Wine review: Hey Mambo Swanky White 2007

This has been, for the past couple of vintages, a decent enough white wine blend. And then someone at The Other Guys, the subsidiary of Don Sebastiani & Sons (think Smoking Loon) that produces the wine and a Hey Mambo red, had a great idea: Use more viognier and chenin blanc and less sauvignon blanc. (And we know how much the Wine Curmudeon appreciates viognier and chenin blanc).

The result is impressive. Look for a fresh, apricot fruity and juicy wine that isn ?t sweet and has enough zing to stand up to most white wine foods. It reminded me of many of the cheap and well-made Gascogne wines that have showed up over the past couple of years. The suggested retail price is $13, so it may be available for as little as $10.99 in some parts of the country.

And yes, that ?s a Zork closure.

Wine of the week: Gruet Brut NV


The Wine Curmudgeon has never understood why more people don ?t drink sparkling wine more often. One of the most fun parts of teaching my Cordon Bleu wine class was introducing the students to bubbly as something to drink with dinner (instead of, sadly, their preferred use — mimosas). Quality sparkling wine is fruity, has solid acid, and pairs with almost anything except big red meat.

And the Gruet (about $14) is an exceptional example of well-priced, well-made bubbly. That it is from New Mexico ? regional wine alert! ? makes it even better. The Brut is crisp and full of green apple fruit, without the overdone oak and toastiness that defines so many other, more expensive sparklers and Champagnes. It ?s also a little more sophisticated and softer than cava, Spanish sparkling wine.

Tuesday wine bits 68: Wine labels, Amy Culbertson, cutting supply

? Wine label web site: The people behind have come up with a web site to help those of us who can ?t remember the name of a wine, but do remember the label. It ?s called, and features labels from around the world. It works by using an image keyword search, which helps wine drinkers find the actual label, which is displayed on the site. You can also browse the site by country.

? A fond farewell: The woman who gave the Wine Curmudgeon his name is retiring from the newspaper business. Amy Culbertson, the food editor at the Star-Telegram newspaper in Fort Worth, didn ?t have to think very hard to come up with it when we were brainstorming ideas for the wine column I write for the paper. It was, she said, a natural. And she was right, of course. Amy was a pro, one of the finest people I have worked with. The newspaper business, which is having troubles enough, will be hard-pressed to replace Amy (and the thousands like her) who are leaving in the wake of the industry ?s financial problems.

? When it doubt, make less: Knob Creek, a high-end bourbon, has what appears to be an interesting solution to the recession. It ?s making less bourbon. I got a news release from the company, warning me that it will be more difficult to find the whiskey in stores this year. The release, written in PR-speak, is a little fuzzy. But what I think it means is that the company had two choices ? cut costs by making a less premium spirit, or make less. It opted for the latter. It ?s an approach with much to recommend it, since the market is about to be flooded with high-end wines that have been marked down significantly in order to sell them.

Wine Curmudgeon winecast 3: Winemaker Eric Cinnamon

image Eric Cinnamon, the winemaker for Gallo ?s Rancho Zabaco, was in town last week to attend the Savor Dallas food and wine festival. We talked about  what a winemaker does, what he likes (and dislikes) about the job, and how you can learn more about wine. He also managed to get in some plugs for his wine, which was neatly done.

To download or stream the podcast, go here. It ?s about 7.4 megs and 8 minutes. The recording is mostly solid, though there may be something that sounds like tape hiss (which was a nifty trick for a digital recording).

Wine review: Altano Douro 2006

image Two years ago, this was a nifty $7 wine and it almost made the $10 Hall of Fame. The 2005 vintage, on the other hand, was fat and flabby, and was not interesting at all.

The good news is that the 2006 is almost up to the standards set by the 2003. This Douro, a Portuguese red blend, is still not as well put together as the ?03. It ?s kind of empty in the middle, and it ?s more jammy than it should be. (Whether this was a conscious decision by the winemaker to appeal to the American palate or the result of Portugal ?s recent unseasonably warm weather is anyone ?s guess.)

But it ?s certainly drinkable, with lots of red berry fruit, decent tannins, and it is food friendly ? think burgers or pizza. And you ?ll probably be able to buy it for as little as $8 at some retailers.

Feds join pinot noir investigation

The  Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the federal agency that oversees the wine industry, has dispatched investigators to U.S. wineries that may have sold wine labeled as pinot noir that isn ?t.

Spokesman Art Resnick said yesterday that the bureau is working with French investigators to learn who in this country may have have used the fake pinot noir in their wine. One of the U.S. wineries, as I reported two weeks ago, is apparently E&J Gallo, whose Red Bicyclette pinot noir is made with grapes supplied by the French company Sieur d'Arques. Sieur d ?Arques, a wine company in the Languedoc region, has been identified by French authorities as being involved, perhaps inadvertently, in the fraud.

Reuters reported Tuesday that Sieur d ?Arques and another French company linked to the investigation, the Ducasse negociant firm, which sold grapes to Sieur d ?Arques, declined comment. A Gallo spokesman told me this week that his company is still waiting on word from the French.

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Wine of the week: Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Chenin Blanc 2007

image The Wine Curmudgeon, as noted, is a huge fan of chenin blanc. It can produce tasty, well-made, cheap wine that isn ?t chardonnay ? something that is always welcome. Which is why I was so glad to find the Dry Creek on sale for $9 (it ?s probably going to be closer to $11 most of the time).

It ?s a little oily, which is not a bad thing for this kind of wine. (The winespeak term for oily, by the way, is viscous, which sounds like a bad cough, as in, ?Boy, your viscous sounds awful. ?) Most importantly, the Dry Creek is not sweet, which makes it a little more food friendly. This is not an indictment of sweet wine, as regular visitors here know, but a reflection of how much poorly made, sweet chenin blanc exists in the world. Also, look for some apricot fruit and a very long mineral finish.

Serve this with salads, seafood or as an aperitif.