Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Armand Roux Carousel NV

I stumbled on this when I needed an inexpensive, French-style sparkling wine to use for the white wine tasting at my Cordon Bleu class. I was quite overwhelmed by its quality and its $8 price.

The wine, made with French chardonnay, comes from the Armand Roux company, best known for the L ?Epayri jug wines. But there is nothing jug-like about the Carousel. It’s dry, clean, and crisp with decent bubbles, and it doesn’t have any of the off-flavors or sweetness that inexpensive sparkling wine sometimes shows. It’s not as tight as similarly-priced Spanish sparklers; whether this is an advantage or not depends on how you feel about cavas like Cristalino.

I’m not quite sure that it’s as food friendly as the Spanish wines (it doesn’t have as much acid), but serve it chilled for summer porch sipping or Sunday morning brunch and you’ll be more than happy.

Wine of the week: Frei Bros. Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2006

image I have never been completely sold on California sauvignon blanc, especially for wines that cost $16 or less. They’re not necessarily poorly made; rather, the style is kind of wishy-washy — not New Zealand and not Sancerre, but not especially California, either.

Which brings us to the Frei Bros. (about $16), which does seem to have found a certain Sonoma style — not especially citrusy, but with some tropical fruit, a bit of grassiness and a long, pleasing finish not often found in wines of this price. It’s more than a solid value.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the entire Frei line. The operation, run by the Gallo empire, has improved the wines with this vintage, focusing on what it get can from the grapes and not what it wants to turn the wine into. Even more impressive than the sauvignon blanc was the pinot noir, a fine example of what can be accomplished in California (though pricey at around $25).

Wine of the week: Bonny Doon Syrah Le Pousseur 2005

Syrah_le_pousseur_2005-400pxI have written very nice things about Bonny Doon and winemaker Randall Grahm recently. And, ordinarily, I’d slow down. But he keeps making such terrific wine that I’m almost compelled to keep writing nice things.

Take, for example, this syrah (about $20). It tastes almost nothing like any New World  syrah — none of the over-the-top inkiness of Australian shiraz and no overdone California fruit. In fact, it has quite a few French-style syrah elements to it, including a wonderfully funky aroma. And regular readers know that if the Wine Curmudgeon recommend a wine that costs more than $10 or $12, it must be really, really good.

Having said that, don’t drink this if you’re expecting one of those high alcohol, incredibly unsubtle, jammy-to-the-point-of-no-return syrahs. But if you want a deep, dark, rich, well-balanced red wine, drink it with barbecue and grilled steaks.

Wine of the week: Tormaresca Neprica 2006

image One of the rules of this business is that one should only write about wines that are locally available. After all, what’s the point in waxing poetic about a wine that no one can buy?

Which brings us to the Neprica, a sample of which arrived this week and which I tasted immediately. That’s because it’s a $10 Italian red blend from Tormaresca, a very reliable producer that understands how to combine quality and value.

In fact, this wine is so good that I’m going to break the availability rule. Since I just got the sample, the wine probably isn’t in most stores yet. Never mind. Go to your local retailer and tell them to order some.

The Neprica is made with a local grape called negroamaro, plus primitivo and cabernet sauvignon. It’s darker in flavor than chianti, but it’s still low in alcohol and it’s not aged in oak. The latter gives it a fresher favor. I drank this with spaghetti and tomato sauce with mushrooms, and my only regret was that I didn’t have another bottle.

A chance to drink some well-aged wine

image I did a favor for a friend in the wine business, and he thanked me with a bottle of 1988 Domaine du Cayron Gigondas, a quality label from the southern Rhone.

I don’t get a chance to drink aged wines often. For one thing, my cellar is only 15 years old, and most of the wines in it are even younger than that. When I started, I didn’t buy enough wine that needed to age. For another, the demands of the business call for writing about wines that are readily available, and aged wines aren’t. There were only a couple of places in the U.S. that still had a bottle of this wine for sale, for example.

But when I do get a chance, I savor it. Aged wine (and this assumes that it has been stored correctly) is a treat, a chance to taste something that is not only unique, but an adventure. Wine makers have an idea about what will happen when they make something to last for 20 or 30 years, but it’s only an idea.

So how was the Cayron?

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