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: Maybe New Year’s wine, maybe not
• Mumm Napa Brut Reserve NV ($18, purchased, 12.5%): How the mighty have fallen, and how sad it is to taste. This used to be one of the best affordable California sparklers, with fresh fruit and lots of interest. These days, it’s soft and almost flabby, with gassy bubbles — just one more focus group wine.
• Boordy Vineyards Landmark Reserve 2014 ($44, purchased, 12%): Maryland red blend speaks to terroir and how distinctive regional wine can be when it’s not trying to imitate French or California wine. Soft tannins and a long finish, plus a little spice and ripe, but not sweet black fruit.
• Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This French red is better than what has passed for Beaujolais Nouveau over the past decade, with a little more acidity and not nearly as much banana fruit. But it’s still softish and too bubble gummy. Imported by Boisset America
• Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This California white used to be one of the world’s great cheap wines, combining chenin blanc’s crispness with viognier’s stone fruit. Now, it’s just overpriced plonk, with acidity added to counterbalance all of that residual sugar. It’s awkward, unbalanced, and oh so disappointing.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month (though it posts today because of the holiday):
?Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2015 ($8, purchased, 13%): Better than the last couple of vintages of this French red, in which it tastes more like wine than grape juice. But it’s still too soft and too full of that off-banana flavor that marks poorly made Beaujolais Nouveau. One day, perhaps, these wines will again be worth drinking, and I’ll keep trying them to let you know.
?Planet Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 ($20, purchased, 13.4%): There’s nothing really wrong with this Oregon red, other than I expected a bit more than it delivered. Look for lots of red fruit with some earthiness, but it’s light and too simple for $20 — even for pinot noir.
?Vistalba Tomero Torront s 2014 ($14, sample, 13%): This Argentine white is more sauvignon blanc than torrontes, with too much citrus and not enough of the soft white fruit that makes a dry torrontes so enjoyable. Having said that, it’s not unpleasant; it just doesn’t taste like torrontes. Given that, the price is problematical.
?Leese-Fitch Chardonnay 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Solid and dependable grocery store chardonnay from California that follows the same template every year — just enough green apple fruit, fake oak, and heavy-ish mouth feel to taste the way it should, and consistency is a virtue when you’re standing in front of the Great Wall of Wine on your way home from work.
These Beaujolais Nouveaus were two of the worst professionally-made wines I’ve tasted in 25 years, practically undrinkable and as bad as some of the amateur regional plonk I endured in the local wine movement’s early days. The Duboeuf, from one of France’s major producers, was thin, watery, and almost devoid of fruit save for the faint taste of overripe bananas. The Thorin was even more offensive — more thin, more watery, and without any fruit at all. The Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red, which I tasted with the nouveaus because I was afraid this would happen, cost a dollar less and was of a quality the nouveaus could only dream about.
Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month:
? Georges Dub uf Beaujolais Nouveau 2012 ($8, purchased): Grape juice, and not especially good grape juice. No varietal character; perhaps the most poorly made nouvueau in decades.
? Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($135, sample): Aged well enough — 15 percent alcohol isn’t noticeable, lots of dark fruit left, and acid still shows — but anyone who paid three figures for this five years ago is probably very disappointed.
? Mart n C dax Albari o 2011 ($15, sample): Spanish white is always consistent and varietally correct, though there are $10 albarinos that deliver similar clean, soft citrus results,
? Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2010 ($10, purchased): Look for lemon-lime fruit and even some oiliness, but always tastes too sweet to me (which is odd for a Charles Smith wine).
? Napa Cellars Merlot ($22, sample): Two or three years ago, these wines did not impress; today, with a little aging and a change in winemaking styles elsewhere, it's a winner: correctly tannic, with black fruit and even a bit of earthiness. Missing is the sweet fruit so common in these wines today.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, a special all red wines edition.
? Bonny Doon Contra 2009 ($14, sample): This Rhone blend is not exactly an upscale version of the old Big House Red, but it’s close enough. Lots of spice and fruit, though it does need food.
? William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($23, sample): A surprisingly well done and balanced Napa cabernet that is more or less affordable. It’s a step up from more inexpensive cabernets like Avalon and 337, with more body and structure.
? 181 Merlot 2008 ($15, sample): A merlot from the same company that does the 337 cabernet sauvignon. Offers structure and substance for less than $25, which doesn’t happen often. On the other hand, the tasting notes compare Lodi, where the grapes are from, to merlot’s Garden of Eden in Pomerol, which is a bit much.