Wine review: Rosenblum Cellars Pickett Road Vinyard Petite Sirah 2006

image The Wine Curmudgeon likes petite sirah a lot. The grape isn ?t well known, it usually offers lots of value (see the Bogle petite sirah), and it ?s mostly a dark, interesting wine that isn ?t as over the top as shiraz. It should be noted here that petite sirah and syrah and shiraz are related, but not the same grape, and that it’s actually the U.S. version of a French cross called durif.

So it wasn ?t difficult to enjoy this wine, made by Kent Rosenblum, the wine world ?s most famous veterinarian and one of its newest millionaires. The Pickett Road has a chocolate and almost chalky finish, with big cherry fruit in the front. I prefer a little darker style of petite sirah, with less bright flavors. But these grapes come from the Napa Valley, and I suppose this is what happens when one uses luscious, rich Napa fruit to make petite sirah. I paired it with a smoked turkey breast for a July 4 barbecue, and it was quite effective.

The drawback? This is a $25 wine, which is a bit pricey for what it offers. It ?s well made, certainly, but you run into all sorts of metaphysical pricing questions when a wine costs this much. Such as: Should one spend $25 for a petite sirah?

Wine trends: What we’re drinking and why, Part II

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This is the second of a three-part series about wine consumption in the United States. Part I is here; part III is here.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not like livestock wine. This has nothing to do with its quality. Some of it can be quite good, despite the cuddly creature on the label. My objection is the label itself, which influences people to buy the wine not because it tastes good, but because it is cute.

Livestock wine ( a term invented by the incredibly palate-talented Lynne Kleinpeter) refers to wine which has some sort of animal, cartoon or other clever picture on the label has made huge strides in the U.S. According to the Nielsen survey, the various animals, cartoons and characters accounted for 11.5 percent of the wine sold in the U.S. in 2007 in dollar terms.

Livestock wine is, apparently, here to stay.

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Wine of the week: Rene Barbier Mediterranean White NV

image My specialty is $10 wine, but even I’m surprised when I find quality wine for much less than $10. Below that price, producers are more concerned with profit margins than with quality, and much-sub $10 wine tastes like it. The reds are harsh and raw, and the whites are green and unripe. The alternative is sugaring the wine to mask those flavors, and that brings unpleasantness all its own.

Which is why I was stunned to find the Barbier ($4.99 at World Market) during my research for a $6 wine story that will run in the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth next week. It’s terrific — clean and crisp, with lemon, some minerality and a floral aroma. It ?s made with the same grapes used in Spanish sparkling wine like Cristalino, though it tastes quite different. Serve it as a porch sipper or with anything made with garlic and parsley. It will also pair well with Fourth of July grilled chicken. One caveat: Make sure it’s well chilled. The warmer the wine gets, the thinner and less interesting it tastes.

Tuesday tidbits 33

? Texas award winners: Two big prizes for Texas wines — a double gold for Brennan Vineyard’s 2006 cabernet sauvignon reserve at the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition and a bronze for Sunset Winery’s 2004 Texas High Plains Newsom Vineyard ?Moon Glow ? Merlot at the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition this spring. Both showings are impressive. Brennan’s cabernet joined a Clos du Bois from Alexander Valley, a Clos Du Val from Stags Leap District and a V. Sattui from Napa in the double gold category. Sunset’s bronze may be even bigger, given that it is essentially a two-person operation in a converted house in suburban Fort Worth.

? A wine-powered car: Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, runs his Aston Martin, on bio-fuel made from English wine. (No jokes, please, about English wine.) The wine used in the petrol is surplus English wine that European rules don’t allow to be made into wine. The Daily Telegraph reports the wine is apparently not left over from royal house parties at Clarence House or Highgrove, two of the prince’s homes. The prince’s Jaguars, Audi and Range Rovers have all been converted to run on 100 per cent biodiesel made from used cooking oil.

? Bordeaux wine ratings:  Turns out an academic study has found that the 1855 Bordeaux classification system, which has changed just one since then, is outdated. Wrote the authors: “Based on the wine scores that we analyzed, however, some chateaux have moved up in rank, while others have faded. While we doubt that the 1855 classification will be revised, market prices for these producers reflect the new standings.” Though this isn’t surprising, what is (to me anyway) is that they the researchers used scores from the Robert Parker, the Wine Spectator, and Steven Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar to measure quality. That’s treading dangerous ground, isn’t it?

Wine competitions: A tough way to make living

That’s usually one of the snickers I get when I tell people I judge competitions —  along with, “Boy,  I wish I could do that” and similar bits of cleverness.

And the Wine Curmudgeon will be the first to admit that judging a competition is not as difficult as mining coal or working at Burger King (my first job, which broke me of the desire to ever have a real job). But it is work.

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Wine trends: What we’re drinking and why, Part I

image This is the first of a three-part series about wine consumption in the United States. The second part is here; the third part is here.

The good news: Americans are drinking more and different kinds of wine. The bad news? We still drink too much marketing-driven wine, and I can’t decide if the increase in sales of more expensive wines is caused by better educated consumers trading up or wine snobs buying on price.

Overall, though, the results from the 2007 Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Overview are encouraging. We bought $9.2 billion worth of wine in 2007, and wine has increased from 14.1 percent of U.S. alcohol purchases in 1990 to 20.7 percent today.

But it’s not so much that wine sales are up. What’s worth noting is that Americans seem to be understanding this wine thing in a way they haven’t before. That is, we’re buying on quality, value and even how wine goes with food.

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