Category:Wine reviews

Wine review: Altano Douro 2006

image Two years ago, this was a nifty $7 wine and it almost made the $10 Hall of Fame. The 2005 vintage, on the other hand, was fat and flabby, and was not interesting at all.

The good news is that the 2006 is almost up to the standards set by the 2003. This Douro, a Portuguese red blend, is still not as well put together as the ?03. It ?s kind of empty in the middle, and it ?s more jammy than it should be. (Whether this was a conscious decision by the winemaker to appeal to the American palate or the result of Portugal ?s recent unseasonably warm weather is anyone ?s guess.)

But it ?s certainly drinkable, with lots of red berry fruit, decent tannins, and it is food friendly ? think burgers or pizza. And you ?ll probably be able to buy it for as little as $8 at some retailers.

Wine of the week: Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon, as noted, is a huge fan of chenin blanc. It can produce tasty, well-made, cheap wine that isn ?t chardonnay ? something that is always welcome. Which is why I was so glad to find the Dry Creek on sale for $9 (it ?s probably going to be closer to $11 most of the time).

It ?s a little oily, which is not a bad thing for this kind of wine. (The winespeak term for oily, by the way, is viscous, which sounds like a bad cough, as in, ?Boy, your viscous sounds awful. ?) Most importantly, the Dry Creek is not sweet, which makes it a little more food friendly. This is not an indictment of sweet wine, as regular visitors here know, but a reflection of how much poorly made, sweet chenin blanc exists in the world. Also, look for some apricot fruit and a very long mineral finish.

Serve this with salads, seafood or as an aperitif.

Expensive wine, March edition: Etienne Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2006

image And, believe it or not, a fine value. At around $35, it ?s less than one-half the cost of more expensive Sauzets and a steal compared to many California chardonnays at that price,

Sauzet is one of the world ?s great producers, and its specialty is white Burgundy ? chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. This is what ?s called AOC Burgundy. The grapes don ?t come from one specific part of Burgundy, like Puligny-Montrachet or Mersault, but from throughout the region. This almost always means the wine will be less expensive, and it ?s about the only kind of wine from Burgundy that is reasonably affordable.

And, since it ?s Sauzet, it is more than well made. This is classic Sauzet in style, and if it isn ?t as rich and luxurious as the producer ?s Puligny, it will do. Look for crisp green apple aromas and flavor and well structured oak. This is a classy wine and highly recommended. Buy it for a birthday or anniversary gift, and sip it slowly. It ?s ready to drink now, and should get deeper and more interesting over the next couple of years.

More on expensive wine:

Wine review: Milbrandt Pinot Gris 2007

image A couple of years ago, Butch Milbrandt, who makes this wine, was in Dallas on a publicity tour. We tasted through the winery ?s offerings, all of which were solid, well-made efforts. I especially liked the riesling and the pinot gris. So, Butch, I asked, when am I going to be able to write about these wines? Because you know, I can ?t write about them unless they ?re available in Dallas. We ?re working on it, he said.

So, two years later, I finally have my chance. It ?s in a couple of smaller stores and a few restaurants (which I ?ll write about next month for Dallas ? Advocate magazines). The point, of course, is why did I have to wait so long to write about such a nice wine? Ah, the travails of availability.

Butch and brother Jerry are well-known Washington state grape growers whose  foray into production side of the business produced this pinot gris (about $15). It ?s fruity (pears, perhaps?) with a long, minerally finish. It ?s salad and porch-sipping wine ? not just for the end of winter, but as the weather warms up.

For more on wine availability and its problems:

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS Red 2007

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This red wine blend from Washington state has been a steady, dependable $10 effort since at least the early 1990s. I remember buying it on one of the first Internet wine sites, the late Virtual Vineyard. And why did I have to buy it on-line? Because availability was limited.

It ?s still not easy to find (and its white blend cousin, also called CMS, is even more difficult to locate). Why? Who knows? Just know that you should try it if you see it. CMS is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah ? moderate alcohol, pleasant dark berry fruit, some structure and tannins, and solid value. I tasted it against a $25 petite sirah, and there was no comparison. The CMS was a more interesting wine in every way.

Drink this with any hearty late winter dish, like stuffed bell peppers. And be sure to ask your local retailer why he or she doesn ?t carry it.

For more on wine availability and its problems:

Yes, anyone can write a wine review

The Wine Curmudgeon has always insisted that he is not better or cooler or neater than anyone else. Because I'm not. I just drink more wine. Writing about wine is not rocket science, even though so many people try to convince us that it is.

As proof, I offer this one-paragraph gem from Elyse Symons, a regular visitor here. It pretty much says everything that needs to be said.

?JanKris 2003 Syrah: Meh. When distracted it's OK, but when I'm actually paying attention to what I'm drinking it's like someone took really great grape juice and added a bottle of vodka. Ick. ?

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Wine review: Bad Dog Ranch Chardonnay 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon is writing about this not just because it ?s quaffable $10 wine, but because it is a product of the legendary and notorious Bronco Wine Company.

Bronco is Fred Franzia ?s wine company ? or, as one magazine called him, The Scourge of Napa Valley. Bronco, by one reckoning, produces more than 60 brands, including Two Buck Chuck, Napa Ridge, and Salmon Creek. The Bronco philosophy, apparently, is to make as much wine as possible, charge a price that pleases the consumer and gives Bronco a fair return while thumbing its nose at the wine business.

So how does the Bad Dog (about $10) fit in all of that? There was not a damn thing wrong with it, and believe me, I was looking. The wine had decent, bright fruit and it wasn ?t over-oaked at all. And, at just 12 1/2 percent alcohol, it was less heavy than a lot of chardonnay I have to taste. Drink this with Tuesday night Chinese takeout or if you want a glass of white wine after work.

The catch? There is no guarantee the wine will taste like this next year or that it will even exist. Bronco, apparently, makes wine when it can get fruit. No grapes that fit the pricing strategy, no wine. There doesn ?t seem to have been a 2006 Bad Dog chardonnay.