Category:Red wine

Tasting five really expensive wines

image And each was impressive — not just to me, but to the other 56 people in the room. But impressive is only part of the story.

The tasting was a promotion for Terlato Family Vineyards, which produces a red Napa blend called Angel’s Peak. We tasted the 2004 vintages of Angel’s Peak and five of Napa’s biggest names: Silver Oak, Insignia, Opus One, Episode (another Terlato product), and Dominus. The idea? Taste each wine blind, so we weren’t swayed by price or reputation — and then see which wine that a knowledgeable group of drinkers enjoyed the most.

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Wine of the week: Peirano Estate Petite Sirah 2006

Ask someone from Napa what they think of Lodi, and you’ll get a snicker. “Oh, do they make wine up there?”

Which is one reason why the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys wine from Lodi so much, and especially wine from Peirano Estate. Regular visitors might know Peirano from The Other, the winery’s red and white blends.

Peirano, and Lodi wines in general, are well-made, offer value, and aren’t pretentious. Case in point is the petite sirah ($15). Petite sirah is related to syrah, but has its own character and flavor. It’s a little deeper and the fruit flavors aren’t quite as jammy. The Peirano has lots of deep, dark rich plummy flavor, but it’s not as overwhelming as a shiraz. You can even drink on its own, though it’s better with food. Serve this with pizza with tomato sauce and sausage, for example, or grilled hamburgers with lots grilled onions and mushrooms.

Tuesday tidbits

? Cheap Chilean wine: Spend any time with Chilean winemakers, and you notice two things. First, how young everyone in the business is, and second, that the inexpensive wines are so well made. Case in point: Calina, some very nice $8 wine from a company affiliated with Kendall-Jackson, made by winemaker Marcela Chandia. I didn’t ask (politeness, of course), but she graduated from college in 1999, which means she probably isn’t 30 yet. I was especially impressed by the chardonnay, with more fruit than oak, and the carmenere.

? Rosenblum update: Top zinfandel producer Kent Rosenblum reports that he will stay with his winery for three years after it was bought by massive Diageo. Rosenblum told the San Francisco Chronicle that Diageo was clear that it wouldn’t make big changes. “They want to keep the culture,” he said.

image ? Paul Newman wines: Yes, that Paul Newman. His Newman’s Own food company has released a California cabernet and chardonnay, about $16 each. The project is a joint venture with Rebel Wine, which is affiliated with Three Thieves, best known for the quality wine it sells in jugs and juice boxes.

Wine of the week: Torreoria 2006

People often ask how I can tell whether a wine is good, especially inexpensive wines. And the best answer I can give is to paraphrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, who was discussing obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

And, literally, that’s what happens. I take a sip, and I know. The quality of the wine does all the work. That was the case with this $8 red, a tempranillo from the Utiel-Requena region of Valencia, which is hardly Spain’s best known wine area. But this is one of the best cheap wines I’ve had in a long time. It’s not as sophisticated as a Rioja, even an inexpensive one. And the cherry fruit was a bit muted and it was a little too vanilla-y. But this is nitpicking. I paired it with grilled Cornish hen, and it worked like a charm. This wine is a terrific value, and is almost certain to enter the $10 Hall of Fame in 2009.

What about $6 wine?

image One of the things that I always tell my students (or anyone else, for that matter) is never to judge wine before you’ve tasted it. There might be many reasons to be skeptical — price, alcohol content, the grapes it’s made with, producer — but none of that matters until you take the first sip.

So what did I do when I received samples of BV’s Century Cellars line? Stuck it in the back of the wine closet, figuring it couldn’t be any good because it only cost $6 a bottle.

Shows how much I know.

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Wine of the week: Sanford Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2005

image Regular visitors to this space know that the Wine Curmudgeon hates overpriced wine — and that way too many wines that cost more than $10 are overpriced. So when he finds something that is expensive and fabulous, he swoons. Or as close as he can come to swooning.

The Sanford is among the best pinots made in California, and Sanford makes some of the best pinot noirs in the world. Hence, $45 is not a stretch. The wine has a bit of a red Burgundy nose and flavor, which is more rustic than those from California and Oregon. But it also has terrific California-style fruit (think cherry and raspberry), without any of the candied flavors of too many other U.S. pinots.

Drink this by itself (I shared it on a Sunday with several people who came over to talk away the afternoon) or with any classic pinot food, be it duck or beef braised in red wine.

Wine review: Viu Manent Reserva Carmenere 2005

Carmenere is the national grape of Chile, but unlike tempranillo (Spain) and malbec (Argentina), you don’t see much of it, even in Chile. This is too bad, because in the right hands, it makes top-flight wine.

Such as this one. I had my doubts before I tasted it, despite Vii Manent’s reputation for producing top-notch quality, inexpensive wine. Carmenere can be that difficult to work with. But I should have trusted the winery, because this wine is not only amazingly well-made, but quite a value at $14. It’s rich and dark, with more plummy and mocha flavors than the dark fruits of merlot or cabernet. Plus, the tannins — that harshness in the back — were so smooth that I almost missed them. It’s a welcome respite from much of the too jammy, over the top New World red wine that I have to taste.

How much did I like it? I’d not only buy it, but I’d buy more than one bottle at a time.