Wine review: Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay 2007

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Regular visitors to this space know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates Toad Hollow ?s $10 rose. But the rest of the winery ?s efforts are also praiseworthy, though they ?re usually closer to $15. So when I saw the unoaked chardonnay on sale at Dallas retailer for $7.50, I scooped it up. It ?s more than up to its usual standards, with lots of crisp, green apple fruit and some minerality. This vintage also tastes brighter and cleaner than those of previous years. No doubt 2007 will be an extraordinary year for inexpensive California wine.

And, as the late, great Todd Williams always said: ?No trees were harmed in the making of this ? Chardonnay. ?

Drink this chilled on its own or with anything that needs bright fruit and a bit of acid. I had it with homemade egg rolls, and it was a huge success.

Wine and food pairings: Do they matter?

Wine and food pairings: Do they matter?A big-deal wine guy has come up with a new system to pair food and wine, based on the theory that the old way of doing things is kind of silly.

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn ?t necessarily disagree with this. When I do wine classes, the first thing I say is that there is only one wine rule anymore: Drink what you like, but be willing to try different kinds of wine. If you want to drink white zinfandel with prime rib or Napa cabernet sauvignon with Dover sole, go ahead. That ?s not what I would do, but you ?re not me.

In fact, this seems to be a trend gathering momentum in the wine world. The great Jacques Pepin long ago gave up pairing wine and food, and radio wine guru Scott Carpenter, who has interviewed the Wine Curmudgeon, has embraced it as well.

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Presidential inauguration wine

The wine world has been atwitter with rumors and gossip about the wines that will be served at Barack Obama ?s various presidential inauguration festivities next week. Sad, isn ?t it, that those are the kinds of things that get us excited? Even sadder, no one asked the Wine Curmudgeon what to serve.

After the jump, a look at what will be served and my thoughts about what should be served:

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Wine of the week: Bieler Sabine Rose 2007

Winter doesn't mean you can't drink rose. The Wine Curmudgeon doesn ?t understand why the experts say rose is only to be enjoyed in the summer. What ?s wrong with rose in the middle of winter, when the days are short, the nights are long, and it ?s too cold to do much except complain about how cold it is?

Hence the Bieler (about $12), which is classic Provencal rose. That means some fruit (strawberry and watermelon in this case) and still bone dry — a style of rose that all should aspire to. It as far removed from white zinfandel as possible.

One caveat: The alcohol is a bit high for a rose, around 14 percent. It didn’t seem to be a problem, but that may because the wine has aged a bit. If it was younger, it might be more noticeable.

Chill this, and drink it before dinner. Or serve it with roast chicken, almost any kind of chicken breast preparation (chicken-fried chicken breast, anyone?) or seafood.

Wine of the week update

In case you missed one, here ?s a look at the last half dozen:

? Tamari Malbec Reserve 2007: Value and a fair price from importer Terlato.

? French Maid Pinot Noir 2007: A new-style French pinot from the Languedoc.

? St. Supery Oak Free Chardonnay 2007: A chardonnay worth a splurge.

? Clean Sale Riesling 2007: A simple, but balanced wine, for $10.

? Francis Coppola Alicante Bouschet 2007: A Wine Curmudgeon friendly wine, but not necessarily a Wine Curmudgeon friendly producer.

Tuesday tidbits 60: Cost Plus World Market, Gourmet magazine, high alcohol beer

? Cost Plus closes 26 stores: Which is very bad news for those of us who love cheap wine, since Cost Plus has some of the best prices in the country. Sometimes, the prices look like they ?re just a couple of percentage points over cost. The retailer is pulling out of eight markets, including Memphis, Fort Lauderdale and Minneapolis. I have a friend in the marketing business, who follows these things, and she says that by the time the recessions is over, Cost Plus won ?t be the only major retailer that does this.

? Gourmet to fold? Hard to believe, but this report says ?Gourmet will probably not see the end of the year. Its parent company, Conde Nast, can no longer rely on the huge profits of the newspaper portion of the Newhouse family business. The magazine operation needs to go on a diet. ? It ?s not so much that Gourmet does a great job writing about wine; the magazine doesn ?t do much at all. But its demographic is more or less the same as those of the Wine Magazines. And if Gourmet is in trouble, and it has deeper pockets and a deeper readership, what does that mean for the Wine Magazines?

? How does 18 percent beer grab you? By the throat, and even the man who makes it admits it ?s not for everyone. Too bad more people in the wine business don ?t feel that way. ?I don ?t find it pleasant to drink, ? he says. ?I find it unbalanced and shrieking. ?

Wine review: Sonoma Vineyards Syrah 2007

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The Wine Curmudgeon had the fire department at the house last week. Fortunately, there was no need for hoses or axes. But the small electrical fire that required their presence was apparently caused by a power surge that fried the refrigerator ?s compressor.

Which meant I didn ?t have a refrigerator for three days (and the refrigerator-buying experience, and subsequent cost, is probably worth a post one of these days). Which meant I couldn ?t chill any white wine, and so spent 30 or 40 minutes digging through the wine closet to find red wine to drink over the weekend that matched my ?having to buy an unbudgeted refrigerator ? mood. I wanted cheap. I wanted uncomplicated. I wanted well done.

Which is how I stumbled on the Sonoma syrah (about $15). It had fruit (cherry and blackberry, maybe?), but it didn ?t have too much, as so many California syrahs do. The tannins and acid were balanced, and there was even a hint of Rhone-like darkness. The wine is a fine value for the price, and improved my disposition greatly.

Serve this any time your refrigerator goes out, or with red sauces, burgers and even roast chicken.