Tag Archives: California wine

Mini-reviews 139: Black Friday edition 2020

Black Friday 2020Reviews 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, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands

CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.

Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.

Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?

Mini-reviews 138: German riesling, white Burgundy, godello, Rombauer

rieslingReviews 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.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2018 ($13, purchased, 10%): This Total Wine private label is a German white that is honeyed and lemony.  It’s simple but enjoyable, and the “medium dry” sweetness doesn’t get in the way. Imported by Saranty Imports

Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2016 ($32, purchased, 12.5%): The Big Guy brought this white Burgundy, from our favorite Burgundy producer, to WC world headquarters for pandemic, socially-distanced, porch sipping. Sadly, thanks to the tariff and premiumization, this is no longer the “affordable” wine it used to be. It’s fine for what it is,  with some green apple and well-constructed oak. But it lacks the Sauzet verve and dash, and especially at this price. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2018 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Spanish white is made with godello, which the wine geeks compare to chardonnay (same green apple fruit, same mouth feel, though a bit more spice). Hence the problem: You can buy a nice albarino or a Basque Txakolina  for more or less the same price. Imported by Aaron LLC

Rombauer Sauvignon Blance 2019 ($25, sample, 14.2%): This California white is a terrific example of this style of pricey wine — and it’s the style that Rombauer made famous. It’s a little hot, and features some grassy notes but surprisingly muted citrus fruit. Plus, it has a much fuller mouth feel than other sauvignon blancs. In other words, $10 New Zealand it ain’t.

Photo: “Sunny Afternoon on the Roof” by winestyr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mini-reviews 137: Bota Box rose, Adelsheim, Matua, Angels & Cowboys

bota box roseReviews 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.

Box Box Rose NV ($15/3-liter box, sample, 11.5%): The dry rose that showed just how far pink wine has come is more off-dry this time; no, I don’t know why. But the price works out to $3.50 a bottle, so it’s more than acceptable if you like the “hint of sweetness” style. But it’s not the award winner from the past couple of years.

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2018 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): Very ordinary Oregon pinot noir, and not especially Oregon in style. It’s missing the fruity, brambly zip it should have, and especially at this price. Instead, it’s just dull berry fruit. Very disappointing, given how much great pinot noir Adelsheim makes.

Matua Pinot Noir 2018 ($13, purchased, 12%): This New Zealand pinot noir usually offers terrific value and pinot character. But the 2018 isn’t as pinot-ish as in past years – lighter in body, and less fresh and lively. It’s OK, but there are lots of OK pinots at this price. Imported by TWE Imports

Angels & Cowboys Rose 2019 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): This California pink, like the Bota Box, was once exceptional. Now, it’s quite ordinary, and can cost as much as $18. This vintage is thinner with less bright fruit — more like an $8 rose from Big Wine.

Labor Day wine 2020

labor day wine 2020

The WC has just the wines to pair with this plate of barbecue.

Labor Day wine 2020 — these wines will make your holiday that much more enjoyable

Labor Day marks the traditional end of summer, even a pandemic summer. Hence these wines, which should cheer up even a socially-distanced holiday barbecue. Churro, the blog’s associate editor, and the Wine Curmudgeon will be doing that, if Dallas’ 100-degree temperatures allow for it.

These four bottles will get you started for Labor Day wine 2020; don’t overlook the blog’s porch wine guidelines:

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Lodi cabernet is balanced, and neither too ripe or too hot. Its New World fruit (black currants, even) and tannins actually hold everything together. This a big red wine that needs food, and especially red meat from the grill. Highly recommended.

Anne Amie Cuvée A Amrita 2018  ($18, purchased, 12.8%): This goofy Oregon white blend with a bit of fizz is always enjoyable, and it’s even available closer to $15 if you look hard enough. The fizz is spot on, better than some Proseccos, and the sweetness is buried in the back behind some lemon and red apple fruit. Highly recommended, and just the thing for porch sipping.

Schafer-Frohlich Dry Rose 2018 ($14, sample, 12.5%): This nifty German rose features ripe-ish strawberry fruit, a surprisingly full mouth feel, and a fresh — and not sweet — finish. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Fantini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2018 ($9, purchased, 12%):  This Italian white, a long time WC favorite, is as it always is — tart and lemony. Chill it, drink it, and don’t worry about what other people think about what you drink. Imported by Empson USA

Photo: “Linner!” by jessicafm is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

For more about Labor Day wine:
Labor Day wine 2019
Labor Day wine 2018
Labor Day wine 2017

Mini-reviews 136: Four wines you probably don’t want to buy

wine reviews

“Damn, look at that review. The WC is in a foul mood this month.”

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, four wines you probably don’t want to buy, because I’m really, really tired of tasting wine that is so unpleasant.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhone 2019 ($15, purchased, 14.5%): This French red used to be one of the most dependable $15 wines in the world. But this vintage is almost undrinkable. That’s not because it’s flawed or off, but because it has been manipulated to taste like it comes from a second-tier producer in Paso Robles – lots of sweet fruit, not a lick of tannins, and this hideous violet candy smell. Imported by Winebow

Avalon Pinot Noir 2018 ($11, sample, 13.5%): This California red is the sort of pinot noir people buy because it’s cheap, and not especially because it tastes like anything. Think grape juice flavored with fake vanilla oak, in case any of you enjoy that.

Jadix Picpoul de Pinet 2019 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This French white is heavy and hot, and not anything picpoul should be – fruity, tart, and refreshing. Why would anyone make picpoul like this? Imported by Aquitane Wine Company

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, sample, 12%): Someone, somewhere thought that Americans would love sweet Italian pinot grigio, and this is the result. My question? Why — isn’t there enough dry pinot grigio in the world? Imported by Mack & Schuhle

barefoot wine

Barefoot wine review 2020: Rose and riesling

Barefoot wine review 2019

Barefoot wine (again): Value or just cheap?
Barefoot wine: Why it’s so popular

Barefoot wine review 2020: Get ready for a dose of sweetness with the rose and riesling — but at least the front labels let you know what’s coming

Call it knowing your audience: The Barefoot wine review 2020 bottles don’t pretend to be something they aren’t. Looking for a dry, tart, Provencal- style rose? Then don’t buy the Barefoot rose, which says “Delightfully sweet” on the front label. Want a nuanced, oily, off-dry riesling? Then don’t buy the Barefoot riesling, which says “Refreshingly sweet” on the front label.

Which, frankly, is a much welcome development in this, the blog’s 13th Barefoot review. Few things are more annoying than Big Wine — or smaller wine, for that matter — claiming a wine is dry when it tastes like sweet tea. Barefoot, the best-selling wine brand in the country (depending on whose statistics you believe) has the courage of its convictions. And good for it.

The Barefoot wine review 2020 features the non-vintage rose ($5, purchased, 10%) and the non-vintage riesling ($5, purchased, 8%). Both are California appellation. The sweetness is obvious, and especially in the riesling. In the rose, it tries to hide in the background — and then you swallow, and it hits you.

The rose tastes of strawberry fruit, and has lots of acidity in an attempt to balance the sweetness. Which doesn’t exactly work — just sort of offers a counterpoint. The riesling smells like oranges (perhaps some muscat in the blend?) and then the candied sweetness hits and covers up what little fruit flavor (apricot?) was there. A smidgen of acidity is around somewhere, sort of like the cool of a summer morning before it gets hot, and then the  like the coolishness, the wine gets sweet again.

In this, these wines deliver what the front labels promise, though the back labels are marketing hurly burly — “smooth, crisp finish” and “hint of jasmine and honey.” But if you want a $5 sweet wine that is cheap and sweet, then the rose and the riesling fill the bill.

Blog associate editor Churro contributed to this post

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine review 2019
Barefoot wine review 2018
Barefoot wine review 2017

Mini-reviews 135: Bonny Doon, Bota Box, Wente, Cameron Hughes

Bonny DoonReviews 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; four California wines for July.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2019 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Something is missing in this rose, released after Randall Grahm sold his legendary company in January. It’s not bad – some watermelon fruit, some minerality – but it’s not the top-notch rose of vintages past.

Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18/3-liter box, sample, 12.5%): Decent California white that works out to less than $5 a bottle, though it’s nothing more than that. Not sweet but not especially tart, either, with a bit of green herb and citrus. There’s an odd grapiness in the back that makes me think it was blended with something like French colombard to stretch the sauvingon blanc.

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon Southern Hills 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Ordinary (if well-made) supermarket-style California red from a quality producer. Not much in the way of tannins or acidity — just lots of very ripe black fruit, lots of oak, and that sort of smooth finish that focus groups prefer.

Cameron Hughes Lot 676 2016 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Heavy, rich, hot, and full California white blend, made in the classic “Trying to get 94 points” style. There’s some fruit (stone, lime?), and a surprising amount of oak. Given its age, the style, and that Hughes buys what other producers can’t move, this may well be a pricey bottle that was sitting in a tank somewhere, unloved and unsold.

Photo: “Summer Hols Day 3 – Rain and Wine” by Ian Livesey is licensed under CC PDM 1.0