Category:Red wine

Expensive wine 129: Bonny Doon X-Block Syrah 2013

x-block syrahThe Bonny Doon X-Block syrah is magnificent California red wine, combining the Old World with the New World

Those of us who love savory syrah – that is, where the wine is earthy and funky instead of being stuffed with sweet fruit, like the Australians do it – were especially sad when Boony Doon’s Randall Grahm sold his legendary winery at the beginning of the year. Grahm was famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) for many things, but I don’t think he ever got enough credit for wines like the Bonny Doon X-Block syrah.

Grahm was able to combine an Old World approach to syrah with California’s riper and richer fruit. In this, the Bonny Doon X-Block syrah ($48, purchased, 13.5%) is an amazing wine – funky enough for those of us who want that, but fruity enough so as not to turn off people who think funky is a slang term 50 years out of date.

The X-Block is a step up from Grahm’s Le Pousseur syrah, which costs about half the price. But it’s more than worth the added expense: There’s the smoked meat, bacon-y aroma, a bit of pepper and spice, soft tannins, and full, rich black fruit. Open the wine about an hour before you drink it, and serve it with anything beefy or smoky or both. In addition, it’s still young and should age for at least a couple of more years.

Highly recommended, and just the gift for someone who likes savory syrah, what with the Holiday that Must not be Named coming up later this week. So long, Randall. It was a hell of a ride.

Wine of the week: Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo 2017

Cavaliere d'Oro PrimitivoThe Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo is an Italian red that tastes like an Italian red and not a California wannabe

Primitivo is an Italian red grape, usually identified as zinfandel even though they’re not exactly the same thing. But that hasn’t stopped countless Italian producers from hopping on the California zinfandel bandwagon, producing wines that don’t taste much Italian but do please a certain Baby Boomer palate. So where does the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo fit into this?

It tastes like primitivo.

Which, honestly, was the last thing I was counting on when I picked up the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo ($12, purchased, 13.5%). I bought the wine because I buy wine, even though I’m not sure I’m going to like it. Such are the demands of the blog.

But the Cavaliere d’Oro Primitivo was all it should be, and probably even a little more. It’s easily one of the best primitivos I’ve tasted, in that it didn’t taste like badly-made zinfandel. It was fruity (dark berries, plum), but there was much more – a touch of cocoa, some nicely done oak, tannins that offered just enough structure, and all in a well-rounded whole. Highly recommended.

Imported by TWE Imports

Pricing note: All prices are suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariffs unless noted

Mini-reviews 129: Beaujolais, El Circo, El Terrano, gewurtztraminer

BeaujolaisReviews 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.

Domaine Pierre Labet Beaujolais-Villages 2017 ($11, purchased, 12.5%): French red made with gamay that mostly tastes like it should, though I’m surprised it’s not fruitier. It’s not the best example of a Village, but it’s not the worst, either.

El Circo Volatinero 2018 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that doesn’t taste especially Spanish or much like tempranillo. It’s bland and boring – dare I say, “Smooth?” Imported by Seaview Imports

El Terrano Verdejo 2017 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Another cheap white wine from Whole Foods that isn’t worth even the little it costs. Spanish, but thin and watery lemon fruit, and not much else. Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits

Flora & Stone Gewürztraminer NV ($5, purchased, 12%): Aldi private label California white that tastes like gewurtzraminer, but also tastes like it has been sweetened to please a focus group. It mostly tastes like wine, but it could have been so much more enjoyable.

Photo: “Empty wine bottles” by WineCoMN is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Wine of the week: Cantina di Casteggio Barbera 2016

Cantina di Casteggio Barbera

The Cantina di Casteggio Barbera offers much more than $9 worth of value in a tart, leathery style

Barbera grapes produce some of Italy’s best known and best expensive wines. So what’s a barbera doing as a wine of the week?

Because the Wine Curmudgeon can find value even in a grape that produces $80, $90, and $100 wines. The Cantina di Casteggio Barbera is the kind of wine that reminds us that one of Italian wine’s reasons for being is to produce affordable wine to drink with dinner.

The Cantina di Casteggio Barbera ($9, purchased, 13%) is wine for a cold winter night, a fire place, and a house full of rich tomato sauce aromas accentuated with a hint of garlic and the beef braising in the tomatoes. In this, it’s leathery, fruity (black cherry?), agreeably tart, and very Italian – and much more than $9 worth of wine for anyone who appreciates this style.

In fact, it needs food, and would be be a bit off putting without it, being so tart and leathery. But not to worry – it will also work in the summer with barbecue.

Pricing note: All prices are suggested retail or actual purchase price before the October 2019 tariff unless noted

Imported by Premium Brands

Mini-reviews 128: Cleaning out the wine closet, but not finding much to drink

wine closet
I could have sworn there was something interesting to drink in here.

Reviews 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: Cleaning out the wine closet at the end of the year, but not finding much to drink

Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): This French red is about as good as nouveau gets this days — soft and berryish. But the regular Dupeuble is much better and not that much more expensive. Imported by Kermit Lynch

Caldora Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017 ($12, sample, 13%): The Montepulciano d’Abruzzo region in Italy produces sound, value-driven red wines. This is not unpleasant, with some cherry fruit, but it is also a little green and rough, almost old-fashioned. There are better made examples of this kind of wine. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass

Flat Top Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Premiumization run amuck — $8 or $9 worth of a California red (some cabernet tannins and black fruit) but that looks and smells like it went through intensive winemaking to goose up the price.

Kin & Cascadia Pinot Noir 2017 ($15, purchased, 13.5%):  A pleasant, Oregon pinot noir that tastes like it came from Oregon (some brambly berry fruit, a hint of spice). But it costs $15 because that’s what entry level pinot noir costs these days.

Christmas wine 2019

christmas wine 2019Four recommendations for Christmas wine 2019

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2019, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind — don’t overlook the blog’s 2019 holiday gift guide.

These will get you started:

Sierra Cantabria Rosado 2018 ($12, purchased, 13%): This Spanish pink does all it should for the price — a little orangish red fruit and it’s stony and crisp, as well. It’s worth noting once again that Spanish rose is among the best values in the world when governments aren’t playing tariff games. Imported by Fine Estates from Spain

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc CNW 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This California white is exceptional, but I have no idea how much it costs — prices range from $10 to $17.  It’s just not well-made and varietally correct chenin (crisp, with lime and tropical fruit, but it’s a wonderful food wine. If you can find it for $15 or less, buy several.

Juvé y Camps Brut Rose NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): This pink Spanish sparkler is a perennial favorite — always professional and enjoyable. This version is more cava-like (even though it’s made from pinot noir), so more tart red fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Winebow

Bonny Doon Clos de Gilroy 2018 ($16, purchased, 14%): This California red from Randall Grahm isn’t as grenache-y as past vintages — so less jammy fruit and more spice. It’s different and interesting, and a fine food wine. Plus, probably still a touch young.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2018
Christmas wine 2017
Christmas wine 2016
Wine of the week: CVNE Rioja Cune Crianza 2015
Expensive wine 126: Patricia Green Pinot Noir Reserve 2017

Photo: “time to bring out the good wine” by rockyradio is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

 

Wine of the week: Santa Julia Malbec Organica 2019

Santa Julia MalbecThe Santa Julia Malbec Organica is Argentine malbec that delivers much more than expected

What does one do when government feuding makes French and Spanish wine, normally the best values in the world, too expensive for the blog? Look toward Argentina and the Santa Julia Malbec Organica.

The Santa Julia Malbec Organica ($10, sample, 13.5%) is almost everything most Argenine malbecs are not. That means it isn’t cloying, devoid of character, and amped up on sweet fruit at the expense of everything else. Which means a well-made, fruity (zippy berries?) wine, where the tannins are soft but serviceable. In all, a balanced, pleasant, and professional effort, and the kind we sorely need in these trying days.

But why not? Santa Julia is the organic label from Familia Zuccardi, a top Argentine producer that has appeared on the blog many times over the years. Its wines are almost always a solid choice when one is in a supermarket and confused about what to buy.

Serve this on its own if you want a glass of wine after work, or with everything from spaghetti and meatballs to takeout burgers.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.