Wine of the week: McManis Family Pinot Grigio 2007

image Much American-made pinot grigio is actually closer in style to pinot gris than it is pinot grigio. Producers in this country call it pinot grigio because the Italians have spent so much time and money marketing the name. Hence, they ?re more than happy to piggyback on that effort. (The grapes are, for all practical purposes, the same. The difference in style comes from climate and cultural differences.)

Which is why anyone who buys the McManis and expects an Italian-style wine, with not much fruit and that quinine quality that seems ever present, will be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you want a quality $9 wine with juicy, almost peachy fruit and a stony finish, then try this. McManis, a quality cheap wine producer, would be better served calling this pinot gris.

It ?s easily a better buy than similarly priced pinot grigio imports (and many California labels), and is a $10 Hall of Fame contender. It will stand up to a variety of white wine food, and should be quite nice with grilled chicken.

Tuesday winebits 72: Markham $25,000 grants, direct shipping update, cult wines

? Markham Vineyards' Mark of Distinction: The Napa winery will again award $25,000 grants to two groups or individuals ? selected by the public through online voting ? who have submitted compelling plans to make positive change in their community, town or city. Anyone, from an established charity to a citizen with a great idea, is eligible. You can make a nomination on the web site using the link above.

? Michigan consumers lose out: The legislature has made it more difficult for residents to get wine from something other than a traditional retailer. In Michigan, stores can only ship wine to state residents from vehicles they own, and not companies like Fed-Ex or UPS. And since most out-of-state retailers don ?t own trucks in Michigan ? and most in-state retailers don ?t, either — they can ?t ship wine in the state. So if I live in Ann Arbor, I can ?t order wine from a Detroit retailer over the Internet or even by phone, unless I drive to Detroit to pick it up. Even has given up, and won ?t ship to Michigan.

? Cult wine prices drop 50 percent: Or so reports Elin McCoy after attending a major Napa wine auction last month: ?Five cases of 2007 Shafer cabernet from their Sunspot Vineyard, which provides the heart of the winery ?s top cab Hillside Select, pulled in $24,000, compared with $62,000 in 2008. ? More about slumping U.S. wine sales, and what the industry doesn ?t want to face up to, coming soon.

Wine review: Pacific Rim Riesling NV

No one is a bigger fan of Randall Grahm ?s Bonny Doon wines than the Wine Curmudgeon. But I ?ve never been too excited about his Pacific Rim operation, which makes riesling, gew rztraminer, chenin blanc and dessert wines in Washington state.

That ?s because the Pacific Rim wines are surprisingly inconsistent, especially for a producer of Grahm ?s reputation. They vary in quality from vintage to vintage and from varietal to varietal, and in no discernible pattern. Which means there ?s no way to know how well made the wine is when you buy it.

Hopefully, this is changing with the current release of the dry riesling (about $11). It was quite impressive, which is not what I expected. I bought it so I could say I tasted it in case anyone asked. But it ?s the best effort in years — bone dry and steely with a New World riesling edge (not luscious or oily at all, like European rieslings) and a touch of citrus. Drink this chilled with chicken (I did it with chicken braised in a green sauce made with tomatillos and cilantro) or seafood, and especially oysters.

Wine of the week update

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

? Graffigna Centanario Malbec 2006: A step up from most malbecs at this price.

? Matua Valley Saugivnon Blanc 2008: $12, and worth much more.

? Vini Merlot 2007: $8 and from Bulgaria ? what more do we need?.

? Gruet Brut NV: Sparkling wine from New Mexico.

? Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2007: Tasty, well-made, cheap wine that isn ?t chardonnay.

? Hedges CMS Red 2007: An old favorite that is simple and straightforward.

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Rodney Strong’s Rick Sayre talks sense, part II

image This is the second of a two-part series detailing my interview with Rodney Strong ?s Rick Sayre. Part I is here.

Technology ? including more efficient yeasts and improved techniques in the barrel room ? has changed the way wine is made. It has given consumers more consistent quality and wines that provide better value (as well as those high alcohol monsters that cause so much controversy). But, says Rodney Strong ?s Rick Sayre, it isn ?t the future of winemaking.

?We ?re almost at the end of technology in winemaking, ? Sayre said during a visit to Dallas last week. ?We ?re getting to the point where we are reinventing the wheel. ?

The new direction? ?We need to focus on the vineyard, and not the wine room, ? he said. More, after the jump:

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Rodney Strong’s Rick Sayre talks sense, part I

imageThis is the first of a two-part series detailing my interview with Rodney Strong ?s Rick Sayre. Part II will post Friday.

Rick Sayre has been making wine at Sonoma ?s Rodney Strong Vineyards for some 30 years. He is one of the most respected winemakers in California, and has seen trends come and go, wines cult and un-cult, and fads travel full circle.

As such, he ?s a man whose opinions should be taken into account. And what does Sayre think is one of the biggest problems facing the wine business? Wine writing.

?It ?s not the biggest changes I ?ve seen over the past 30 years, ? said Sayre during a visit to Dallas last week. ?It ?s the challenges we still face, and that ?s education. People like you ? ? and he looked at me — ?have to do more to make wine less intimidating. Otherwise, it won ?t be accepted as a daily beverage in the United States. ?

I note this because Sayre is the first and only winemaker to ever say something like that to me. Even more amazing, he said this day before I posted my Wine writing, and what ?s wrong with it entry ? and he had no idea that I had written it.

More, after the jump:

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Wine of the week: Graffigna Centanario Malbec 2006

linea_centenario_chi_03 Years ago, Robert Parker ? yes, that Robert Parker ? wrote that one day we ?d all be drinking inexpensive malbec. Which means I ?m still looking for the good ones.

The problem with malbec is that the Argentines, who make most of it, haven ?t quite figured out how to make a $10 version that offers value in the way that New Zealand winemakers have figured out how to offer value in $10 sauvignon blanc. There are plenty of fine $20 and $30 malbecs, but not nearly as many at $8, $10 and $12. Most of the cheap malbecs that are in stores are too fruity, and the fruit is about the only thing they have to offer.

The Graffigna (about $13, though availability may be limited) doesn ?t have this problem. It ?s an impressive wine — not flabby like most inexpensive malbecs, and with some structure and enough blackberry fruit and tannins to be interesting. Drink this on its own, or with any sort of homey beef dish.

For more on the malbec dilemma: