Tag Archives: California wine

Wine of the week: Bogle Pinot Noir 2015

bogle pinot noirThe Bogle pinot noir is, as always, $10 Hall of Fame wine. The same can’t be said for the label’s cabernet sauvignon

How amazing is the Bogle pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%)? It mostly tastes like pinot noir. This is unheard of in a $10 wine, and it’s not all that common for pinot noir that costs as much as $30, either. That Bogle can do it speaks to the producer’s emphasis on quality and value.

That’s the good news. The bad news, and it pains me to write this, is that the 2015 Bogle cabernet sauvignon ($10, sample, 13.5%) is as disappointing as the pinot noir is not. The cabernet is soft, flabby, and bereft of almost any varietal character. In this, it’s another example of winemaking by focus group; someone, somewhere, decided that U.S. wine drinkers don’t want tannins or spice or pepper or earth or anything that adds interest to cabernet. Instead, all we want is great gobs of gushy fruit, so any number of red wines that were once worth buying aren’t (like this one and this one). I never thought to add a Bogle wine to that list.

Regular visitors here know of my respect – almost reverence – for Bogle. That is borne out in the pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%), which is as subtle and elegant as a $10 pinot noir is going to get. Look for cherry fruit, some peppery spice, a little foresty something or other, and oak that is there to be barely noticed. Again, all qualities I rarely seen on wines at this price.

Hopefully, the decision makers at Bogle will realize wine drinkers prefer wines like the pinot and will return the cabernet to its former style. That, more than anything, is why I included it in this review. Because it’s easy to buy cheap wine; it’s much more difficult to buy cheap wine that reminds us why we love wine.

rose reviews 2018

Mini-reviews 109: Even more rose reviews 2018

rose reviews 2018Reviews 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, four rose reviews 2018 in honor of the blog’s 11th annual rose fest.

Château De Paraza Cuvée Spéciale Rose 2017 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This French rose would have been $8 in the old days, when only cranky wine writers drank rose, and it would have made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for a flowery aroma, pretty watermelon fruit (not overdone at all), refreshing crispness, and a pleasing finish. Imported by Wines with Conviction

Hecht & Bannier Rose 2017 ( $16, sample, 13%): Rose for white zinfandel drinkers. It’s a little soft, which I assume is to simulate sweetness (cherry compote?). Plus, it’s short and not especially crisp. That this bottle costs as much as it does – from a very ordinary part of France – speaks to what’s going on with rose. Not to be confused with Hecht & Bannier’s Provencal rose, about $4 or $5 more and a step up in quality. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Rose 2017 ($15, sample, 12.5%): More pink wine from France’s Languedoc at a “rose is trendy” price. This vintage is a little fruiter the previous and less Provencal in style, with almost peach fruit. It’s well-made and professional, and well worth buying if you can find it at $12. Imported by Sera Wine Imports.

Bonny Doon La Bulle-Moose de Cigare 2017 ($8/375 ml can, sample, 13%): This is Randall Grahm’s always top-notch California rose — dry, tart, and fresh — in a can with added carbonation. Call it fizzy pink with a pulltop. Enjoyable and much better than I expected, which speaks to the quality of the wine.

Wine review: Two Murrieta’s Well wines

Murrieta’s Well winess

Two Murrieta’s Well wines – The Spur and the Whip – are a reminder that top-notch California wine doesn’t have to be expensive and boring

The Wine Curmudgeon has rarely been disappointed by Murrieta’s Well wine for more than 20 years. In the old days, when $20 was a lot of money and not something to spend because it was trendy, I would happily pay it for Murrieta’s Well.

How impressive is the the current incarnation, powered by new winemaker Robbie Meyer and a renewed commitment from the label’s owner, Wente Vineyards? It may be the best yet – and costs about the same, too.

The Spur 2015 ($20, sample, 14.5%) is a red blend that’s almost one-half cabernet sauvignon, but not dominated by it. Most importantly, despite the higher alcohol, the wine isn’t hot but balanced between dark, ripe black fruit, just enough sweet oak, supple tannins, and a wonderfully fragrant baking spice aroma.

The Whip 2016 ($18, sample, 13.5%) is a white blend with orange muscat, a grape that is difficult to work with and tends to overpower everything else. Here, though, it lends the tiniest hint of an orange aroma, which plays off the citrus of the sauvignon blanc, green apple of the chardonnay, and stone fruit of the viognier. And, somehow, the wine is floral, crisp and fresh.

How Meyer got these wines to taste like this – elegant and enjoyable – speaks to his talent and commitment to the cause. Because he is a believer; we tasted these at a media lunch, and Meyer and I probably spent too much time lamenting the sad state of $25 wine – soft, sappy, almost sweet, and tasting exactly the same.

Both wines are highly recommended, and offer value as well as quality. Serve these for a Mother’s Day brunch or dinner – the white would pair with eggs Benedict or a rich and cheesy quiche, while the red is ideal for roast beef and leg of lamb.

Mini-reviews 108: Walmart wine, Lake Sonoma, Exem, Concha y Toro

walmart wineReviews 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, four reds, including a Walmart wine.

Lunar Harvest Merlot 2015 ($9, sample, 13.5%): Walmart private label Washington state red wine that can be summed up in one sentence: Is it any wonder I worry about the future of the wine business?

Lake Sonoma Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2015 ($26, sample, 14.4%): Doesn’t taste especially Sonoma or Alexander Valley — just rich, overripe black fruit, lots of chocolate oak, and hardly any tannins or acidity. Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s what you’re looking for at $26.

Exem Rouge 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): Pleasant French merlot blend from Bordeaux with nothing really wrong with it, save that it’s about $8 worth of wine. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): More Old World in style than one expects from Chilean wine, and especially from malbec. This red has less ripe fruit and more backbone and acidity than similar South American wines. Find this for less than $15, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Imported by Excelsior Wine.

Expensive wine 107: Fort Ross FRV Pinot Noir 2013

Fort Ross FRV pinot noirThe Fort Ross FRV pinot noir is a rarity from California – elegant, graceful, and varietally correct

California pinot noir is a conundrum, which is why we have movies about it, best-selling sweet versions of it, and critically acclaimed cabernet sauvignon versions of it. Mostly, the state isn’t cool and rainy enough to make a classical, varietally correct version of it. Which is where the Fort Ross FRV pinot noir comes in.

The Fort Ross FRV pinot noir ($52, sample, 13.8%) is elegant and, in its elegance, spectacular. It’s not what one expects from California pinot nor, given the excesses of many of the best selling labels. It somehow combines New World freshness with a little Burgundian complexity, so that each part of the wine complements the other and the whole is greater than the parts. It’s balance where balance is too often lacking.

Look for forest floor aromas (not too funky), plus dark red fruit and baking spice flavors, and soft, refined tannins. The tannins, as well as the exquisitely judicious use of oak, might be the most impressive achievements. This is a California pinot noir made to express pinot noir from Fort Ross’ Sonoma terroir instead of making it to get 94 points, the soil and the climate be damned.

Highly recommended. Ready to drink now, and probably won’t age for more than several years. Enjoy it with anything pinot noir–related, from roast lamb to salmon. And, given its grace, by itself.

Wine review: Four Target California Roots wines

Target California Roots winesThese four Target California Roots wines don’t do anything to help the cause, and three of them aren’t even worth the $5 they cost

The Wine Curmudgeon wanted to write a glowing, “run out and buy these wines” review. Those of us who care about cheap wine need the good news. But these four Target California Roots wines aren’t much better than the $3 junk I tasted earlier this year – sadly, more marketing hype than wine, and where the back labels are of higher quality than the wine.

For instance, why does $5 wine have a cork? Why do the bottles have a punt (albeit shallow)? Why is the phrase “vinted in the Golden State” on every bottle? Why should I care? Why is not one of the wines labeled sweet, including the moscato, when my mouth felt like cotton candy at the end of the tasting?

The wines were purchased; each cost $5. My Target didn’t have the red blend, the fifth wine. Read and weep:

California Roots Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (13.5%): Smells like boysenberry juice, tastes too much like children’s cough syrup, and finishes with that old Big Wine standby, charred chocolate fake oak. It’s not so much that it doesn’t taste like cabernet, but that it’s overpriced at $5.

California Roots Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%): This smells like chardonnay, with lots of green apples, and I had high hopes I could write something nice. But the wine is so thin – diluted apple juice for babies? – that it had almost no flavor at all, save for a bit of sweetness. I’ve never tasted chardonnay made in the style of cheap, inoffensive pinot grigo.

California Roots Pinot Grigio 2016 (13.5%): Professional and competent wine, even if it’s not exactly pinot grigio. Think Costco’s Kirkland pinot grigio (pears and tonic water), but with appropriate amounts of sugar to cover up any bitterness and to round out the rough spots.

California Roots Moscato 2016 (10%): Not quite as sweet as white zinfandel, but that’s the approach. There’s a hint of the characteristic orange aroma of the muscat family, but everything else is sugar. And then a little more sugar just to be on the safe side.

Mini-reviews 107: Big Smooth, malbec, Rioja, Sicily

Big smoothReviews 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, four red wines.

Big Smooth Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Much winemaking and craftsmanship went into this California red to make it taste like a cherry Tootise Pop. If that’s what you want your wine to taste like, then it’s worth $17. Otherwise, taste and be amazed at the post-modern marketing cynicism that also went into it.

Casillero del Diablo Malbec 2016 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This Chilean red speaks to terroir and varietal character, and is about more than the jammy black fruit of similarly-priced Argentine malbecs. Having said that, it’s not a value this price – a little thin and tart. But if you find it for $8 at the grocery store and you need a bottle of wine for dinner, you won’t be disappointed. Imported by Excelsior Wine

Bagordi Rioja Navardia 2016 ($13, sample, 14%): Nothing special about this Spanish red – just a full-bodied (heavier, more red fruit) and not especially varietal tempranillo made with organic grapes. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Cantina Cellaro Luma 2016 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, made with the nero d’avola grape, was either oxidized (doubtful, given the vintage) or so extracted and so overripe that it was about as Sicilian as my Honda. Imported by Gonzalez Bypass