Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Times Ten Cellars Carignane 2007

Carignane is an odd little red grape. It ?s used mostly for blending — in California to produce jug and inexpensive red blends, and in the Rhone region of France, where it ?s the poor cousin of syrah, grenache and mouvedre.

This single-varietal carignane, from Dallas ? Time Ten Cellars ($15), shows the grape off to nice advantage. It has a funky, Rhone-like aroma (wine types call it bacon fat), but plenty of New World style fruitiness, including a big dose of cranberry (something to keep in mind come Thanksgiving). It ?s not especially tannic, and the alcohol is a well-done 13.8 percent. This makes it an ideal red wine for hot summer days and good barbecue, be it pork or smoked chicken.

And don ?t be confused about the grape ?s spelling. It ?s carignan in France and carignane in the U.S.

A 100-point wine

image The wine is Chambers Rare Tokay NV, an Australian fortified dessert wine made in in the sherry style. Robert Parker has given it 100 points on his 100-point scale for years ? I found references dating to 1999.

I don ?t know that Parker waxes quite as poetic about this as he does his red Bordeauxs, but he is effusive: ?Australian treasure, ? ?almost unbelievable in its richness and aromatic complexity, ? and ?he wines are so special they almost defy accurate description ? among many, many accolades.

Which is the Wine Curmudgeon ?s polite way of saying that point systems are irrelevant, and do more harm than good. I ?m not denying that the Chambers (about $200 for a half bottle, if you can find it) is an exceptional wine. I ?m also not criticizing Parker, who does what he does better than almost anyone else. It ?s just not the way I would do it.

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Wine review: Domaine des Malandes Petit Chablis 2006

image Dallas is not known for its reasonably priced restaurant bottles of wine. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part, everyone marks up bottles and glasses three times retail. That ?s the way it is, and if you don ?t like it, tough.

That ?s why the Wine Curmudgeon is always happy to find a restaurant where the wine isn ?t quite so outrageous. At Kitchen 1924 in the city ?s Lakewood neighborhood, the prices are a bit more fair and the selection is interesting (and the food is more than acceptable, as well).

Owner Shawn Horne has an eclectic palate and a nice touch with white Burgundy (chardonnay from France), including the Malandes. For a couple of years, his restaurant was the only place in town to find chablis from Olivier Savary, one of my favorites.

The Malandes (about $22 retail, and $48 at the restaurant) is not a complicated, sophisticated wine, but it ?s not supposed to be. The wine has good acid, as a chablis should, and is more fruit forward than many white Burgundies, with a pleasant pear flavor. It ?s fresh and lively, something you don ?t often see in white Burgundy that is this young. We drank it with a table full of appetizers and salads, and it was an excellent pairing.

Wine of the week: Trimbach Riesling 2005

Wine I had to buy a bottle of wine that my mother would enjoy, but that I would have to drink as well. Which meant no fancy, hip and with it selections; rather, a tried and true wine that offered value and quality. Hence, the Trimbach (about $18), another solid effort from one of my favorite producers. Yes, it's a bit more than I'd like to spend (thank the weak dollar for that), but it's friendly enough for my mother and serious enough for me. What else can one ask for from a wine?

We drank it with a Salad Nicoise (which the Wine Curmudgeon whipped up, being a dutiful son). The wine has just enough sweetness to match the dark flavors in the salad from the olives and tuna, but it's not so sweet as to overpower the food. It's also got enough lemony acid and a minerally finish to pair well. The Trimcach family (for it is still family-owned) has learned a thing or two in the almost 400 years it has been making wine.

Wine of the week: 2006 Louis Latour Macon-Lugny Les Genievres

Maco3 It’s not often that one can find an $18 wine that will improve with age. These days, spend less than $30, and you’d better hurry up and drink it. It’s as fruity and as interesting as it’s going to get.

The Latour (about $18), though, is a welcome exception. It ?s white Burgundy, which means chardonnay, and since it ?s Macon, it means it wasn’t aged in oak.

This wine is perfectly acceptable now, and the Wine Curmudgeon drank it last weekend (with mushroom and artichoke crepes ? why are crepes so little appreciated?). It’s still a little tight, with some spiciness typical of young white Burgundies. But let it sit for a year or two, and it will open up, becoming a fuller, richer, more complex wine. In fact, I ?ll probably buy another bottle and let it sit for 12 months to see just what happens.

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Riesling: It’s OK to drink sweet wine

Riesling 2
Sweet wine is much maligned ? so much so, in fact, that wine snobs don ?t like to admit they drink it. Instead, when they ?re forced to quaff something sweet, they call if off dry.

This not fair. Yes, some sweet wine doesn ?t taste a whole lot better than Coke laced with grain alcohol, but that ?s no reason ignore it. And it ?s not a sign of wine weakness to drink sweet wine. German rieslings, most of which are sweet, are some of the best-made wines in the world. They can age for decades, just like red wines from France and California, and they provide a wonderful sweet, lemony, stony flavor that can be addictive. Plus, they ?re a lot less costly than other high end stuff.

What to look for in a sweet wine? Stick to white, because most sweet reds aren ?t very interesting. Explore German riesling, especially those with the term auslese or spatlese on the label. They denote degrees of sweetness (the latter is less sweet than the former) and are only used on the best quality German wine.

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Wine review: Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Drylands is a New Zealand sauvignon blanc (about $12) for people who don ?t want too much of the citrusy, grapefruit flavor that has made this style of white wine famous. The grapefruit is there, of course, but it isn ?t quite as big, and there is also a welcome dollop of pineapple in the middle. Plus, it has a more interesting finish than other wines at this price, which don ?t offer much more than the first burst of grapefruit.

Highly recommended for price and quality. Serve the Drylands with grilled shrimp, raw oysters or steamed mussels (using the wine to steam the mussels).