Tag Archives: California wine

Wine of the week: Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2019

pedroncelli roseCalifornia’s Pedroncelli rose is one of the best pinks from the 2019 vintage – balanced, fruity, and delicious

It’s not easy making quality rose out of the zinfandel grape, and not just because zinfandel tends to make a heavier wine. It’s also because well-made zinfandel roses don’t necessarily taste like the roses most consumers expect – light and fresh and crisp. Which is why the California Pedroncelli rose is worth writing about, for it offers zinfandel’s fruit and spice in a pleasing and enjoyable way.

The Pedroncelli rose ($12, sample, 13.7%) is always top-notch every vintage, but the 2019 is one of the best I have tasted from anywhere this rose season, and certainly and among the best the winery has made in many years. It isn’t especially heavy, and the spice – and even a little pepper – is pleasingly noticeable in the middle, after a burst of zinfandel-ish berry fruit. Plus, the wine finishes cleanly and doesn’t feel syrupy or overdone in the mouth.

Highly recommended and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on on its own, or enjoy it with almost any Fourth of July barbecue.

Father’s Day wine 2020

Father's Day wine 2020Father’s Day wine 2020: Four wines to make Dad proud

Pandemic got you down? Worried about more wine tariffs? Tired of buying overpriced but not very good wine? Then check out the blog’s Father’s Day wine 2020, where we allow for all of that. Just 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.

Father’s Day wine 2020 suggestions:

Pedroncelli Friends.red 2018 ($11, sample, 14.2%): This red blend from one of my favorite producers is what all inexpensive California wine should aspire to — soft but not sappy, fruity but not syrupy (dark berries?), balanced and enjoyable. There’s even a tannin wandering around the back. Highly recommended.

Vinha do Cais da Ribeira Douro 2018 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Rustic Portuguese white blend, mostly available at Total Wine, that has a touch of citrus and a little minerality. Be better at $7, but still a fair value. Imported by Middlesex Wine & Spirits

Bodegas Olivares Rosado 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): Grenache-based Spanish pink that combines the grape’s red fruit with long acidity and even a touch of minerality. Much more interesting that it should be and highly recommended.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé 2017 ($15, purchased, 12.5%): Bright, fresh, and fruity sparkling (lots of red fruit) from Bordeaux, and the bubbles are zippy, too.. Not particularly subtle, and you won’t find any brioche or biscuit. But why would you need to?

More Father’s Day wine:
Father’s Day wine 2019
Father’s Day wine 2018
Father’s Day wine 2017
Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015

Expensive wine 133: Eberle Syrah 2018

eberle syrahThe Eberle syrah speaks to the grape and its terroir — and just in time for Father’s Day

Know all the bellyaching the Wine Curmudgeon does about wine samples? Not in this case – it’s a treat every year when the email arrives from California’s Eberle Winery asking if I want to try their new vintage. The Eberle syrah is just one reason why.

That’s because the Eberle syrah ($32, sample, 14.6%) does what so many other wines don’t – it tastes like syrah, which means it’s varietally correct, and it tastes like it was made with grapes from the state’s Paso Robles appellation, so it speaks to terroir. That means a rich and full wine, but one that doesn’t let the winemaker’s or marketer’s pretensions get in the way. And how many times can we say that?

Yes, the alcohol is high, but it’s in balance and the fruit isn’t overripe. The oak is restrained, and the tannins are those that should be in syrah – the back label says chalky, and that’s as good an adjective as I can think of. This is top-notch New World syrah, with smoky and almost fatty aromas, lots and lots of dark berry and plum fruit, a hint of spice, and a long and interesting finish.

How well made is this wine? The bottle was gone almost before dinner was over, and no one felt the effects of the alcohol. Highly recommended, and just the thing for a Father’s Day gift for those fond of red wine. Pair this with red meat, barbecue, or grilled sausages.

Expensive wine 132: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2017

chateau montelena chardonnayThis vintage of the Chateau Montelena chardonnay shows once again the greatness of California wine

Full disclosure first: When we talked last month, Chateau Montelena winemaker Matt Crafton told me he read the blog and enjoyed it. Who am I to argue with his good sense?

Regardless, it’s easy to write nice things about the Chateau Montelena chardonnay, which I do every couple of years. This vintage ($50, sample, 13.9%) is again a testament to what makes California wine so wonderful – fresh, layered, sophisticated, and uniquely different from great wine anywhere else in the world.

In addition, the 2017 tastes completely different than the 2015. Which, as Crafton and I discussed last month, is part of the joy of wine. Truly take what the vineyard gives you, and let the wine speak for itself. Because what’s the point of making the same wine every year just to get 92 points?

The 2017 is still very, very young, and its fruit and spice won’t completely show themselves for at least several years. But the wine is still drinkable and quite enjoyable – some floral and apple-y aromas, a wonderful rich baked apple fruit precisely balanced with the rest of the wine, and a long, amazing, and chalky finish.

Highly recommended, and just the thing for Mother’s Day. Toast Mom with this, even if you can’t be with her, and appreciate life’s small pleasures in a time of uncertainty.

Mini-reviews 132: Ava Grace, Tasca D’Almerita, River Road, Chateau Malescasse

ava graceReviews 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.

Ava Grace Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): Light, almost riesling-y sauvignon blanc from California. It’s not bad if you prefer a less intense style, and it’s a fair value; it just tastes like there is a lot of winemaking going on in an attempt to make it less varietal.

Tasca D’Almerita Nero d’Avola 2016 ($20, sample, 13.5%): Premiumized Italian red from Sicily made in an international style, which means it doesn’t taste like nero d’avola and it’s not very interesting. Imported by Winebow

River Road Family Stephanie’s Cuvée Pinot Noir 2017 ($30, sample, 14.3%): Classic, post-modern cocktail party California pinot noir – heavyish, with lots of cherry fruit, almost no tannins, and only a hint of pinot noir character.

Château Malescasse 2016 ($25, sample, 14.5%): There are two ways to look at this French red Bordeaux blend. First, as a French wine that tastes French, with herbal notes, currant fruit, and that French mouth feel. Second, as an every day style of French wine that costs $25. Imported by Austruy Family Vineyard Import

Expensive wine 131: Justin Isosceles 2015

Justin IsoscelesThe Justin Isosceles is a powerful, well made California red blend

The Wine Curmudgeon has always appreciated Justin’s wines, whether the $12 sauvingon blanc or the pricey, pricey red blends. It’s not necessarily a style I prefer, but the wines are always well made and aren’t as over the top as so many others.

The Justin Isosceles ($70, sample, 15%) is a case in point. On the one hand, this red blend (mostly cabernet sauvignon, with about equal parts merlot and cabernet franc) costs a lot of money, and especially for a wine from California’s Paso Robles region. Plus, that 15 percent alcohol screams “HOT FRUIT BOMB DESIGNED TO GET 96 POINTS!”

On the other hand, it’s not nearly as hot and as ripe as it could have been. Powerful, yes, in that fruit forward, California style. That means lots and lots of black fruit aroma, and it tastes of not too sweet cherry fruit. Plus, there is even a little spice, and the oak pushed just enough to the background so as not to get in the way. If it’s not subtle, it is mostly balanced, very layered, and well worth drinking (assuming the price doesn’t scare you off).

I’m not sure the Justin Isosceles is going to age all that well for that much longer, so it’s ready to drink now.

Mini-reviews 131: Raeburn, Pigmentum, Montmirail, Excelsior

raeburnReviews 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

Raeburn Rose 2019 ($13, sample, 13.5%): California pink with some tart raspberry fruit that is well made, but the longer it sits in the glass, the more you notice the lingering residual sugar and that it’s not quite dry rose.

Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): Didn’t notice the vintage when I bought this French red, and that is so tasty is amazing given its age. Still has a little dark fruit and some earth, and still eminently drinkable.

Château de Montmirail “M” 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This red Rhone blend has some heft and black fruit, but isn’t overdone or too heavy. Availability may be limited, which is too bad since it’s close to a Hall of Fame wine. Imported by Kindred Vines

Excelsior Chardonnay 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This South African white will not help the country get back into the U.S. market. It’s a Kendall Jackson chardonnay knockoff, complete with residual sugar. Imported by Cape Classics