Tag Archives: chardonnay

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.

Christmas wine 2017

christmas wine 2017Four choices for Christmas wine 2017 to help you enjoy the holiday

Suggestions for Christmas wine 2017, whether for a last minute gift or for a holiday dinner. As always, keep our wine gift giving tips in mind:

Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%): Top-notch South African pink from one of my favorite producers. More in the Loire style, even though it uses Rhone grapes (grenache and a little viognier), so less fruit (unripe strawberry) and more stoniness and minerality. Highly recommended. Imported by USA Wine Imports.

Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet 2013 ($79, purchased, 13%): My favorite white Burgundy, and perhaps my favorite chardonnay in the word. This vintage is more tropical than I expected (lime and almost banana fruit), but still crisp, minerally, and white Burgundy-like. And the oak, with hints of pecan and caramel, is a revelation, a master class in how to age wine. A tip o’ the WC fedora to the Big Guy, who brought it to a recent wine lunch. Highly recommended, and especially as a gift for someone who loves wine. Imported by Vineyard Brands.

Bervini Rose Spumante Extra Dry NV ($18, sample, 11%): Old-fashioned Italian bubbly, the kind we drank in the 1960s and ’70s — more fizzy than sparkling, a touch sweet, and balanced with raspberry fruit. It’s well made and fun to drink, but price might turn some people off. Imported by WineTrees USA.

Silver Totem Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($16, sample, 13.5%): An amazing Washington state red wine that comes from Big Wine producer Banfi, but tastes like Washington state cabernet. Everything is where it is supposed to be — some heft, some rich dark fruit but not too ripe, and enough acidity so the wine is more than smooth. Highly recommended.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2016
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Expensive wine 101: Franco-Espanolas Bordon Gran Reserva 2005
Expensive wine 104: Dönnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese 2014

Mini-reviews 100: Cerrosol, Hess, Parducci, Ecco Domani

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.

Cerrosol Esperanza Verdejo-Viura 2015 ($9, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white blend that is showing its age, without the sparkle and tartness that a wine made with the verdejo and viura grapes should have. This is an example of retailers foisting older vintages off on unsuspecting wine drinkers, who have been taught that older means better. Be wary of white wines that are two or more years old unless you know the producer. Imported by Axial Vinos.

Hess Select Chardonnay 2015 ($10, sample, 13.5%) Quality $10 grocery store California white for those who want a little toasty oak (and a lesson in how to use “oak adjuncts” correctly). Nice green apple and pear fruit, plus some tropical something or other in the middle, and just crisp enough to balance the oak.

Parducci True Grit Reserve Red 2013 ($30, sample, 14.5%): If this California red blend is $30 worth of wine, I’m Robert Parker. And since I’m not, it has been found for as little as $18. At that price, it’s closer to the qualify it offers.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 2016 ($10, sample, 13.5%): This Italian white has a little more lemon fruit this vintage, but it remains thin and mostly resembles tonic water — wine for people who don’t like wine. Of which, based on its sales, there are millions. Imported by E&J Gallo.

Mini-reviews 96: Poema, Natura, Sicalia, St. James

st jamesReviews 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.

Poema Red 2015 ($10, sample, 14%): This red blend, made with tempranillo and, believe it or not, cabernet sauvignon, is Spanish wine for people who think Spanish wine should taste like it comes from California. Thick, ashy, and not very interesting.

Emiliana Natura Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($11, sample, 13%): The Natura, like other Big Wine products made with organic grapes, is surprisingly inconsistent from vintage to vintage given that the point of Big Wine is consistency. There’s more tropical fruit than there should be, less apple and pear, no crispness, and a bitter finish.

Sicalia Red Blend 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This Sicilian red, like the Poema, uses an international grape, merlot, so the wine won’t taste like it came from the country on the label. The merlot’s sweet black fruit overwhelms the nero d’avola in the blend, and the result is more ashiness and more unpleasant thickness.

St. James Winery Semi-Dry Vignoles 2014 ($15, sample, 11%): This Missouri wine, sort of sweet and made with a hybrid grape, is something that wine snobs would sneer at on principle. But it’s embarrassingly more honest and better made than the three other wines in this post. Look for lemon and pineapple fruit, a certain softness that makes it perfect for spicy food, and marvel at how this can be done.

Expensive wine 98: Domaine Bruno Clair Marsannay Blanc 2012

bruno clair marsannayThe Bruno Clair Marsannay is white Burgundy with an unexpected — and enjoyable — twist

One of the great joys of wine is tasting something that you’ve never tasted before, and especially when that wine is even more than you thought it could be. Which is the Bruno Clair Marsannay ($28, sample, 13%) in every way, shape, and form.

This is a chardonnay from Marsannay, a less well known part of Burgundy and especially for chardonnay. For one thing, the chardonnay is blended with 15 percent pinot blanc, which is unheard of in most of Burgundy. For another, many of the producers in Marsannay aren’t as serious about what they’re doing as Clair is.

All of which means it’s not what I expected from a white Burgundy (which, of course, is the Wine Curmudgeon’s guilty pleasure). The wine is not as elegant or as regal as a Montrachet; rather, it’s like the little brother with a sly grin, the one no one takes seriously, but who does so at their own peril.

Look for a subtle and engaging use of oak to round out the wine, as well as the green apple and pear that is key to so much white Burgundy. The pinot blanc take some of the edge of the chardonnay’s acidity, while complementing the spiciness, also a characteristic of white Burgundy.

Highly recommended, and a fine value at this price.

 

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2015

ScaiaThe Scaia garganega chardonnay is an Italian white wine blend that shows how great cheap wine can be

The idea that we’re only supposed to drink chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot bores me past any adjective I can think of. There are literally tens of thousands of wines in the world; why do our betters in the Winestream Media limit us to the same wines made from the same half dozen or so grapes?

Which is just one reason why I like the Scaia ($10, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white blend made with chardonnay and garganega, the grape used to make lots of cheap and indifferent Soave. This is hardly a combination the marketing department would think of – Italian chardonnay, at best, is passable and mostly irrelevant, while garganega doesn’t get much respect, even in Italy.

But in the Scaia, they’re like two of the best ballet dancers in the world working with an even better choreographer. The grapes compensate for each other’s shortcomings, so that fruitiness of the chardonnay (green apple, pear?) offsets the tartness of the garganega, while the latter’s minerality and lemon fruit fills in the holes in the chardonnay.

Highly recommended – an example of what great cheap wine can be when the producer cares about quality and value. Drink this chilled with any white wine dish and specially grilled seafood. And don’t be surprised to see it in the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame.

 

Christmas wine 2016

Christmas wine 2016Four 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.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2015
Christmas wine 2014
Christmas wine 2013
Expensive wine 88: Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Expensive wine 86: Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2004