Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Bota Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2007


Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon does not much care for boxed wine for boxed wine ?s sake. Poorly made wine in a box is still poorly made wine, despite being cheaper and more environmentally friendly. In fact, one could argue that poorly made boxed wine is even more of an environmental waste, since there is no reason for it to exist at all.

So when I find a boxed wine that is well made, I get giggly. Or at least as giggly as the Wine Curmudgeon can get. The Bota Box (about $22 for three liters, the equivalent of four bottles) is a simple, fruity (think cherry) California wine that is so much better than similar wines at this price that it ?s difficult to believe. It doesn ?t have any of the raw tannins these wines often have, it ?s varietally correct, and it isn ?t green ? that is, it doesn ?t have an unripe fruit flavor also typical of very cheap wines. (Which, sadly, some of its Bota compatriots do.)

It ?s not quite as well done as the Avalon cabernet, but it ?s also less than half the price. Which means it ?s highly recommended and a candidate for the 2010 $10 Hall of Fame.Serve this with spaghetti and meatballs and burgers on the grill, or to people who only drink red wine.

Wine of the week update

In case you missed one, here ?s a look at the previous half dozen:

? Duca di Castelmonte Notorius 2007: A Mother ?s Day wine bargain.

? Campo Viejo Crianza 2005: Spanish value in every vintage.

? Ipsum 2008: A more than pleasant surprise.

? Le Ferme de Gicon 2006: An exceptional Red Rhone blend.

? McManis Family Pinot Grigio 2007: Quality California white wine.

? Graffigna Centanario Malbec 2006: A step up from most malbecs at this price.

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Mother’s Day wine 2009

A few suggestions for Mom for Sunday:

? Tardieu-Laurent Guy Louis Blanc 2007 (about $15): We don ?t see many white Cote du Rhones in the U.S., and especially at this price. The Guy Louis, a blend of marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc, and viognier, has that distinctive white Rhone spice aroma (cloves, perhaps?) and enough fruit to appeal to the American palate. This is for people who are tired of chardonnay. An excellent value, though it may be difficult to find.

? Three Rivers Winery River ?s Red 2007 (about $15): This red blend from Washington state (seven grapes, about half syrah) is a solid, fruity, low alcohol, food friendly red wine. You ?ll smell cranberry and taste cherry and wish more American red wine was made this way. Pair with roast chicken or grilled beef.

? J Cuvee 20 Brut NV (about $32): J Vineyards is a long-time Napa tasting room favorite that has changed the focus of its effort from sparkling wine to table wine. Along the way, new winemaker George Bursick has reinvigorated the way the winery does bubbly. This is crisp and fresh with just the right amount of acidity ? the quintessential Mother ?s Day brunch wine.

For more on Mother ?s Day wine:

Wine of the week: Duca di Castelmonte Notorius 2007


The Wine Curmudgeon loves Sicily. The island at the bottom of Italy produces quality cheap wine from grapes most people have never heard of. What more can one ask?

The Notorius is made with the grillo grape, which is native to Sicily and apparently has been used to make wine since before the birth of Christ. It ?s most widely used to make marsala, but is increasingly showing up in table wine.

The Notorius is richer than I thought it was going to be, with more of a soft lemon flavor and not the usual harsher citrus common to poorly-made cheap Italian wine. That ?s from a bit of oak aging, which gives the Notorius a richer mouth feel and more complexity than the usual cheap Italian wine. Highly recommended, especially for Mother ?s Day chicken, fish and shellfish. This would really impress Mom if it's served with grilled shrimp marinated with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.

Mini-reviews 1: Big House, Clos de los Siete, Napa Cellars, Kendall Jackson

A new, monthly feature ? reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final weekday of each month.

? Big House Prodigal Son 2005 ($12): This is 100 percent petit sirah from the company that bought the Big House wines from Randall Grahm. It ?s probably the best of the new lineup.

? Clos de los Siete 2007 ($16): This Argentine red blend from Michel Rolland is a poster child for the over-extracted, over-ripe, over-alcoholic, and over-oaked wines that he has popularized. If you like that style, you ?ll love this wine.

? Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2007 ($22): Mother ?s Day wine, made in the classic Napa Valley style (though the oak has been toned down a bit).

? Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($20): More New Zealand in style than California, but still an excellent example of well-made sauvignon blanc (though a bit pricey.)

Wine of the week: Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza 2005

Campo Viejo crianxa: Still a $10 value Spanish wine remains a fine value, despite the fluctuation of the dollar, and the Campo Viejo is an excellent example of why.

It ?s a red wine made with tempranillo from the Rijoa region of Spain. Crianza is the basic wine in the three tiers of Rioja. The middle level is reserva and the best is gran reserva; winemakers must follow specific guidelines for the wines to attain those levels.

So why the Campo Viejo? It has been $10 for as long as I can remember; it ?s widely available, from grocery stores to wine shops; and it ?s consistently made. (The label is owned by the very large Pernod Ricard group). The 2005 tastes more modern than I remember, which means more cherry fruit. But it ?s still Rioja, which means it ?s tart, a bit tannic (though soft tannins) and occupies that that in-between ground between red and white wine foods.

Drink this with everything from roast chicken to burgers to ? yes ? tapas and paella.

Wine review: Chateau Famaey Cahors Malbec Rose 2007

Chateau Famaey in Cahors in southern France. The temperature in Dallas hit 91 yesterday, which is even a bit warm for us in April. So The Wine Curmudgeon reached for the rose.

The Famaey (about $10) is made with malbec from the southern French region of Cahors. It ?s a strawberry bombshell, which was a bit surprising. The French are supposed to be a bit more subtle than this. But it was also bone dry, and any hints of sweetness come from the intense strawberry flavor. That ?s because our brains are used to associating that kind of fruitiness with sweetness (think of a Jolly Rancher). Hence, we assume that it ?s sweet. I would have preferred a little more acid to balance the fruit, but there is certainly nothing wrong with the wine.

Drink this well chilled as an aperitif or with any kind of picnic food. I ?d also try to slip it past a white zinfandel drinker. The results could be fun.