Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2006

image Some wines are like old friends. You may only talk to them once or twice a year, but when you do, you pick up the conversation where you left off and it’s like no time has passed.

This is one of those wines. I don’t drink it often, but when I do, I am reminded of why I like it so much. It’s not expensive (about $13), it’s always well made, and it solves a variety of food pairing dilemmas.

Chenin blanc gets a bad rap in this country, while viognier is very little known. The former is often badly made in a sweet style, while not enough winemakers understand the possibilities that viognier offers. At Pine Ridge, those are not problems.

This vintage is what wine types call off dry, with floral aromas and a clean finish. This means it’s sweet enough for spicy food like Thai and Cajun, but not so sweet that those who like dry wine will spit it out. All wineries should be this consistent in quality from year to year.

I need to remember to drink this more often.

Pink wine for Valentine’s Day

image The Wine Curmudgeon, not surprisingly, does not acknowledge Valentine’s Day. But since so many people do, including newspaper editors (who help pay the Wine Curmudgeon’s bills), it was only sensible to write something..

The article is not about pairing wine and chocolate. This has not only been done to death, but isn’t especially true. Inexpensive cabernet sauvignon doesn ?t do chocolate very well, no matter how good the wine writer is. And anyone who pairs $50 cabernet with chocolate is missing the point of $50 cabernet.

Wine of the week: Torreoria 2006

People often ask how I can tell whether a wine is good, especially inexpensive wines. And the best answer I can give is to paraphrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, who was discussing obscenity: “I know it when I see it.”

And, literally, that’s what happens. I take a sip, and I know. The quality of the wine does all the work. That was the case with this $8 red, a tempranillo from the Utiel-Requena region of Valencia, which is hardly Spain’s best known wine area. But this is one of the best cheap wines I’ve had in a long time. It’s not as sophisticated as a Rioja, even an inexpensive one. And the cherry fruit was a bit muted and it was a little too vanilla-y. But this is nitpicking. I paired it with grilled Cornish hen, and it worked like a charm. This wine is a terrific value, and is almost certain to enter the $10 Hall of Fame in 2009.

What about $6 wine?

image One of the things that I always tell my students (or anyone else, for that matter) is never to judge wine before you’ve tasted it. There might be many reasons to be skeptical — price, alcohol content, the grapes it’s made with, producer — but none of that matters until you take the first sip.

So what did I do when I received samples of BV’s Century Cellars line? Stuck it in the back of the wine closet, figuring it couldn’t be any good because it only cost $6 a bottle.

Shows how much I know.

Continue reading

Wine of the week: Sanford Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2005

image Regular visitors to this space know that the Wine Curmudgeon hates overpriced wine — and that way too many wines that cost more than $10 are overpriced. So when he finds something that is expensive and fabulous, he swoons. Or as close as he can come to swooning.

The Sanford is among the best pinots made in California, and Sanford makes some of the best pinot noirs in the world. Hence, $45 is not a stretch. The wine has a bit of a red Burgundy nose and flavor, which is more rustic than those from California and Oregon. But it also has terrific California-style fruit (think cherry and raspberry), without any of the candied flavors of too many other U.S. pinots.

Drink this by itself (I shared it on a Sunday with several people who came over to talk away the afternoon) or with any classic pinot food, be it duck or beef braised in red wine.

Wine review: Republic of Sauvignon Marlborough 2007

image One of the great joys of drinking wine is tasting something that you think you know and discovering that the current vintage is a lot better. That’s the case with this wine, which is more than decent to begin with.

The Republic of Sauvignon Blanc Cellars is a negociant that sells sauvignon blancs from California, South Africa, and New Zealand. As noted, they’re usually fine wines, if a bit pricey for me at $18.

So, when I tasted this the other night, I expected New Zealand grapefruit and an acceptable finish. I got that, and a lot more. There is a bit of pineapple tucked in behind the grapefruit, which offers a wonderful contrast to the latter’s acidity. And the finish, if not Sancerre-like, offers better minerality than in previous years.

You can drink this on its own (something that can’t be said for a lot of New Zealand sauvignon blancs) or with shellfish or anything with garlic. This is value for price, even at $18.