Category:Wine reviews

Expensive wine, March edition: Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2006

image And, believe it or not, a fine value. At around $35, it ?s less than one-half the cost of more expensive Sauzets and a steal compared to many California chardonnays at that price,

Sauzet is one of the world ?s great producers, and its specialty is white Burgundy ? chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. This is what ?s called AOC Burgundy. The grapes don ?t come from one specific part of Burgundy, like Puligny-Montrachet or Mersault, but from throughout the region. This almost always means the wine will be less expensive, and it ?s about the only kind of wine from Burgundy that is reasonably affordable.

And, since it ?s Sauzet, it is more than well made. This is classic Sauzet in style, and if it isn ?t as rich and luxurious as the producer ?s Puligny, it will do. Look for crisp green apple aromas and flavor and well structured oak. This is a classy wine and highly recommended. Buy it for a birthday or anniversary gift, and sip it slowly. It ?s ready to drink now, and should get deeper and more interesting over the next couple of years.

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Wine review: Milbrandt Pinot Gris 2007

image A couple of years ago, Butch Milbrandt, who makes this wine, was in Dallas on a publicity tour. We tasted through the winery ?s offerings, all of which were solid, well-made efforts. I especially liked the riesling and the pinot gris. So, Butch, I asked, when am I going to be able to write about these wines? Because you know, I can ?t write about them unless they ?re available in Dallas. We ?re working on it, he said.

So, two years later, I finally have my chance. It ?s in a couple of smaller stores and a few restaurants (which I ?ll write about next month for Dallas ? Advocate magazines). The point, of course, is why did I have to wait so long to write about such a nice wine? Ah, the travails of availability.

Butch and brother Jerry are well-known Washington state grape growers whose  foray into production side of the business produced this pinot gris (about $15). It ?s fruity (pears, perhaps?) with a long, minerally finish. It ?s salad and porch-sipping wine ? not just for the end of winter, but as the weather warms up.

For more on wine availability and its problems:

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS Red 2007

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This red wine blend from Washington state has been a steady, dependable $10 effort since at least the early 1990s. I remember buying it on one of the first Internet wine sites, the late Virtual Vineyard. And why did I have to buy it on-line? Because availability was limited.

It ?s still not easy to find (and its white blend cousin, also called CMS, is even more difficult to locate). Why? Who knows? Just know that you should try it if you see it. CMS is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah ? moderate alcohol, pleasant dark berry fruit, some structure and tannins, and solid value. I tasted it against a $25 petite sirah, and there was no comparison. The CMS was a more interesting wine in every way.

Drink this with any hearty late winter dish, like stuffed bell peppers. And be sure to ask your local retailer why he or she doesn ?t carry it.

For more on wine availability and its problems:

Yes, anyone can write a wine review

The Wine Curmudgeon has always insisted that he is not better or cooler or neater than anyone else. Because I'm not. I just drink more wine. Writing about wine is not rocket science, even though so many people try to convince us that it is.

As proof, I offer this one-paragraph gem from Elyse Symons, a regular visitor here. It pretty much says everything that needs to be said.

?JanKris 2003 Syrah: Meh. When distracted it's OK, but when I'm actually paying attention to what I'm drinking it's like someone took really great grape juice and added a bottle of vodka. Ick. ?

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Wine review: Bad Dog Ranch Chardonnay 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon is writing about this not just because it ?s quaffable $10 wine, but because it is a product of the legendary and notorious Bronco Wine Company.

Bronco is Fred Franzia ?s wine company ? or, as one magazine called him, The Scourge of Napa Valley. Bronco, by one reckoning, produces more than 60 brands, including Two Buck Chuck, Napa Ridge, and Salmon Creek. The Bronco philosophy, apparently, is to make as much wine as possible, charge a price that pleases the consumer and gives Bronco a fair return while thumbing its nose at the wine business.

So how does the Bad Dog (about $10) fit in all of that? There was not a damn thing wrong with it, and believe me, I was looking. The wine had decent, bright fruit and it wasn ?t over-oaked at all. And, at just 12 1/2 percent alcohol, it was less heavy than a lot of chardonnay I have to taste. Drink this with Tuesday night Chinese takeout or if you want a glass of white wine after work.

The catch? There is no guarantee the wine will taste like this next year or that it will even exist. Bronco, apparently, makes wine when it can get fruit. No grapes that fit the pricing strategy, no wine. There doesn ?t seem to have been a 2006 Bad Dog chardonnay.

Wine of the week: Greg Norman California Estates Chardonnay 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon, thanks to a childhood spent carrying golf bags, is not especially fond of golf. But in my eternal quest for well-made cheap wine, I try not to let personal dislikes interfere. Which is a good thing, because this brand is the brainchild of professional golfer Greg Norman.

The Norman (about $11) is a solid, well-made California chardonnay. It ?s not as fruity as something like Kendall Jackson, and it ?s a little more tropical. It also has more oak. But the oak isn ?t overdone, and this wine would probably please those of us who like our oak restrained as well as those of you who live for oaky and toasty.

Serve this with any typical chardonnay meal, including cream sauces. And it would be fine by itself before dinner.

Wine review: Corbett Canyon Merlot NV

image Ultra-cheap wine presents a dilemma. At what point is the wine so cheap that quality doesn ?t matter and that it becomes nothing more than an alcohol delivery system, devoid of any pleasure except for the buzz that it provides?

That ?s why the Wine Curmudgeon is so hard on these wines, which can roughly be defined as those that cost less than $6 a bottle. Cheap whiskey is for getting drunk. Wine ? even inexpensive wine — is for enjoyment.

Which is why I was intrigued by the Corbett Canyon, which won the Best of Class for Merlots below $15 at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The competition included some perfectly acceptable wines, including Red Truck, Cycles Gladiator, Mondavi Private Selection and Wente. The Corbett Canyon is $10 for a 3-liter box, or about $2.50 a bottle.

It ?s certainly worth that, and even a bit more. Don ?t expect a lot of depth or sophistication, and if this wine saw any oak it was a passing glance. But the Corbett Canyon tastes like merlot, and it ?s not too jammy or fruity in the way other cheap merlots are. The tannins are even pleasant. Drink it on its own or with any red wine foods.

The biggest problem is the box. It ?s not easy to get the spigot out of the side of the box, and, if you ?re not careful, the spigot leaks. Make sure to turn the knob hard to the left to shut off the flow.