Tag Archives: chardonnay

Mini-reviews 55: The nothing really wrong with it, but … edition

Reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another — in this case, because there’s nothing really wrong with them, but you can do better. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Clos du Bois Pinot Grigio 2012 ($9, purchased, 13.5%): This California white is just another pinot grigio, without any redeeming features other than that it’s cheap and inoffensive. Nothing really wrong with it, but there are lots of other wines that offer more for the price.

? Haury & Schaeffer Grenache 2012 ($10, sample, 14%): French red tastes like it came from California ? all fruit and not much else. Nothing really wrong with it, but not sure what the point of it is since there are already hundreds of wines just like it.

? Bolla Prosecco Extra Dry NV ($12, sample, 11%): Italian sparkling wine took me back to a 1970s wedding, when the bubbly was sweetish, didn’t bubble much, and tasted a lot like 7-Up. Nothing really wrong with it, if that’s what you’re looking for — and many people are.

? Reata Chardonnay 2012 ($20, sample, 14.3%): Early 2000s-style California white wine with a national forest full of oak and more alcohol than it needs, but nothing really wrong with it for people who still like that sort of thing.

Mini-reviews 53: Epicuro, La Granja, Turning Leaf, Line 39

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 U.S. budget mess, some really cheap wine:

? Epicuro Nero d’Avola 2012 ($6, purchased, 12.5%): This Trader Joe’s red tastes almost exactly like California merlot, with lots and lots of black fruit and not much else. This is the international style of winemaking at its best (or worst, depending on your point of view).

? La Granja Tempranillo 2012 ($4, purchased, 13%): This Spanish red, also from Trader Joe’s, is a very simple wine that is more tempranillo-like than tempranillo. Lots of cherry fruit and acid, but they aren’t balanced; rather, they cancel each other out. Probably worth $4, but better wine doesn’t cost that much more.

? Turning Leaf Chardonnay NV ($8, sample, 12.5%): Offers quality and value, in the way that its pinot noir did during this summer’s cheap pinot tasting, though it’s more varietally correct. Fresh with a little green apple, and very little fake oak. A simple wine does not mean a stupid wine.

? Line 39 Chardonnay 2011 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Fairly typical grocery store chardonnay in the late 20th-century style, with green apple fruit and more fake oak than I like. Nothing really wrong with it if you like this kind of wine.

The Five Day, $3 Wine Challenge

$3 wineThe Wine Curmudgeon talks a good game when it comes to cheap wine, but does he follow through? This question, always important, is even more critical with the upcoming publication of The Cheap Wine Book (just a couple of weeks away). Hypocrisy has no place in what I ?m trying to do.

Hence The Five Days of $3 Wine Challenge, which starts tonight and runs through this week. Each night, I ?ll drink a $3 wine with dinner and attempt to answer the question: Can a wine drinker live on really cheap wine? Are the claims made by producers like Fred Franzia and the various anti-critics true, that most of us can ?t tell the difference and that it doesn ?t matter if we can?

No one supports cheap wine more than I do. But being cheap isn ?t enough ? quality matters, and my experience over the past decade of drinking very cheap wine is that the quality of these wines is often lacking. So we ?ll put that to the test this week with these five wines, all chardonnays and all purchased in Dallas:

? Two-buck Chuck ($2.99), the Trader Joe ?s private label that was the first and remains the most famous of the very cheap wines. It ?s a California wine from the 2012 vintage.

? Three Wishes ($2.99), the Whole Foods private label. It carries an American appellation, which means it ?s non-vintage and at least three-quarters of the grapes used to make it were grown in the U.S.

? Winking Owl ($2.89) from Aldi but that may be available elsewhere. Also American and non-vintage.

? Cul-de-Sac ($2.96), a private label for Central Market, the high-end chain owned by Texas ? H-E-B, one of the largest privately held companies in the country. Also American and non-vintage.

? Oak Leaf ($2.97), the Walmart private label. Also American and non-vintage.

Why chardonnay? To give the wines the benefit of the doubt, since chardonnay is the easiest cheap wine to make well. And I won ?t pair the wines with anything that would show them up ? no cream sauces or haute French cuisine.

I ?ll post the results of the challenge next Monday, but you can keep up with the day-to-day action by following me on Twitter or checking out the Wine Curmudgeon Facebook page.

Each wine uses the same kind of bottle ? light and without a punt (the hollow in the bottle ?s bottom). And all but the Two-buck Chuck have the same foil and foil design, which isn ?t surprising since each is apparently made by The Wine Group, one of the Big Six and whose brands include Cupcake.

Wine of the week: Leonce Bocquet Chablis 2012

Leonce Bocquet Chablis 2012$15 Chablis. That is a value. That tastes like Chablis.

Let me repeat that, to demonstrate how practically giddy this wine made me: $15 Chablis. That is a value. That tastes like Chablis.

Because, frankly, it ?s rare to see $15 Chablis, even more rare when it ?s a value, and more rare again that it tastes like Chablis. Affordable Chablis ? chardonnay from the Chablis region of Burgundy in France ? doesn’t get much better than this.

So what ?s the catch? Because, as regular visitors here know, the Wine Curmudgeon always expects a catch. In this case, it ?s that the Bocquet ($15, purchased, 12.5%) may not be as available as I would like. It ?s not exactly a private label, but it ?s close enough. Which means that if the wine is in your market, it ?s likely to be at only one retailer.

If you can find it, buy some and expect steely acidity, a touch of lemon fruit, and more complexity than one expects in a $15 white Burgundy. It was a bit thin in the back, but, on the other hand, it wasn ?t too fruity or too tart in an attempt to cover up that thinness. And did I mention that it only cost $15?

Wine of the week: Yellow + Blue Chardonnay 2011

P66907110The Yellow + Blue boxed wines have long been among the Wine Curmudgeon ?s favorites ? cheap, well-made, and aimed at wine drinkers who want a quality product without any fuss.

Retailers have not always shared that enthusiasm. The wines come in a 1-liter juice box with plastic screwcap, which is terrific for consumers but problematic for retailers. Stores, after all, are built with shelves designed for 750-milliliter bottles. So the wines, if the retailer carries them at all ( ?Boxed wine? We don ?t need no stinkin ? boxed wine ?), get shunted to the back of the store, out of sight and out of mind.

That ?s too bad. The Yellow + Blue rose, torrontes, and sauvignon blanc are top notch, and each has been in the $10 Hall of Fame at one time or another. The chardonnay ($10, purchased, 13.5%), though not quite as well done as the best Yellow + Blue wines, may be an even more impressive achievement.

That ?s because the grapes come from Lodi in California, hardly the lodestone of chardonnay and a region that out tankerloads of flabby and almost sweet versions of the varietal. Yellow + Blue impresario Matt Cain, though, has made a wine with pleasant tropical fruit and a bit of a pithy finish that tastes like chardonnay. That ?s not easy to do, given what he was working with in Lodi.

This is the kind of well-priced and professional wine that we need to see more of from California. Now all we have to do is to convince retailers it ?s worth carrying.

Expensive wine 49: Cornerstone Cellars Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2010

cornerstone cellars chardonnayThe Willamette Valley in this wine ?s name is important, because Cornerstone is more than just an Oregon producer. It ?s actually better known for its Napa Valley wines, including a high-scoring cabernet sauvignon that makes the wine geeks giddy.

In some hands, this kind of secondary project might be an afterthought. But Cornerstone does its Oregon wines proud, and they seem to receive the same sort of attention and care that the Napa wines get.

The chardonnay ($35, sample, 13.5%) is, not surprisingly, more California in style than Oregon ? richer and oakier. But the fruit (somewhere between citrus and green apple) still shows through, along with the minerality that should be there in well-made chardonnay. All of this is complemented by a long, juicy finish.

I ?m not quite sure elegant is the best adjective for the wine, in the way a white Burgundy can be elegant. If the latter is Catherine Deneuve, then this is Katharine Ross in ?Butch Cassidy. ?

Wine of the week: A to Z Chardonnay 2011

From the scores are stupid department: Someone on CellarTracker, the blog ?s unofficial wine inventory web app, gave the A to Z chardonnay an 85. If this wine is only an 85, I ?m going to start writing rave reviews of over-oaked, too alcoholic California chardonnay.

To be fair, I can can understand why someone would not treat Oregon's A to Z ($10, purchased, 13.5%) with the respect it deserves. It doesn ?t have any oak, and if you expect chardonnay to taste like a vanilla milkshake, then this wine will confuse you and you ?ll score it lower. Which is just one of the many reasons why scores are stupid, since they don ?t account for individual likes and dislikes. In wine, one size does not fit all.

What the A to Z does have: Crisp, juicy green apple fruit, classic for this style of chardonnay; a little richness at the back, which makes up for the lack of oak; and an intensity that is quite refreshing. Serve this chilled on its own, or with any white wine dish that isn ?t too rich, and especially grilled seafood. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame ? unless, of course, you like a lot of oak with your chardonnay.