Tag Archives: chardonnay

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

Holiday wine gift guide 2016

Holiday wine gift guideThe best holiday wine gift advice: Buy what they want, not what you think they should want

Just in time for the blog’s holiday wine gift guide 2016– an article on rightpricewine.com citing the Wine Curmudgeon’s always sensible gift giving advice: “Buy wine that the person would like, not what you think they should like.”

That’s the thought behind this year’s gift suggestions, culled from interviews with retailers and consumers as well as the countless news releases I get during the holiday season. The trend this year? More wine and less accessories, with consumers deciding that gadgets aren’t as enjoyable in 2016 as a quality bottle of wine.

This year’s gift ideas:

• Chablis for the California chardonnay drinker who wants something different. Chablis, chardonnay from Burgundy in France, doesn’t have any oak. That means a more austere and more minerally wine, in contrast to the richer and more buttery California chardonnays. One possibility: Jean-Pierre Grossot Chablis, about as much of a steal as a $20 wine can be.

• Trade up a cabernet sauvignon drinker who wants something more complex. The Faust, from Napa Valley, is the sort of $50 wine I wish I got to taste more often. It’s firmly rooted in Napa, made in a decidedly New World style, but it also shows that quality wine is about more than just flashy fruit.

• Something different for the wine geek. Look for top-notch wine made with odd grapes – an Italian refosco, for instance, a Spanish malvar, or a Hungarian Tokaj. Each can cost as little as $10.

Koval rye whiskey, because the WC does not live by wine alone. I’ve been a rye drinker since the bad old days, when all you could find was what we fondly called Old Overcoat. The craft spirits boom has changed that, and the Koval ($50) is rye that is more than a bourbon knockoff, something spicy and intriguing.

More holiday wine gift guides
Holiday wine gift guide 2015
Holiday wine gift guide 2014
Holiday wine gift guide 2013
Expensive wine 89: Bonny Doon Old Telegram 2014
Expensive wine 82: Anne Amie Winemaker’s Select Pinot Noir 2012

Mini-reviews 88: Four white wines for the end of summer

four white winesFour white wines for the end of summer.

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.

Château de la Mulonniere Chenin Blanc 201 ($15, sample, 12.5%): Premiumized wine — $10 or $12 worth of French white from the Loire region, but almost too soft and without enough of the steeliness that marks the Loire style. What’s the point of that?

Château de la Greffière Mâcon La Roche-Vineuse Vieilles Vignes ($20, purchased, 13%): Impressive French white that is a couple of steps up from my usual Macon-Villages, with more depth and less racy apple fruit, though still tasting like the chardonnay it is. There is even some oak, making this more of a food wine.

Montefalco Bianco 2014 ($20, sample, 13%): This Italian white blend, made with two Italian grapes and one-quarter chardonnay, is complex and intriguing. It’s not the usual short and simple Italian white, but has layers of white fruit and spice, plus some very integrated oak. Not for those who want a basic pinot grigio, but worth trying if you want to explore Italian wine.

Villa Pozzi Grillo 2015 ($10, sample, 12.5%): Annoying focus group white that has very little to do with Sicily and the grillo grape, but lots to do with making something that tastes like sauvignon blanc for the U.S. market. Internationalization run amok.

Mini-reviews 85: Eden Ridge, Campo Viejo, Bonny Doon, Planeta

campo viejoReviews 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.

Eden Ridge Chardonnay 2013 ($13, sample, 14.5%): This California white shows everything that is wrong-headed about premiumization – $7 or $8 worth of wine that costs one-third more. It’s hot, with an alcoholic tang; stemmy and bitter; doused with oak; and without all that much fruit.

Campo Viejo Rioja 2014: ($10, purchased, 13%): Spanish red made with tempranillo that proves not all Spanish wine is a great value. It’s grocery store plonk that tastes about as Spanish as a glass of water, with sweet fruit and too much oak.

Bonny Doon Gravitas 2014 ($16, purchased, 13.5%): Proper white Bordeaux channeled through California, so brighter citrus fruit, less flinty, and a little rounder, but still delicious. The difference between this wine and the first two is so vast that it’s difficult to put into words.

Planeta Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014 ($20, purchased, 13%): This red blend from one of my favorite Sicilian producers was sadly disappointing. Though it’s well made, with red fruit and some spice, there’s not enough going on for what it cost: Not complex enough, with almost no finish; not enough Sicilian dark fruit; and not earthy enough.