Special International Lone Star Wine Competition award

The Wine Curmudgeon is judging the 26th International Lone Star Wine Competition in Grapevine, Texas, today and tomorrow, where a new category has been added — the Texas Vintner's Rising Star Award, sponsored by Paul Bonarrigo, the long-time owner and winemaker at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan.

The award will recognize the best Texas wine made by new winemakers; six wineries are eligible this year. They ?ll compete against each other for red and white wines. This is exactly the kind of progressive approach and attitude that regional wine needs, and I'm very glad to see it in Texas. Bonarrigo is to be congratulated.

I ?ll have a post later this week on the competition, which has attracted more than 500 wines this year from around the world.

Wine review: Vida Organica Malbec Rose 2008

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This wine, produced by Argentina ?s Familia Zuccardi (the same company that does the well-done and reasonably priced Santa Julia wines), may be a little hard to find. It ?s mostly in Whole Foods, though I have seen it scattered around elsewhere. In fact, the availability issue is the reason why it ?s not a wine of the week.

But if you can find the malbec rose (about $9), it ?s well worth it. Think strawberry, low alcohol, dry, and a pleasant stony finish. If I used the word quaffer, which I always thought seemed  demeaning, I'd use it for this. Serve chilled with almost any warm weather meal, and especially salads and grilled vegetables.

A note about organic wines: This is made with organic grapes, but it doesn ?t mean the wine itself is organic. The definition of organic wine, according to the federal government, is quite complicated, and many organic wine producers don ?t bother with it.

Zinfandel update: Yes, there are some worth paying for

The Wine Curmudgeon spoke too soon last month. I ?m still not overwhelmed by what is happening with zinfandel in the U.S., but ? as Rich Coughlan ?s comment in that post noted ? there are still some wines that are made to be wine and not port, which means they have too much fruit and too much alcohol.

I did go to the Dallas stop on the Zinfandel Advocate & Producers tour, and found several wines worth trying. Plus, my chat with Ravenswood ?s Joel Peterson, which will go up next week as a podcast, helped. And his Sonoma County zinfandel isn ?t bad, either.

The ZAP wines included:

? Ridge ?s product line. Don ?t know how I could overlook that, since I think Ridge is, dollar for dollar, the best winery in the U.S. The Lytton Springs (about $35) remains one of my all-time favorites (though the current vintage could sit for another year).

? Pedroncelli Mother Clone 2007 ($12): An old-style zinfandel that isn ?t old-fashioned ? affordable, moderate alcohol, and jammy, brambly fruit.

? Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 ($11): I was quite surprised by the quality of this wine, which you might be able to find for as little as $10. This is what inexpensive, value-oriented zinfandel used to taste like, peppery and with decent fruit.

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2009

Here’s what you need to know about vinho verde:

• It’s cheap, about $5 or $6.

• It’s a white wine with a greenish tint (though there is also some red, not as enjoyable).

• It’s a Portuguese wine from the Vinho Verde region, made with a variety of gapes most of us have never heard of.

• It needs to be well chilled, or else it tastes like warm, slightly flat beer.

• It’s mostly dry, with subtle green apple and lime flavors, but also low in alcohol ? and may even have a bubbles.

• Avoid older vintages. This wine is not made to age, and much of it is non-vintage.

• There are about a half dozen brands on the market at any one time, and they all taste pretty much the same. Some of them are, in fact, the same wine, with different labels for different retailers. I bought the Casal Garcia this year, but you’ll also find Aveleda, Famega, and Gazela.

• Drink it by itself, or with any kind of summer food. I wouldn’t do it with beef, but hamburgers might be OK.

Winebits 80: Costco and scores, no wine for Amazon, millennials and wine

? Costco loves those 90-point wines: Costco, which may be the country ?s biggest wine retailer, has a new policy for wines it carries in its store. Two people who deal with Costco ?s wine buyers have told me that the chain, with 407stores in the U.S., has told its vendors that it will only buy wines that will retail for $15 or less and have scored at least 90 points. I ?m also told that ?s currently the policy at Walmart ?s Sam ?s Club. This is not only silly, but bad business. Using these guidelines, neither could be able to carry Avalon ?s Napa cabernet, a $12-$15 wine which scores in the high 80s, and Cristalino, the world ?s best cheap sparkling wine, also high 80s. How much more must we do to demonstrate how silly scores are?

? Is Amazon wine deal dead? Wine & Spirits Daily is reporting that Amazon.com ?s plan to sell wine, along with its books and MP3s, is almost certainly finished after the company that was going to handle wine shipping for Amazon closed last week. Writes editor Megan Haverkorn: ?As a result, it ?s looking less likely that Amazon will enter the wine business at all, particularly not anytime soon. ?

? Millennials and wine: All of the people in the wine business who are much smarter than I am (and there are so many) tell me that millennials ? those born between 1982 and 2003 ? are going to reshape wine in the U.S. They won ?t care about scores, they will drink regional wine, and they want value. I love them already. The Bacchus Babes, two Ohio bloggers, put it this way: ?[W]e mean common sense. Stuff you can actually use. ? And the fine wine and food writer Gretchen Roberts has taken it one step further, with a blog called vinobite.com, aimed at millennials. Now, if I can only get Gretchen to write about Tennessee wine.

Anti-spam software

And it ?s free! And it works! Maybe I can make it an honorary member of the $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

The Wine Curmudgeon has been inundated with spam, even with my Outlook 2007 control set to high. But SpamBayes, in a matter of days, has sent almost all the spam to my junk mail folder, and I don ?t have to spend my morning cleaning out the mailbox from the night before.

SpamBayes uses a statistical anti-spam filter, with new-style algorithms to detect spam. Plus, as near as I can tell, it learns from its mistakes. Plus, did I mention it ?s free?

SpamBayes installs as an add-in for Outlook (and apparently works for Thunderbird, Gmail and Mac). After installation, it will ask how to configure it. Just use the suggested method. The software will set up a junk suspect folder, and if it isn ?t sure what to do with email, it sends it there. Then, you can click on a button on the toolbar and send the file to the correct folder. It ?s that simple. I don ?t know that it has sent any legitimate mail to the junk mail folder without me getting a chance to identify. And almost all of the spam has gone directly to the junk email folder.

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Cheap wine and what (some) retailers don’t like about it

I was wandering through the wine department of a national grocery store chain with a marvelous reputation over the weekend when an employee asked me if I needed any help. No, I said, I ?m just looking to see what ?s here and checking prices. Oh, she said, we have some of the best prices in the area.

I just grumbled and moved on. I didn ?t think it would be proper for the Wine Curmudgeon to lecture her on why that wasn ?t true. Instead, I decided to do a post about retailers, cheap wine, and why so many of them don ?t like it. More, after the jump:

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