Tag Archives: chardonnay

Mini-reviews 29: Stag’s Leap, Flat Creek, Le Grand Nor, De Bortoli

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:

? Stag's Leap Merlot 2004 ($35, sample): Cleaning out the wine cellar, and found this gorgeous, beautiful wine. Tastes like Napa, with deep, luscious black fruit, but with other qualities that make for a wonderful wine, including a long chalky finish and a full, rich middle.

? Flat Creek Estate Pinot Grigio 2010 ($18, purchased): Texas white wine that sits between tonic Italian pinot grigio (has more lemon) and fruit forward Oregon pinot gris. There was something odd in the back that bothered me, but may not bother anyone else. And it would be a better value at $14 or $15.

? Le Grand Noir Chardonnay 2009 ($8, purchased): French white with too much badly done fake oak and without enough fruit to cover up the oak. Not very interesting one way or the other.

? De Bortoli Sauvignon Blanc Emeri NV ($11, sample): Very odd, but intriguing, Australian bubbly made with sauvignon blanc. Sweet tropical fruit but not as much citrus as one would expect. Less tight and bubbly than cava, but not as soft as some Italian sparklers. Keep in mind for the holidays.

Wine of the week: Tormaresca Chardonnay 2010

The first time time the Wine Curmudgeon tasted the Tormaresca chardonnay, I knew two things. First, that Italian chardonnay was not something most people wanted to write about. The Italians had plenty of other white wine grapes; what were they doing messing around with chardonnay? The other thing I knew was that Tormaresca made really good cheap wine.

So I really wasn’t surprised at the quality. Tormaresca, as a producer, is that good. Somehow, on their property in Puglia in the Italian boot heel, they do things that other wineries can only dream about.

The current vintage of the chardonnay ($12, sample) is better than ever — bright, clean and crisp (almost too much crisp, actually, though that should not be a problem as the wine ages). There is lots of green apple fruit, enough oak to complement the fruit but not to overwhelm it, and only 12 1/2 percent alcohol. As always, I wonder why the Italians can make such a pleasant chardonnay while so many in California, where chardonnay is an important grape, stumble in the dark trying to do the same thing. Drink this chilled on its own, or pair it with a variety of white wine food — roast chicken, spaghetti carbonara or even Sunday brunch.

And, for those keeping track of these things, I’ll review the current vintage of the Tormaresca Neprica during the blog’s Birthday Week in November — and yes, we’ll once again give a bottle away of Neprica.

Mini-reviews 28: Los Vascos, picpoul, Sledgehammer, Re Midas

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:

? Los Vascos Chardonnay 2010 ($10, purchased): Not what it once was, and can’t be the same wine that several readers suggested I try. Some green apple, but heavy and oily — not good characteristics in a $10 chardonnay.

? Bertrand Picpoul-de-Pinet 2010 ($10, purchased): Extremely disappointing picpoul, more like a white Bordeaux. Mostly citrus fruit without picpoul’s mineral character.

? Sledgehammer Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($15, sample): Big, fruity, unsubtle and straightforward. This is a simple wine that delivers chocolate cherries and caramel for those who like that sort of thing.

? Cantina di Soave Re Midas 2010 ($10, sample): Not much there, even for $10. Almost heavy, with little of Soave’s crispness or minerality. Made in more of a New World, chardonnay style.

Wine review: Cupcake Chardonnay 2009

This review has been on the Wine Curmudgeon's to do list since Cupcake was named the country's hottest wine brand. And now that E&J Gallo's Barefoot, a similar sort of brand, has been anointed the country's top-seller, what better time to do the review? (And there will be a follow-up to the Barefoot post soon, which apparently created some controversy.)

The Cupcake wines are from Underdog Wine Merchants, which has established a very profitable niche by selling grocery-store wines with incredibly cute names — not just Cupcake, but brands like Fish Eye, Flip Flop, and Big House.

Cupcake always does well in blind tastings, and has earned some impressive medals at competitions. This wine got a big-deal gold medal at the California State Fair, and a silver at my pal Robert Whitley's Critics Challenge. So how would I feel about the wine when not tasting it blind, but with my critical, don't-judge-a-wine-by-its-label eye?

About the same way I feel about many grocery store wines. There was nothing really wrong with the Cupcake ($10, purchased) other than its price. It's a pleasant enough as $10 wine — not quite as interesting as the Bogle chardonnay, with some pear and green apple. It also had what seemed to be vanilla wood chips, which added a not subtle flavor that got in the way of the fruit (which may be a function of the wine not aging well, and the 2010 may not have that problem).

The catch, though, is that Cupcake is a $12 or 13 wine; this was on sale for $10, as near as I can tell, because it was a previous vintage. So that's the choice the consumer has to make. Do you pay an extra 20 percent or more for the name and label, or do you buy something like Bogle, which is often on sale for as little as $8 or $9? We all know the choice the Wine Curmudgeon would make.

Wine of the week: Joseph Drouhin Macon-Villages 2009

image from cache.wine.com The Wine Curmudgeon's guilty secret is white Burgundy — chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. Why guilty secret? Because white Burgundy is not cheap, and has not been so for years. It's not unusual for a very ordinary bottle that's worth $8 or $10 to cost $15 or $20; unless I get a sample (or splurge on a $60 bottle for a special occasion), I don't drink much white Burgundy any more.

So you can imagine my excitement when this wine, along with several other white Burgundies, arrived at the house. Joseph Drouhin is a respected negociant, and its wines are almost always well made. I figured, if nothing else, I could get an expensive wine of the month out of the shipment. And a couple of the bottles do fit that category.

But several weren't expensive, including the Macon ($13, sample). Macon wines are not complicated, don't get much oak (if any), and are made to drink now. In other words, they are Wine Curmudgeon wines. In the long ago days of the strong dollar and more sensible French export policies, there were half a dozen or so quality Macon-Villages wines for $10 or so, but the ones that still cost $10 are usually disappointing and the others aren't $10 any more.

Which makes the Drouhin all that more wonderful. It's one of the best values I've tasted in white Burgundy in years, and my tasting notes show that the producer actually cut the price this year. This is a very traditional wine, with hardly any fruit at all (lime zest?), no oak, and lots of minerality. So, no, it doesn't taste like came from California, but it's not supposed to. In this, it's a hint of what the 2009 vintage will ultimately deliver in Burgundy. Drink this chilled with roast chicken, any kind of shellfish, or on its own.

Mini-reviews 27: Toad Hollow, J pinot gris, Santi, Round Hill

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. This month, in honor of the record-setting temperatures across much of the U.S., heat wave wines:

? Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2010 ($15, sample): Frankly, given how disappointing the current vintage of the Toad Hollow rose is, I was worried about the winery. But the chardonnay, aged without oak, is up to its usual standards. More pear than green apple, but solid and winning throughout.

? J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2010 ($15, sample): Another fine effort, with lime fruit (though it seemed a touch sweetish this time), with a clean middle and some mineral on the finish.

? Santi Soave Classico 2010 ($12, sample): Unimpressive. Very New World in style (sweet apple fruit) without any of Soave's grace or style.

? Round Hill Chardonnay Oak Free 2010 ($12, sample): This wine deserves a real review, but I'm still waiting — after several calls and emails — to hear from the winery about availability, so it gets a mini-review. Lots of fresh pear and green apple with refreshing crispness. Highly recommended, assuming you can find it.

Expensive wine 28: Robert Mondavi Reserve Chardonnay 2007

Robert Mondavi sold his self-named company to Constellation Brands in 2004, which means that at least a generation of wine drinkers knows Mondavi only as a name on a bottle of wine they see at the grocery store. Such are the vagaries of family businesses.

If they had known the pre-Constellation Mondavi, or even the pre-publicly traded Mondavi, though, the chardonnay ($40, sample) is the kind of wine they would have associated with the winery. Mondavi made his name not only by marketing Napa Valley (and, by extension, the rest of California), but by making some terrific wine. Talk to the old-timers, and they still wax poetic about the 1979 reserve cabernet, and many remember when Mondavi was about wine and not corporate wheeling and dealing.

Enjoy this wine and imagine what could have been. The chardonnay, frankly, stunned the Wine Curmudgeon with its style and complexity. I was expecting a heavy-handed, post-modern approach — too rich, too overdone and too much of everything else. Instead, I found — dare I say — classicism. This is a wine in balance, with acid to offset the wonderful green apple fruit and enough oak to show it's there but not to overwhelm the wine. Drink this on its own with someone you care about or for a special occasion dinner. Highly recommended.