This week’s wine news: Zinfandel icon Kent Rosenblum dies, plus North Dakota wine and a tussle over Italian-style sparkling wine made in Australia
• Kent Rosenblum dies: One of the country’s greatest zinfandel winemakers died last week; the Rosenblum zinfandel, along with Ridge and Ravenswood, paved the way for today’s zinfandel boom. But that was not Kent Rosenblum’s only legacy. He was one of the most humble people I’ve ever met in the wine business. I rode an elevator with Kent, who was a vet long before he was a winemaker, shortly after he sold the company to Diageo in 2008 for $105 million. He was schlepping wine boxes to a trade tasting. “Dr. Rosenblum, I said, “why are you carrying your own boxes? Don’t you have people to do that for you now?” He looked a little sheepish, and said, “Why would I ask anyone else to do this?”
• Bring on North Dakota wine: Researchers in North Dakota want to boost the state’s wine business, in another victory for Drink Local. “”Everyone is interested in expanding our industry in North Dakota for wineries and for tourism,” said one state official. Which, of course, is just what the WC likes to hear. The biggest problem in North Dakota, not surprisingly, is the weather, which is too cold for most wine grapes. But state researchers are working with a variety of cold climate hybrids to find the best for the climate. Currently, the state has 16 wineries.
• How do you say Prosecco in Aussie? Australian bubbly may be one of the sticking points in trade negotiations between their country and the European Union. The Australians sell a wine called Australian Prosecco, which is illegal under European trade rules – the same law that prohibits California producers from calling their wine Champagne under a U.S.- European Union agreement. Why the Australian objection to the name rule for something that’s settled in much of the world? More wine labeled Australian Prosecco is sold in Australia than the Italian kind, and the former don’t want to lose that market.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This, month, a highly recommended white and red:
• Geyser Peak Chardonnay Water Bend 2016 ($18, sample, 14.5%): California white that tastes like coconut and pineapple – another example of the post-modern, better living through winemaking approach that dominates so much wine at this price. Coconut and pineapple are ideal for an ice cream sundae, but probably not the way chardonnay should taste.
• Castle Rock Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This vintage of the Oregon red is not what the 2015 was, unfortunately – a little brambly black fruit aroma, but too heavy and not very interesting. It tastes like it has lots of something in it besides pinot noir, a practice that is legal and not uncommon for less expensive pinot noirs.
• Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%) If all $17 wine tasted like this California red, I wouldn’t rant about $17 wine. It’s got actual pinot noir character – almost silky, with precise black fruit and actual oak that lends to the wine and doesn’t dominate it. Highly recommended.
• Tyrell’s Semillon 2016 ($22, purchased, 11%): This white is another brilliant Australian wine that was lost in the disaster that was 15 percent shiraz and that the Aussie wine business is still recovering from. It’s somehow balanced, soft and crisp and with lots of fresh stone fruit, and balanced. Highly recommended. Imported by Broadbent Selections
Father’s Day wine 2018: Four wines that offer quality and value — because that’s what Dad taught you
The Father’s Day wine 2018 news releases have been landing in my mailbox for a month or so, and most of them bore me to tears. I mention this not to bash wine marketing again, but to note that the releases don’t understand what Dad wants. It’s not about spending money; it’s about value and pleasure.
Which is the point of this year’s Father’s Day wine post. Keep the blog’s wine gift-giving guidelines in mind throughout the process: Don’t buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like.
This year’s Father’s Day wine suggestions:
• d’Arenberg The Footbolt 2014 ($18, sample, 14.6%): Australian shiraz’s fall from grace should not apply to d’Arenberg, an Aussie producer that makes some of the most interesting red wine in the world. d’Arenberg does it by combining terroir, top quality grapes, and — believe it or not — high alcohol in a fresh and intriguing fashion. This is shiraz for people who love wine, and not booze. Highly recommended. Imported by Old Bridge Cellars
• Peter Zemmer Pinot Grigio 2017 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Prices for this Italian white are all over the place — probably because it’s more than the citrus-flavored tonic water of cheaper pinot grigios. Look for some lemon fruit and minerality, plus something that can only be called character. Imported by HB Wine Merchants
• Zolo Signature Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.9%): This Argentine pink reminds me why I love wine — a $10 wine bought with no expectations and that gave me more than a bottle of enjoyment. It’s a syrah blend with lots of just ripe strawberry fruit, but not too heavy, too fruity, or sweet at all. Highly recommended. Imported by Vino del Sol
• Gloria Ferrer Brut Rose NV ($25, sample, 12.5%): I drank this at the Friday night reception at this year’s Critic’s Challenge. And then I drank some more. And some more. It’s beautiful, well-made, and delicious — tight bubbles, strawberry aroma, and soft red fruit flavors. Highly recommended.
More Father’s Day wine:
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. This month: two reds and two whites for Black Friday 2017
• Ferrari-Carano Pinot Grigio 2016 ($14, sample, 13.7%): Decent enough pinot grigio at a fair price, but nothing that makes it scream, “Buy me!” unless you really like pinot grigio. A step up from the Bollini, and with more California style – some lime and green apple fruit.
• Bogle Vineyards Phantom 2014 ($19, sample, 14.5%): Bogle does premiumization with this red – a rich, thick zinfandel blend that is very Lodi in style. It’s well made and delivers value, as all Bogle wines do, but you have to like this kind of wine. Don’t expect any elegance or subtlety.
• Wakefield Shiraz 2015 ($17, sample, 14%): This Australian red is more interesting, less audacious, and more enjoyable than the too hot, too fruity, and too big shirazes of 10 and 15 years ago. It’s still big, with luxurious black fruit, but those qualities are part of the wine – balanced by restrained oak and silky tannins — and not it’s reason for being. Imported by Seaview Imports