Wine of the week: Smoking Loon Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

Frankly, the Wine Curmudgeon didn ?t think he ?d like this. So what happened when I tasted it? I was quite taken with its quality ? a well-made, varietally-correct zinfandel for about $8 at most grocery stores. It ?s hard to beat that (and proves, once again, not to pre-judge wine).

Unlike some zinfandels, the Smoking Loon wasn ?t especially fruity. I ?m beginning to think that lack of fruit is a function of the 2006 vintage in California, since this wasn ?t the first time I ?ve noticed it. But this was not a problem, since the wine was spicy and brambly ?- just the way zinfandel should be. It ?s a contender for next year ?s $10 Hall of Fame. Serve this with barbecue, pizza and burgers.

Roses: The good, the best, and the better

If it’s summer and you have $10, you can buy a pretty good rose — and sometimes even get change back. In fact, this may be the best rose season in memory. The Wine Curmudgeon can’t remember when he has seen more quality pink wine at an affordable price.

For some reason, the slowing economy and the weak dollar, which have pushed up a variety of other wine prices, haven’t done the same for rose. In addition, the “rose is hip, so let’s charge $20 a bottle” trend, which has been big the past couple of summers, seems to be running out of steam. There are still pink wines that cost that much, but the focus has returned to where it should be ? quality stuff for $15 and much less.

What do you need to know about rose? It’s a fruity wine that’s not as heavy as most red wines and even some whites. But it’s not sweet. That’s white zinfandel or white merlot or whatever, and if that’s what you drink, give rose a try.

Also, rose’s fruit flavors are mostly red berries (think strawberry), as opposed to the white fruits or citrus of most white wines. Roses should be served chilled, and they pair pretty much with any food, including beef and barbecue — some of them are that dry.

A note on vintages: Look for 2007, and be wary if anyone sells anything much earlier than 2006. Roses are not made to age, and should be fresh and flavorful. The color in older vintages starts to fade, like paper that yellows.

Any of the following are well worth trying, and this is far form a complete list. One of the beauties of :rose is that they ?re cheap enough to try, so try lots of them:

• From France: Tortoise Creek ($9), Matignon Cabernet d’Anjou, ($10), Fat Bastard ($10), and Pink Criquet ($15). Some of the Fat Bastard wines don’t impress me, but this one does. And the Pink Criquet, made with St. Emillion grapes, is especially impressive.

• From Spain: Cortijo III ($8), Espelt Corali ($10), and Faustino V ($9). Actually, I tasted about a dozen Spanish roses this spring, and all were worth drinking.

• From the U.S.: McPherson Cellars ($12), Toad Hollow ($11), and Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare ($13).

Tuesday tidbits 34

? What wine will we be drinking in 2058? This forecast comes courtesy of Berry Bros. & Rudd, which has been selling wine for 310 years. How does wine from China sound? ?Cabernets and chardonnays of real promise will be made. With the right soil, low labour costs and soaring domestic demand, China is set to take the world of wine by storm. ? And you know all those expensive wines you can ?t afford to buy today? You won ?t be able to afford to buy them in 2058, either ? they ?ll be the province of the super-rich, says the report.

? French wine blog: Master of Wine Sheri Sauter Morano is blogging about French wine for Sopexa, which does marketing and public relations for much of the inexpensive wine that France sends to the U.S. She knows her stuff, and writes in an approachable, easy to ready style (and is not nearly as cranky as some of us).

? Wine and your health: Tired of all reading those stories that say wine is good for you? So is Brandon Keim, writing in Wired. He is discussing  recent reports that associate resveratrol, an anti-aging ingredient, found in red wine: ?But to receive an ostensibly therapeutic dose from wine, you’d have to drink yourself to death. … Tell your friends and family first: you’ll need to drink 750 bottles. ?

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


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.