Category:Wine reviews

Wine of the week: La Vigne D’Argent 2005

image The Wine Curmudgeon manages his inventory on some nifty software called CellarTracker, and one of its most interesting features is the ability to read what others write about wines that I've had. I especially enjoyed the comments for this wine.

It's not that other CellarTracker users didn't like the D'Argent, because they did. Rather, they were baffled by it. "Nice to experience a different kind of sauvignon blanc," wrote one. "I'm more familiar with 100 percent sauvignon blanc, and it was interesting to compare to this sauvignon blanc/semillon blend," wrote another.

In our increasingly review-oriented, score-driven wine world, the D'Argent (about $10) is an old-fashioned, very unhip kind of wine. Which means it's not going to be written up, which means people aren't going to try it. Which is a shame, because — as the CellarTracker drinkers learned — it's well worth trying. Forget about New Zealand sauvignon blanc  and grapefruit. This white Bordeaux has very little fruit flavor (maybe some lemon) and lots of flinty minerality — all of which makes for a refreshing, food-friendly wine. It's what most sauvignon blanc was 15 years ago, and that's not a back-handed compliment by any means.

Serve it chilled with big summer salads, almost any shellfish, or grilled chicken marinated in garlic, herbs, and olive oil.

Zinfandel, and why it matters

image Zinfandel drinkers of the world, it ?s time to unite. The wine world, it appears, is conspiring against us.

On the one hand, the establishment, which has always looked down on zinfandel as something inferior to cabernet sauvignon and merlot, continues to do so. One world-class wine maker, an otherwise fine fellow, compared it to South Africa ?s pinotage — which is the definition of an acquired taste.

On the other hand, the hipsters and social climbers who are always looking for the next groovy thing have discovered zinfandel.in a big way ? as in big and alcoholic. They ?re touting wines that have as much as 25 percent more alcohol than traditional zinfandels, which makes them almost as boozy as fortified wines like port, Night Train and Thunderbird.

It’s entire possible to make lovely, food-friendly wines at 14 percent or less. See any of the Nalle zinfandels, for example. Not to fear, though. The Wine Curmudgeon can shine a light at the end of this tunnel.

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Wine of the week: Taltarni Three Monks 2005

imageHere’s a red blend for Father’s Day from an Australian producer that is one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorites, a company that almost always delivers quality for around $20.

The Three Monks (about $17) is 70 percent cabernet sauvignon and 30 percent merlot, which means it’s hardy enough to stand up to big steaks but isn’t overwhelming. Best yet, it’s not only low in alcohol for an Aussie wine (14 percent), but it has a bit of French style, so that the fruitiness doesn’t overwhelm the wine.

Father’s Day wine suggestions

image Call it barbecuing or grilling. Use a smoker or a gas grill or charcoal. Choose between beef or pork or chicken or vegetables. Regardless of which, though, it’s part of the Father’s Day tradition.

So what wine do you pair with kind of food? The classic pairing for grilled sausage is sweetish white wine like riesling or gew rztraminer. And the heartiest red meats, like grilled rib eye or smoked brisket, can take a hearty red wine.

But sometimes, how you ?re cooking the food makes a difference. Grilled chicken marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary pairs with sauvignon blanc. But smoke that same piece of chicken with a dry rub, and it changes character entirely. Then, you ?ll want a light red wine like a tempranillo or a beaujolais. And rose, of course, will go with almost everything except that grilled rib eye. The bright fruit complements barbecue ?s smokiness quite nicely, in fact.

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Wine of the week: Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

image Time was, the Avalon was $10. The Wine Curmudgeon used to drink it by the case, buy it for visiting wine types and make them guess how much it cost (one of these days I’ll have to share the story about the Avalon and the visiting Australian wine marketer), and recommend it at every opportunity.

It’s not $10 any more (closer to $15, though you can find it for $12 every once in a while). But it’s still one of the best values in the wine world, with almost all of the rich, fruity character of Napa cabernet at one-half to one-third the price.

How does Avalon do it? For one thing, the company only makes cabernet. For another, it doesn’t own land or  touristy production facilities. It’s based on the French negociant model, which allows it to keep costs — and prices — down.

Serve this with a Father’s Day barbecue. Or buy a case and toast Dad with it throughout the year.

Barefoot wines: Value or just cheap?

imageWine Curmudgeon note: This post is attracting so much traffic that new visitors should know that I wrote another Barefoot post in September 2010 — Barefoot wines (again): Value or just cheap? It updates this post and offers some thoughts on the Barefoot merlot. There is also a review of Barefoot riesling, written in December 2009.

Original post: Barefoot Cellars wines get a lot more publicity than most inexpensive wines. The $6 cabernet sauvignon and merlot showed up on The Wine Trials' top 100 list. The $6 pinot grigio earned raves last week from the Wall Street Journal's respected wine columnists, John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter. And the $10 extra dry sparkling wine got a gold medal at the prestigious Dallas Morning News competition this spring.

Is it time for the Wine Curmudgeon to take another look at Barefoot?

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Wine of the week: Hey Mambo Sultry Red 2006

imageSimple, fruity red blends from California are not what they once were. This is upsetting, because  the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates simple and fruity wines quite a bit. Not every occasion requires a $50 bottle of wine. But prices for simple, fruity red blends have gone up or quality has gone down, or both, in the last couple of years.

The Mambo (about $13), though, has remained consistently satisfying. It's a six-grape blend (no cabernet sauvignon or merlot, thankfully) that offers dark fruit and medium tannins. Serve it with Italian food, hamburgers or anything else that requires a simple, fruity wine.

And yes, it has a silly closure called a zork that does seem to do the job — and without need of a corkscrew.