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.
The knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily true, and we have the Hess sauvignon blanc to prove the point.
The Hess sauvignon blanc is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line — a requisite amount of grapefruit, a hint of something tropical, and not much of a finish. This wine is the just the opposite. It shouts of the grassy aroma and flavor that defines California sauvignon blanc, and those are followed by some lemon fruit and a stony finish. Plus, it’s fresh and crisp, two of the qualities that make sauvignon blanc so attractive.
Highly recommended — wine from a producer that cares about quality, its customers, and charging a fair price for its products. Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled or roasted chicken.
The wine world, and especially the red wine world, is as class conscious as Victorian Britain. It’s not enough that serious wine drinkers aren’t supposed to drink cheap wine. They’re also not supposed to drink certain brands, not if they want to hang with the cool kids.
Which brings us to the Hess ($45, sample, 14.6%), which is about as quality and value driven as a red wine from Napa Valley can be at this price:
? Terroir. Napa Valley is not a monolith, but made up of smaller appellations. Wines from these sub-regions should reflect that, and the Hess, from Mount Veeder, does. There’s an almost earthiness you don’t see in wine from other places, and it has aged remarkably well.
? Balance. This is more than concentrated sweet fruit, which the cool kids love. You can drink a glass and not wonder if the wine is as dry as it is supposed to be.
?Varietally correct. Cabernet should have grip, and the Hess does. But it still offers the deep black fruit that is typical of Napa Valley.
Highly recommended, both for holiday dinners and as a gift for cabernet drinkers. And particularly for anyone who wants to understand what Napa cabernet sauvignon can taste like when the wine is made without worrying about what the cool kids think.
One of the things that makes the Wine Curmudgeon so cranky about California wine is that the state produces lots of cheap wine of decent quality and lots of expensive wine of decent quality. What it doesn ?t do nearly enough is produce cheap wine of expensive wine quality. That ?s why there are always so few California wines in the $10 Hall of Fame.
Which is why I was so happy to taste the Hess ($11, sample). Hess is a top-flight $20 and up producer, and always shows up on lists of wines to buy that deliver quality and value. And now they ?re making a very impressive cheap sauvignon blanc.
This is a wine that that is balanced, crisp and fresh, and isn ?t bothered by Hess ? policy of oaking even wines — like this — that usually don't need oak. In this, it ?s all California, all the time, which means no dominating citrus like a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but lots and lots grassiness ? the smell of a new mown lawn. There ?s even what seems to be lemongrass, for those who look for those kinds of descriptors.
Serve this chilled on its own or with grilled or boiled seafood. It ?s a terrific Sunday afternoon porch sipping wine as the days get cooler, and would even be worth keeping around the house as the holidays approach.