestos Old Vine Garnacha 2017

Zestos Old Vine GarnachaThe Zestos Old Vine Garnacha, a Spanish red, remains one of the world’s great wine values

One of the hallmarks of a great wine, regardless of price, is consistency – does it offer quality and value every vintage, while remaining true to its terroir and varietal? Which is exactly what the Spanish Zestos Old Vine Garnacha does.

That was true with the 2013 vintage, and it’s just as true for this one. The Zestos Old Vine Garnacha ($10, sample, 14%) shows off the fruit, but doesn’t overwhelm the wine drinker. That’s not easy to do with cheap garnacha.

Look for red fruit (cherry? berries?), but it’s not too jammy, which can be a problem with garnacha. There’s even a trace of minerality, and the bit of oak that seems to lurking in the background should fade as the wine ages. In this, it’s lively and juicy and everything I hope for in great $10 wine. But what else we expect from an importer as brilliant as Ole Imports?

The Zestos will complement almost any kind of food, tapas or otherwise. And you could even chill it a bit, and it would be fine its own on a lazy weekend afternoon. Highly recommended, and almost certain to appear in the 2020 $10 Hall of Fame – and it’s a candidate for the 2020 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Wine of the week: Peterson Shameless Fifth Edition

Peterson shamelessThe Petersen Shameless is a terrific California red blend that most of us can’t buy – thank you, three-tier system

Today, on the day before Independence Day, the blog offers a wine of the week that most of us can’t buy, the Peterson Shameless. That’s because the three-tier system’s stranglehold on consumers deprives us of the independence to buy the wines we want, like the Shameless. Instead, we’re forced to buy the wines the second tier – the wholesalers – decide we can buy.

The Peterson Shameless ($15, sample, 14.2%) is a non-vintage red blend from California. It’s a field blend, where the grapes change with each bottling depending on what’s available and what fits the winemaker’s mood. In the fifth edition, that means nine grapes, though about one-half are barbera. The result is ripe red fruit (cherry and a sort of tart berry thing) that leads to a rich, almost soft mouth feel and wonderfully creamy tannins. It’s a terroir driven wine, something that is difficult to find at this price in California, and quite enjoyable (and especially for people who like this style).

And, unfortunately, difficult to buy even though it screams July 4 barbecues. That’s because Peterson is a small winery and doesn’t make enough of the Shameless to interest one of the mega-distributors that dominate the market. Hence, no clout to get on store shelves and probably not available outside of parts of California. Yes, you can buy it from the winery, but only if your state allows direct shipping – and most still don’t.

Call this post the Wine Curmudgeon’s contribution to the on-going debate about the the three-tier system. Yes, progress was made last week, but we still have a long way to go – as the Peterson Shameless demonstrates.