Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Tortoise Creek chardonnay/viognier 2006

image Screw top. No oak. Lots of viognier peach fruit. Less than $10.

Excuse me while I catch my breath. I couldn ?t believe how much I liked this wine, since cheap chardonnay, even from respected cheap wine producers like Tortoise Creek, is rarely worth writing about. It ?s either too oak-y (or too fake oak-y) and the lesser quality grapes that are used are often bitter or not quite ripe.

But that ?s not the case with this French wine, which is 70 percent chardonnay and 30 percent viognier. I drank it with takeout Indian — spiced lentils included ? and it was one of those pairings that made me think I actually know what I ?m doing.

Green wine, part II: How does it taste?

This is the second of two parts looking at green wine and environmentally friendly ways to produce and package wine. Part I, which discussed the concept of green wine, is here.

It all depends, and the Wine Curmudgeon is not trying to be flip. Wine that is produced and packaged to be environmentally friendly faces the same obstacles that non-green wine does. It has to made with quality fruit and it has to be made by a quality winemaker. Otherwise, you ?re drinking plonk. Poorly made white zinfandel isn ?t going to taste any better in packaging that reduces its carbon footprint.

That said, there are green wines that offer quality and value (and, for the purposes of this post, green wine includes organic wine and wine produced to have a low carbon footprint):

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Labor Day wines

This may be the most difficult holiday to pair with wine — not so much because of the food, but because of the weather. It can be cool. It can be hot. Those conditions can dictate the wine, since you really don’t want to drink a 16.5 percent zinfandel if it’s 100 degrees out, or a light white if you had to move the picnic indoors because it’s chilly and raining.

The solution? Light red wines.

Keep these in mind. (And, if you don’t mind a shameless plug, the Wine Curmudgeon will be on a panel this weekend at the Kerrville Wine & Music Festival discussing this very subject). This style of wine is versatile enough to go with most outdoor food, from barbecue to chicken and maybe even grilled shrimp, and they ?re fruity and low enough in alcohol so that you won ?t start sweating after one sip.

Becker Vineyard Prairie Roti 2007 ($17) This Rhone blend (mourvedre, grenache, syrah, and carignan) is an excellent example of what Texas winemakers can do with grapes that aren’t cabernet sauvignon and merlot. One caveat: The roti has limited availability outside of Texas.

Beauzeaux Red 2005 ($10). I’ve never been able to figure out why this isn’t huge. It’s fruity, it’s food friendly, and it’s cheap. Plus, it has a cute label. But it has never taken off, despite glowing reviews.

Layer Cake Cotes du Rhone 2007 ($16). A red blend from France made by an American. It has more fruit than a French-made Cotes du Rhone, which makes it ideal for this purpose.

Wine of the week: Koster-Wolf Riesling Trocken 2006

image Dallas in August. Hot weather. Glaring sun. So why do so many people insist on drinking heavy red wines?

The Wine Curmudgeon does not know. Instead, I drink wine like the Koster-Wolf (about $10 for a 1-liter bottle) ? light, low in alcohol, lemony, and cheap. Plus, it ?s both food friendly and well-made enough to drink on its own. Think chilled, sitting on a shaded back porch in the evening just before the sun goes down. Or serve it with grilled or boiled seafood.

Trocken is the German  designation for a dry wine, but don ?t be confused. It ?s not nearly as dry as Americans are used to. But this doesn ?t mean that it ?s unduly sweet. Rather, it ?s balanced by the acidity in the wine ? as this one is, with the lemony flavor.

And did I mention that it ?s cheap?

Wine review: Chateaux La Croix Chantecaille 2005

image Some of the most overpriced wine in the world comes from Bordeaux, thanks to the weak dollar, wine snobs, and speculators. (Yes, people speculate in wine, just like they do real estate and pork bellies). So when the Wine Curmudgeon finds a red Bordeaux that ?s more or less a value, it ?s something to write about.

I found Chateaux La Croix Chantecaille (about $29)when I was putting together a Two Wine Guys event (shameless plug alert) as a birthday present for someone who wanted to do Bordeaux. We did three wines, all terrific, but this was the only one that was worth the money.

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Wine of the week: Bogle Petite Sirah 2006

image The Wine Curmudgeon will not forget the first time he drank this, years ago, when he was just a little cranky and starting out as a professional wine drinker. I bought it by mistake, not realizing there was a difference between petite sirah and syrah. And who says mistakes don ?t pay off?

Very little has changed with this wine over the years. It ?s still cheap, about $10, and still good ? peppery, dark and fruity, but not as showy as shiraz.  It ?s like the person who shows up at work every day and does a fine job, but never gets ahead because they don ?t run around high five-ing everyone during meetings.

Drink this with end of summer barbecue, sloppy, tomatoe-y Italian food, and even something as simple as meat loaf.

Wine of the week: Yellow + Blue Malbec 2007


The Wine Curmudgeon has been looking for a great, cheap Argentine malbec for years. The Yellow + Blue ($10 for a 1-liter box) may be it.

A couple of caveats: Availability could be limited, and there ?s no guarantee that the wine will be around after this vintage. That ?s because it ?s the project of a startup importer called J. Soif, and wine importing is a difficult business. What works one year may not work the next year.

Having said that, the Yellow + Blue is a $10 Hall of Fame candidate that delivers more than $10 worth of wine. It has well-done tannins, something that ?s rare in cheap malbec, and the fruit isn ?t so over the top that it covers everything else else up, another flaw in $10 malbec.

So what about the box? Soif boss Matthew Cain, who has worked for Kermit Lynch, one of the best importers in the world, says his focus is not only on quality wine, but on green wine. Hence organic grapes and the box, called a TetraPak, which is supposed to be less harmful to the environment than a glass bottle.

This is an interesting sales pitch, but the problem with selling wine as environmentally friendly is that most of the wine that makes that claim doesn ?t taste this good. Consumers are stuck with a tradeoff between quality and carbon footprint, and what ?s the point of that? If all I cared about was the environment, I ?d drink boxed Franzia.

The green wine discussion deserves its own post, which I ?ll get to soon. Until then, enjoy the Yellow + Blue.