The Wine Curmudgeon had the fire department at the house last week. Fortunately, there was no need for hoses or axes. But the small electrical fire that required their presence was apparently caused by a power surge that fried the refrigerator ?s compressor.
Which meant I didn ?t have a refrigerator for three days (and the refrigerator-buying experience, and subsequent cost, is probably worth a post one of these days). Which meant I couldn ?t chill any white wine, and so spent 30 or 40 minutes digging through the wine closet to find red wine to drink over the weekend that matched my ?having to buy an unbudgeted refrigerator ? mood. I wanted cheap. I wanted uncomplicated. I wanted well done.
Which is how I stumbled on the Sonoma syrah (about $15). It had fruit (cherry and blackberry, maybe?), but it didn ?t have too much, as so many California syrahs do. The tannins and acid were balanced, and there was even a hint of Rhone-like darkness. The wine is a fine value for the price, and improved my disposition greatly.
Serve this any time your refrigerator goes out, or with red sauces, burgers and even roast chicken.
The Wine Curmudgeon ?s entire reason for being is cheap wine. Anyone can write about the pricey stuff; hell, there ?s an entire industry devoted to the subject called the Wine Magazines. So when I get to chance to taste something that costs more than $10, I pay careful attention.
That ?s what happened last week at a Dallas restaurant, Hector ?s on Henderson, where I shared a bottle of Domaine Amiot Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Desmoiselles 2003.
Knowing importers is as important as knowing producers (and probably worth a blog post of its own one of these days). After all, who can keep track of the thousands of foreign producers, many of whom are small and use another language?
So if you find a wine brought to the U.S. by a company like Kermit Lynch or Robert Kacher, it ?s almost certain to be well made and a fair price. After tasting the Tamari (about $13), I think you can add its importer, Terlato, to that list. The wine, from Argentina, is not especially tannic or harsh, and the dark berry fruit is fresh and lively. Best yet, it ?s not too jammy, as many malbecs at this price are. The Tamarai a step up from the Yellow + Blue, one of my favorite malbecs and a $10 Hall of Fame wine.
Serve this with any red sauce, meat loaf or hamburgers. It ?s even pleasant enough on its own, which I find to be less true of more and more red wines.
Reasons not to like this wine: First, the label, which makes the young woman on the Lulu B. wines look matronly. The Wine Curmudgeon has nothing against sex, but on a wine label? Second, it ?s cheap pinot noir from the Languedoc region of France, which means there ?s a decent chance it won ?t taste like pinot noir. (In fact, so many negociants are producing Languedoc pinots these days that the region has an identifiable style.) Third, I never trust cheap wine that says things about itself like ?richly textured palate ? and ?velvety tannins and well-integrated oak. ?
Which is why one should always taste the wine before one judges it, because the French Maid (about $12) is quality wine. It ?s fruity and berry-ish, but a little fresher and not as fruity or berry-ish as other pinot noirs from the Languedoc. Plus, it has a touch of pinot character that most cheap Languedoc and New World pinots don ?t have.
It ?s light enough to drink as a New Year ?s aperitif or with almost any sort of New Year ?s meal. It ?s also a fine barbecue wine as spring approaches, with everything from hamburgers to smoked chicken.
St. Supery has long been one of my favorite wineries. It delivers value and quality, especially for a Napa producer. Winemaker Michael Beaulac is forthright and open minded, and Michaela Rodeno, who runs the place, is about as sharp as they come.
So, if you feel like a splurge this holiday season, try the oak free chardonnay (about $25). Though it wasn ?t aged in oak, it isn ?t as steely and crisp as other unoaked chardonnays. Rather, there is a richness and depth that ?s impressive, and might even satisfy people who like oak. Look for green apples and a spicy, mineral finish. Pair this with most holiday dinners that don ?t involve red meat, and especially seafood. Oysters would be terrific.
Dancing Bull, when it debuted six or seven years ago, was solid, cheap, quality zinfandel. Then, as will happen with these things, the label (part of the Gallo empire) morphed into two: The more expensive Rancho Zabaco, which focused on zinfandel, and the less expensive Dancing Bull, which became a full line (chardonnay, merlot and the like) of ordinary grocery store stuff.
This was disappointing, since the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates zinfandel, and especially solid, cheap, quality zinfandel. But I ?m happy to report that the current vintage of Dancing Bull zinfandel (about $10) is almost what it used to be. The 2007 isn ?t quite as spicy or brambly as those first bottlings, but it does offer lots of berry fruit, subdued tannins, and, blessedly, relatively low alcohol. You can drink two glasses without the need for a field sobriety test.
Pair this with any hearty winter fare (braised short ribs and garlic mashed potatoes come to mind), as well as zinfandel ?s traditional partners ? spaghetti and meatballs and the like.