Category:Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

image Time was, the Avalon was $10. The Wine Curmudgeon used to drink it by the case, buy it for visiting wine types and make them guess how much it cost (one of these days I’ll have to share the story about the Avalon and the visiting Australian wine marketer), and recommend it at every opportunity.

It’s not $10 any more (closer to $15, though you can find it for $12 every once in a while). But it’s still one of the best values in the wine world, with almost all of the rich, fruity character of Napa cabernet at one-half to one-third the price.

How does Avalon do it? For one thing, the company only makes cabernet. For another, it doesn’t own land or  touristy production facilities. It’s based on the French negociant model, which allows it to keep costs — and prices — down.

Serve this with a Father’s Day barbecue. Or buy a case and toast Dad with it throughout the year.

Wine of the week: Hey Mambo Sultry Red 2006

imageSimple, fruity red blends from California are not what they once were. This is upsetting, because  the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates simple and fruity wines quite a bit. Not every occasion requires a $50 bottle of wine. But prices for simple, fruity red blends have gone up or quality has gone down, or both, in the last couple of years.

The Mambo (about $13), though, has remained consistently satisfying. It's a six-grape blend (no cabernet sauvignon or merlot, thankfully) that offers dark fruit and medium tannins. Serve it with Italian food, hamburgers or anything else that requires a simple, fruity wine.

And yes, it has a silly closure called a zork that does seem to do the job — and without need of a corkscrew.

Wine of the week: Solaz Blanco 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon has a closet full of free wine, samples from producers who want me to try their stuff and write about it. But I use my money to buy Solaz — and a lot of it. And why is that?

Because it's cheap, around $7. And it's well-made. And it tastes good. What more can a wine drinker ask for?

Solaz, as regular visitors here know, is the wonderfully inexpensive wine brand from Spain's Osborne, one of my favorite producers. The various red blends have long been in the $10 Wine Hall of Fame, and the white has been in a couple of years. It's made from the viura grape, a mostly Spanish varietal that produces clean, crisp and floral wines with just a bit of apple fruit. Serve this chilled with salads (I had it the other night with a chef's salad with Russian dressing), Mediterranean food like hummus or bulgur salad, or on its own.

Wine of the week: Raats Original Chenin Blanc 2007

image South African wine doesn’t get a lot of respect, and sometimes deservedly so. So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds one that is well-made, inexpensive and food friendly, it’s a reason to write about it.

The Original uses a grape that is too often mishandled in South Africa, producing sweet, uninteresting wines. Raats, on the other hand, treats the grape seriously, and turns out a dry, refreshing wine that is fruity (think pineapple and orange) and even has some minerality on the finish. It’s a lot to expect from a $12 wine.

Serve this chilled with salads, Thai food (though it’s not sweet, it’s fruity enough to stand up to spice) or on its own.

Wine of the week: Chateau LesTuileries Rouge 2005

image Most wine drinkers see Bordeaux as a great black hole made up of wine speak, unimaginably high prices, and an incredibly complex system of chateaux and classifications.

Which makes this wine (about $15) all the more welcome. It's a merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend in the classic Bordeaux style, but without any of the pretensions noted above. Classic means it's not a fruit forward popsicle, full of blueberry and cola, like most inexpensive Californa merlots. Rather, it has less fruit, more earthiness, and tastes more interesting. I stumbled on this when I was looking for a red Bordeaux to use for my Cordon Bleu class tastings, and it more than filled the bill.

Serve it with most beef (hamburgers on the grill wouldn't be bad at all) and even some meatier vegetable dishes.

Wine of the week: Escudo Rojo 2006

image Availability is the great challenge in the wine business. This is just as true for inexpensive wines as it is for the limited production, big score, highly-rated cult wines that get so much attention.

Which means you should always keep your eye on a couple of readily available wines that can be found in grocery stores that are food friendly and easy to drink. The Escudo Rojo (about $14), a red blend from Chile, is one such wine.

It’s made with carmenere, which has evolved into the national grape of Chile (after winemakers there thought it was merlot for a century or so). Carmenere is a little softer than merlot, and with a little more herbal quality. Blend it with cabernet sauvignon, syrah and cabernet franc, as is done here, and you get a New World, fruit forward style wine that is also balanced. (And, since this is made by a Rothschild company, you also get 12 months of oak.) Serve this with barbecue or hamburgers.