Category:Regional wine

The 2008 $10 Wine Hall of Fame

Take a peek at the upper left hand corner, and you’ll find the new Hall of Fame.

What makes a Hall of Fame wine? There ?s not necessarily a precise explanation. It ?s better than it should be, and it ?s consistent from year to year, just like more expensive wines with better reputations. That ?s one reason wines have been dropped from the Hall of Fame, and several were this year.

Several other notes:

? These wines are generally available in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, so I don’t have to get involved in the Two Buck Chuck debate. There are no Trader Joe’s in this part of the country.

? I am not enamored of Yellow Tail, which doesn’t rise above the level of grocery store wine. They may represent good value, but they aren’t Hall of Fame wines.

? I ?m still searching for that terrific $10 Argentine malbec. Most of the malbec I ?ve tasted in this country is $15 or so; good wines, certainly, but not eligible for the Hall of Fame.

? And there is no pinot noir in the U.S. for less than $10 that is Hall worthy. The French labels like Red Bicyclette and Lulu B are easy to drink, but not especially pinot like. And most of the $10 U.S. I have tasted has some varietal character, but almost nothing else.

Some wine blogginess for the New Year

? My pal Alfonso Cevola, who tolerates my almost constant request for availability information with a patience that is awe inspiring, is an accomplished wine blogger in his own right — On the Wine Trail in Italy. Alfonso’s effort is ranked 64th in something called 100 Top Wine Blogs, which is damned impressive. He is ranked ahead of a bunch of better-known and very chi chi names.

? Availability — that is, who has the wine I’m writing about? — is  the bane of my existence as a wine writer. One would think that these days, with high-tech inventory systems, real-time inventory scanning and the like, that any retailer would tell at any time if they carried a wine. And one would be wrong. Case in point: A piece in the New York Times business section a couple of weeks ago, detailing vintage and small producer champagnes. Great article about great wine, but unless you live in Manhattan, not much chance to try them,

? What about Virginia sparkling wine? Dave McIntrye recommends Kluge Estate, which he touts as the best bubbly on the East Coast. What about availability, you ask? It has limited national distribution, and I have seen it in the Dallas area.

? Elin McCoy, whose book on Robert Parker is a must read for anyone who cares about wine, notes that 2007 was one of the best years ever for wine auctions. Why does this matter to those of us who don’t buy wine at auction? Because it’s more pressure on wine prices and on producers to make wine that appeals to auction buyers.

Sparkling wine for New Year’s

Keep three things in mind when you're picking sparkling wine and champagne for New Year ?s Eve. 

First, there is plenty of quality wine from places other than France, especially from the New World, Spain and Italy. There is also plenty of quality wine from France that isn't the same old stuff. Please, please try something other than Veuve Clicquot and Nicolas Feuillatte. 

Second, vintage isn't especially important. NV on the label stands for non-vintage ? that is, the grapes used to make the wine come from several years instead of just one. It ?s a common practice, even for the most expensive brands, to ensure quality. 

Third, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be called champagne, thanks to a 2005 trade agreement (though some California brands, like Korbel, are grandfathered in). But if the label says methode champenoise or m thode traditionelle, it was made in the Champagne style 

And cost? There is more than acceptable bubbly at almost every price, and even some expensive wines are good values.

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Wine of the week: McPherson Cellars viognier

I like Kim McPherson. He’s funny, he tells a good story, and he always returns my phone calls. But I’d recommend this wine even if he wasn’t any of those things.

His viognier (about $13) is one of the best examples of what Texas wine can be. It has viognier character, which means it’s a white wine with crisp apple and pear flavors that isn’t as heavy as chardonnay or as citrusy as sauvignon blanc. But the wine doesn’t taste like it was made in California or France, either. It’s lighter and more fruit forward, and it’s easy to drink. Note to wine snobs: Easy to drink is not a crime, but a goal that well-made wine should aspire to.

Serve this with white wine dishes or on its own, chilled to about 55 degrees.

Turkey sandwiches and rose

Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad rose What goes better with leftover turkey than well-made, inexpensive rose?

? McPherson Cellars 2006 ($10): One of the best of a crowd of top-flight Texas roses. It’s softer than a lot of European roses, but still dry.

? Toad Hollow Pinot Noir Rose 2006 ($10): The flagship of the Toad Hollow line, and that’s high praise considering the quality of the wines. It’s dry, fruity and one of the best buys  — of any kind of wine — in the U.S.

? Reserve St. Martin 2006 ($8): Not always easy to find, but classic French rose at a non-classic price.

Texas wine surprises

ImagesMost of us who drink wine in Texas know about Ste. Genevieve, the state ?s largest producer, a company whose bottles are everywhere from convenience stores to high-end wine shops. Some of us know about the most popular wines from some of the most popular wineries, like Messina Hof and Fall Creek. And some of us even know about several excellent smaller wineries, despite the fact that their products aren ?t widely distributed.

But not enough of us know enough about the rest of the wine that ?s available in the state. That ?s because we stick to cabernet, merlot and chardonnay, which are three varietals, frankly, that aren ?t especially representative of the best wine in Texas. For whatever reasons ? timidity, ignorance, and yes, even snobbery ? we won ?t venture far from that cabernet-merlot-chardonnay path.

Which is a shame, because there is a lot of interesting, intriguing and fascinating Texas wine to drink that has nothing to do with those three grapes. Quality in Texas has never been better, and that ?s because more and more wine makers have learned that they can make terrific wine with Italian, Spanish and Mediterranean varietals, with hybrids, and even with fruit like muscadines.

Does this wine taste like it came from California (which, unfortunately, has apparently been one of the goals of Texas industry for far too long)? Nope. And there is nothing wrong with that, since wine made here should not taste like California wine. If it does, what ?s the point of drinking it?

If you know that, then you ?re ready for 10 Texas wines that will surprise you:

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