And the winner is: Jeff, who selected 912; the winning number was 947 (screen shot to the right). Thanks to everyone who participated. Tomorrow’s giveaway is the French wine accessories gift pack, courtesy of Teuwen Communication.
Complete contest rules are here. Pick a number between 1 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section of this post. You can’t pick a number someone else has picked, and you need to leave your guess in the comments section of this post — no email entries or entries on other posts. Unless the number is in the comments section of this post, the entry won’t count.
If you get the blog via email or RSS, you need to go to this exact post on the website to enter (click the link to get there). At about 5 p.m. central today, I’ll go to random.org and generate the winning number. The person whose entry is closest to that number gets the gift card.
These six roses are an all-star team for the blog’s 10th annual celebration of rose
The dramatic increase in rose’s popularity over the past couple of years means we have more great pink wine than ever. The difference in the number of roses worth drinking this year and when I did my first rose post 10 years ago is almost unbelievable – rose not just from Europe and California, but almost everywhere in the world. It’s something I never expected to see.
The downside? The wine business, and especially Big Wine, is trying to make rose over into a commodity like it has done with red blends, fake oak chardonnay, and pinot noir that doesn’t taste like pinot noir. That means their wines are slightly sweet and not especially crisp, as they aim at the “smooth” flavor their focus groups claim to like. There is also the trend toward red wine-like roses, much favored by the hipsters and their Hampton and Napa brethren.
There’s nothing wrong with these wines, of course, if that’s what you like. But almost all of the Big Wine efforts are labeled as dry rose, so those of us who expect crisp and fresh will be disappointed when the wine is soft and leaves that cotton candy feeling in the back of our mouth. And there is almost no way to tell which is which from anything written on the bottle.
Even so, enjoy this year’s rose bounty. My recommendations are after the jump, and you should also check out the rose category link, which lists 10 years of rose reviews. And don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters.
Vintage, in fact, is especially important. Do not buy a rose older than two years, so 2015 is the limit this year. Otherwise, the wine will be tired, old, not crisp or fresh, and not worth drinking. If you have a choice between 2016 and 2015, always take the 2016.
Four choices for Christmas wine 2016 to help you enjoy the holiday
Suggestions for Christmas wine 2016 – either for a last-minute gift for a wine person, or to drink with all those upcoming holiday dinners and leftovers. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:
• Farnese Fantini Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): An Italian pink wine that is fruity (very red cherry) and fresh. It’s not quite in the New World style, but it’s not quite Provencal, either. Very nicely done, and the sort of wine to enjoy at a holiday party and marvel at its cost and quality.
• Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Sétilles 2013 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Top-quality white Burgundy (made with chardonnay) at a remarkable price and that has all the things it should have — apple fruit, white pepper, that certain amount of oak. This wine is still young and a little tight, making it a fine value if you want to buy a couple of bottles to hold, either as a gift or for yourself.
• Campo Viejo Cava Gran Brut Rosé NV ($10, sample, 12%): This grocery store Spanish sparkler can be inconsistent, but this bottle was everything I hoped for – varietally correct, tight bubbles, and fresh, cherryish fruit. A nice value, whether you want an aperitif or something to toast with.
• Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2012 ($45, purchased, 13.5%): This California Rhone-style blend from the irrepressible Randall Grahm shows why his wines are so interesting. It’s both earthy and refined, for one thing, with a wonderful foresty aroma and dark but not forbidding fruit. Plus, it will age for at least another decade, and get even more intriguing as it does. Highly recommended. If you know someone who wants to venture outside of their California cabernet sauvignon comfort zone, give them this.
Who knew this turkey would lend itself to five dinners and five wines?
What do with a 20-pound turkey? Use it to for five dinners paired with five wines
This year, the Wine Curmudgeon’s Thanksgiving turkey weighed 20 pounds. My old pal Jim Serroka, who shares holiday cooking duties with me, wanted lots of turkey for leftovers. Needless to say, we got them – as well as another post in the blog’s wine and food pairings series: One entree that can be turned into five dinners with five wines.
The goal here was to pair quality cheap wine with the leftovers as simply as possible – no wine geek for advice, no examining the turkey’s entrails for wines to drink. My wine and food pairings:
• The Thanksgiving turkey. Roasted with lots of herbs and vegetables, and stuffed with the Kleinpeter family’s traditional chicken cornbread dressing. I picked three wines; two were disappointing, proving that even I can over-think wine and food pairings. But the third was an old pal, the $16 Clos de Gilroy grenache from Bonny Doon. How winemaker Randall Graham gets cherryish fruit, a little earthiness, some white pepper, and a delightful freshness from California grenache is beyond my understanding, but I’m glad he does.
• Turkey rice cake. One of my great cooking discoveries was that rice freezes. Make eight cups in the rice cooker, divide it into 2- or 3-cup packages, freeze, and thaw when necessary. This was chopped leftover turkey, some of the roasted vegetables, and an egg mixed with rice; basically the same thing I did with noodles for the roast chicken post. The wine was a sample, the $25 Markham merlot – dependable and high quality and what California merlot is supposed to taste like – lighter and more approachable than cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruit and subtler tannins. And it didn’t overwhelm the rice cakes.
• Turkey sausage okra gumbo. I’ve been making this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey since I moved to Dallas, so long ago the city had two newspapers. It’s more or less the classic recipe – make the roux, add chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, stir, add the stock, stir, add the okra, let it simmer, and finish with the sausage and turkey. And no tomatoes – absolutely, positively no tomatoes. The wine was an $8 Rivarey Crianza, a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. It was simple and fruity, but with enough structure and backbone for the dark, smoky gumbo.
• Baked turkey Reubens. This is a Siegel family tradition; my Dad made these when I was a kid using Pepperidge Farm brown and serve rolls and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It’s sliced turkey breast, quality Swiss cheese, canned and drained sauerkraut, and my Dad’s thousand island dressing (his secret ingredient was lime juice). Make the sandwich, wrap in foil, and bake until crusty. And what better wine than rose? The Ned, a $12 New Zealand pink wine, did the trick, and it will be even better in six months. This was a 2016, and had only been in the bottle for six or eight weeks.
• Turkey torte. This sort of baked Spanish-style omelette is usually made with potatoes, but turkey (with sauteed onions and peppers) works well, too. I drank a bottle of cava, a $10 Spanish sparkler called – believe it or not – Lady of Spain. The wine has been inconsistent, but this bottle was very cava-like, with tight bubbles and lemon fruit. And, of course, Spanish wine with a Spanish dish, one of the ways to make pairings work with less trouble.
I rarely discuss wine with the person who made it; what’s the point with most of the grocery store plonk I taste? But talking about the Bonny Doon Old Telegram with Randall Grahm was a treat.
The wine, of course, was even better. The Old Telegram ($45, sample, 13.9%) is a classic Bonny Doon effort – top-notch, if unusual, California fruit (mourvedre, in this case), exquisite technical winemaking, and the sense that there is something going on that you won’t find in too many other places.
Grahm, during our visit this spring, insisted that I taste the Old Telegram, saying it was one of the best he had ever made. I’m glad I didn’t argue with him. Somehow, the mourvedre – a Spanish grape also grown in the south of France – produces a Bordeaux-like, earthy, forest floor sensibility that you only get anymore in traditional and very expensive red Bordeaux. There is also some baking spice and Grahm’s trademark funky fruit (blackberry?).
Highly recommended, and the wine to give as a gift to someone who appreciates Old World sensibility or wants to try something that isn’t full of sweet fruit. Pair this with anything you’d eat with high-end red Bordeaux, including roast lamb and almost any combination of beef. It’s also young, and will only get more interesting as it ages over the next decade.
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.
• Eden Ridge Chardonnay 2013 ($13, sample, 14.5%): This California white shows everything that is wrong-headed about premiumization – $7 or $8 worth of wine that costs one-third more. It’s hot, with an alcoholic tang; stemmy and bitter; doused with oak; and without all that much fruit.
• Campo Viejo Rioja 2014: ($10, purchased, 13%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that proves not all Spanish wine is a great value. It’s grocery store plonk that tastes about as Spanish as a glass of water, with sweet fruit and too much oak.
• Bonny Doon Gravitas 2014 ($16, purchased, 13.5%): Proper white Bordeaux channeled through California, so brighter citrus fruit, less flinty, and a little rounder, but still delicious. The difference between this wine and the first two is so vast that it’s difficult to put into words.
• Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 ($20, purchased, 13%): This red blend from one of my favorite Sicilian producers was sadly disappointing. Though it’s well made, with red fruit and some spice, there’s not enough going on for what it cost: Not complex enough, with almost no finish; not enough Sicilian dark fruit; and not earthy enough.
Dallas, finally, seems to be taking to Randall Grahm. The Bonny Doonster sold out a winemaker dinner at the new and much-praised Rapscallion on Monday night, and Dallas winemaker dinners usually don’t sell out unless they feature men who make massive, gigantic Napa-style red wine that costs too much money. Plus, Grahm’s wines are starting to show up on store shelves here, something that hasn’t happened in years.
Grahm’s trip gave us a chance to hold another of our sort of annual visits, where we taste his wines and solve the problems of the post-modern U.S. wine business. This time, we talked before the dinner, which I didn’t stay for since I didn’t want to stop him from schmoozing with the paying guests (schmoozing being winemaker slang for mingling with the customers).
The highlights of our chat and a few notes about three of the wines served with the dinner:
• The California drought cut yields in 2015, but Grahm said that winter rain seems to have helped all but the worst hit areas. One side effect: Many grapes ripened early, so some 2015 wines won’t have as much structure or acidity, and could be more flabby. That’s something I’ve tasted so far, and it has been quite disappointing.
• He says he is “gaining clarity” about how to approach the Popelouchum Vineyard, where he hopes to create 10,000 new grape varieties (last year’s successful Indiegogo crowdfunding project). Grahm is especially excited about using furmint, a Hungarian white grape, and a native Texas rootstock, Vitisberlandieri, that does well in stony soils. Vines are growing on the property, though money remains a problem.
• On so many wineries — that don’t own land or winemaking facilities — being bought for so much money by Big Wine: “It’s like money in the political process,” he said. “Where does it all come from?” That Big Wine is buying producers for nothing more than their brand is difficult for long-time producers like Grahm to make sense of, given that wine is supposed to be about the land the grapes are grown on.
The wines, as always, were top notch. The new vintage of the Vin Gris de Cigare ($15, sample, 13.5%) was less Provencal and more Bordeaux than usual, with a chalky finish, a less crisp mouth feel, and darker, though still subtle, fruit.
The 2012 Le Pousseur Syrah ($26, sample, 13.4%) is what New World syrah should taste like — earthy, peppery, and spicy, with soft black fruit and the tannins to match, while the bacon fat aroma is textbook. The 2012 gets more interesting as it ages, particularly as the fruit softens. This syrah is my favorite Bonny Doon wine, and I’ve even paid for it. That it tastes so fresh and alive after all this time under screwcap should put all that cork and aging foolishness to rest.
The 2011 Le Cigare Volant ($45, sample, 14.2%) is a Rhone-style blend, mostly mouvedre and grenache, that takes this style of wine toward an elegance I didn’t think possible with Rhone blends. It’s also somehow a food wine (lamb?), a contradiction usually only seen in red Burgundy. Look for a long, long wine with sophisticated tannins, layers of flavor that are only just beginning to show, and cherry fruit in there somewhere. It, too, should keep aging — maybe even a decade.