Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

clip_image002The Wine Curmudgeon is not a big fan of boxed wines, but not for the usual reasons. My problem is convenience. Do you know how difficult it is to pour wine from a 3-liter box at the dinner table?

Having said that, this year ?s version of Black Box ?s cabernet (about $21, or the equivalent of four bottles) provides fine value. You get fruity California cabernet with decent tannins and even a bit of vanilla oakiness. It ?s a big wine, yet still reasonably balanced. In fact, I served it with spaghetti and red sauce, and the wine was almost too much for the dish. That means it ?s a beef and smelly cheese wine.

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Three Australian winemakers, part II

This is the second of two parts about selected Australian wine and winemakers. The first part is here.

In one respect, Rosemount, Robert Oatley Vineyards, and Jacob ?s Creek/Orlando are completely different companies. The first is part of a huge multi-national, the second was formed not to be a huge multi-national, and the third is the high-end label for a huge multi-national.

But what they have in common is a willingness to make something other than shiraz that blasts away at your senses ? and they aren ?t shy about saying that. That ?s a most welcome development.

Here ?s a sample of some of their most interesting wines:

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Wine of the week: La Poule Blanche 2006

image Or, for those of you whose French is a little rusty, chicken white wine.

La Poule Blanche ($11) comes with an excellent pedigree. Sacha Lichine, the man behind it, is the son of Alexis Lichine, one of the legends of the French wine business. And the wine is that good.

It ?s a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and viognier that combines a New World fruitiness (very ripe apples, maybe) with French style. That means crispness, minerality and not a touch of oak. I drank it with roast chicken (big surprise, huh?), but it would work with seafood pastas, white pizzas and cheese courses. If it cost $1 less, it would make the $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine review: Menage a Trois Red 2007

image The menage (about $10), from Folie a Deux, is a very confusing wine, which has nothing to do with its double entendre marketing. It ?s a red blend from California that isn ?t heavy, tannic or alcoholic, which is so rare as to be worth mentioning. And the wine is supposed to have been aged in oak, but I ?ll be damned if I could taste it. In fact, it tasted like a steel-aged Beaujolais.

Plus, it ?s cheap and tasty. The blend of zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and merlot is quite approachable, quite jammy and even juicy. It ?s a style of wine that ?s almost old-fashioned in California, harkening back to the days before Wine Magazines and point scores. Drink this with barbecue, fall picnic food like grilled corn on the cob, or even takeout pizza.

Wine of the week: Reds 2006


One of the few good reasons for using corks to close wines was when Reds had pictures of famous Bolsheviks on its corks. The Wine Curmudgeon still  has some Lenin and Trotsky corks in a drawer somewhere.

Reds (about $9) is a screw top these days, but the wine remains true to its mission ?  a cheap, quality red wine blend that ?s food friendly. It ?s a little more fruit forward and raspberry jammy than it used to be, but it ?s still a well-made wine that offers considerable value and deserves $10 Hall of Fame consideration. I drank it with roast chicken, and it would also do well with hamburgers, grilled sausages and spaghetti and meatballs.

$10 pinot noir

image Wine doesn ?t get much snootier than pinot noir. The grape is troublesome to grow, it ?s difficult to turn into quality wine, and the wine is almost always pricey. In fact, save for the Burgundy region of France, a stretch of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and parts of California, most of the rest of the world has given up on pinot noir. (And, frankly, a lot of pinot from the rest of the world should be given up on.)

Plus, pinot drinkers ? as demonstrated by the movie Sideways ? can take their enthusiasm for to unreasonable lengths. This produces a clubbiness that rivals that of red Bordeaux or Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, two other leading causes of wine snobbery.

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Wine of the week: Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Grigio 2007


It ?s 8 p.m. and you ?re in a strange city and you want to buy a bottle of wine. The only store you can find is a national chain supermarket. What ?s a wine drinker to do?

Buy the Sterling ($8), which not only offers bang for your buck but tastes good. There is nothing necessarily good or bad with grocery store wine. It depends on who makes it and what they ?re trying to do with it. In this case, Sterling succeeds on both counts.

This wine isn ?t as minerally as Italian pinot grigios, which is a welcome relief. Also, look for tropical fruit instead of lemon or lime. This is an aperitif wine, as well as one that will pair with seafood and roast chicken.