Category:Wine reviews

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?

Continue reading

Wine of the week: Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc 2006

image The French, who once supplied the world with quality cheap wine, have been mostly supplanted by the Australians and the Chileans over the past decade. This has caused not just consternation within the French wine industry, but serious financial difficulty.

Some producers, realizing the crisis, have made significant changes to their products. They use better quality grapes, have upgraded their production techniques, and have adjusted their pricing to compete with $7 bottles of Yellow Tail. They understand that consumers will not pay a 10 or 20 percent premium because the wine label has some French on it.

Case in point is the Les Jamelles, one of the finest $10 sauvignon blancs — one of the finest sauvignon blancs at any price — that the Wine Curmudgeon has tasted in a long while. This is French sauvignon blanc the way it used to be — cheap, tasty and complete. There’s hardly any citrus, because Les Jamelles understands that French wine is not supposed to taste like New Zealand wine. It does have some tropical flavor,  mostly pineapple, as well as the minerality that French sauvignon blancs are supposed to have.

Drink this, chilled, on its own, or with seafood, salads or grilled chicken.

Getting an updated look at South African wine

South Africa, I’m told by people who should know these things, has the right climate and the right soils to make quality wine. It’s supposed to be one of the next great regions for sauvignon blanc.

But its wines still do not have the best reputation. One reason is that the country’s national grape, pinotage, is an acquired taste. Another is that its modern industry dates only to the end of apartheid, and it’s difficult to accomplish much in the wine business in just a couple of decades.

But I made my way through a dozen or so South African wines yesterday, and was impressed with the improvement. The high-end wines were still uneven, but on the lower end — $15 and down, and especially at $10 and less — there were quite a few winners:

Continue reading

Wine of the week: Peirano Estate Petite Sirah 2006

Ask someone from Napa what they think of Lodi, and you’ll get a snicker. “Oh, do they make wine up there?”

Which is one reason why the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys wine from Lodi so much, and especially wine from Peirano Estate. Regular visitors might know Peirano from The Other, the winery’s red and white blends.

Peirano, and Lodi wines in general, are well-made, offer value, and aren’t pretentious. Case in point is the petite sirah ($15). Petite sirah is related to syrah, but has its own character and flavor. It’s a little deeper and the fruit flavors aren’t quite as jammy. The Peirano has lots of deep, dark rich plummy flavor, but it’s not as overwhelming as a shiraz. You can even drink on its own, though it’s better with food. Serve this with pizza with tomato sauce and sausage, for example, or grilled hamburgers with lots grilled onions and mushrooms.