Tag Archives: holiday wine

Mother's Day wine

Mother’s Day wine 2018

Mother's Day wine 2018Four suggestions — red, white, rose, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2018

This Mother’s Day wine 2018 post is the 12th time we’ve done it on the blog, and one thing has remained consistent every year. Buy — or serve — Mom a wine she will like, and not something you think she should drink. Our Mother’s Day wine gift giving guidelines are here; the idea is to please your mother. What’s the point otherwise?

These Mother’s Day wine 2018 suggestions should get you started:

Arrumaco Verdejo 2016 ($8, purchased, 12%): A Spanish white that is a little richer than expected (more stone fruit than citrus), and as well made as all Arrumaco wines are. Imported by Hand Picked Selections

Scharffenberger Cellars Excellence Brut Rose NV ($24, purchased, 12%): This California sparking wine is impressive in many ways — the very aromatic raspberry fruit; the hint of spice that is a surprising and welcome note; and just the right amount of yeastiness, which lets the fruit show. Highly recommended.

Justin Rose 2017 ($18, sample, 13%): A California pink that is one of the shockers of rose season — a pricer wine from a winery best known for big red wine that is intriguing, almost subtle and delightful. Not nearly as fruity as I expected (barely ripe raspberry), with a little minerality and floral aroma. Highly recommended.

Domaine de Courbissac Les Traverses 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): This French red blend is delicious, and it’s even more delicious if you can find it for $12 (and it’s only about $9 in France). Mom wouldn’t want you to overpay. Look for some earth, a little rusticity, and black fruit. Imported by European Cellars

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Mother’s Day wine 2016
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Two Murrieta’s Well wines

Wine of the week: De Chanceny Cremant de Loire Brut NV

De Chanceny CremantThe De Chanceny Cremant offers Mother ‘s Day quality at a more than fair price

Sparkling wine value has been pounded by premiumization, as more bubbly costs more money even though it’s not necessarily worth it. This has been a particular problem with French sparkling that isn’t Champagne. These wines, from Burgundy and the Loire in particular, are called cremant to distinguish them from Champagne, and they’re made with local grapes. But they’re made using the same methode champenoise technique and be quite well done.

These cremants used to cost as little as $15 and offer $20 or $25 worth of value. Today, many of them cost $25 but taste like they did when they were $10 less.

The De Chanceny Crémant ($15, purchased, 12.5%) is an exception. It’s professionally made sparkling wine, with chenin blanc lemon fruit and hint of softness that is common in cremant from the Loire. But there is also a bit of chardonnay and cabernet franc to offer structure and a little depth so it’s more than soft and sweetish. Hence, a dry wine with tight, poppy bubbles and just enough acidity to make it sparkle in the mouth.

This is Mother’s Day brunch wine at a more than fair price. Serve it chilled, and enjoy with scrambled eggs, quiche, or anything Mom likes.

Imported by Signature Imports

Wine review: Two Murrieta’s Well wines

Murrieta’s Well winess

Two Murrieta’s Well wines – The Spur and the Whip – are a reminder that top-notch California wine doesn’t have to be expensive and boring

The Wine Curmudgeon has rarely been disappointed by Murrieta’s Well wine for more than 20 years. In the old days, when $20 was a lot of money and not something to spend because it was trendy, I would happily pay it for Murrieta’s Well.

How impressive is the the current incarnation, powered by new winemaker Robbie Meyer and a renewed commitment from the label’s owner, Wente Vineyards? It may be the best yet – and costs about the same, too.

The Spur 2015 ($20, sample, 14.5%) is a red blend that’s almost one-half cabernet sauvignon, but not dominated by it. Most importantly, despite the higher alcohol, the wine isn’t hot but balanced between dark, ripe black fruit, just enough sweet oak, supple tannins, and a wonderfully fragrant baking spice aroma.

The Whip 2016 ($18, sample, 13.5%) is a white blend with orange muscat, a grape that is difficult to work with and tends to overpower everything else. Here, though, it lends the tiniest hint of an orange aroma, which plays off the citrus of the sauvignon blanc, green apple of the chardonnay, and stone fruit of the viognier. And, somehow, the wine is floral, crisp and fresh.

How Meyer got these wines to taste like this – elegant and enjoyable – speaks to his talent and commitment to the cause. Because he is a believer; we tasted these at a media lunch, and Meyer and I probably spent too much time lamenting the sad state of $25 wine – soft, sappy, almost sweet, and tasting exactly the same.

Both wines are highly recommended, and offer value as well as quality. Serve these for a Mother’s Day brunch or dinner – the white would pair with eggs Benedict or a rich and cheesy quiche, while the red is ideal for roast beef and leg of lamb.


New Year’s sparkling wine 2017

New Year's sparkling wine 2017Four New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 recommendations that combine value and quality

Champagne, the sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, has returned to the blog this year for New Year’s sparkling wine 2017. The good news is that I found some that weren’t the same old stuff and are worth drinking. The bad news is that it’s almost impossible to find quality Champagne for less than $35.

Having said that, there is still lots of value in the blog’s New Year’s sparkling wine 2017 suggestions. This includes California bubbly, usually overpriced but where prices have become almost reasonable. That’s because of grocery store wine sales; the competition they offer has lowered prices.

Also handy: The blog’s annual wine gift guidelines and the sparkling wine primer.

Monistrol Seleccion Especial Brut NV ($9, purchased, 11.5%): This Spanish sparkler shows cava’s greatness and ability to deliver value. It’s less than $10, and you’d never know tasting it blind. Look for bright red apple fruit, pleasing acidity, and a softish finish.

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut NV ($16, purchased, 12.5%): This California sparkler is one of the world’s great bubbly values — always fresh, always consistent, always enjoyable. Look for lemon and green apple flavors, some stone fruit aromas, and a creamy finish with very tight bubbles. Highly recommended.

Astoria Prosecco NV ($12, sample, 11%): This is one of the best Italian sparkling wines — more than just sweet and soft. Look for lemon and apple fruit, enough sweetness to make you wonder if it is sweet, soft but long-lasting bubbles, and even a sort of minerally finish, which is completely unexpected.

Champagne Collet Brut NV ($39, sample, 12.5%): This is priced like entry-level Champagne, but the quality is much more than that. It’s classic in style, with the brioche aroma, citrus fruit, and a little caramel in the finish. Very well done for the price.

More on New Year’s sparkling wine
New Year’s sparkling wine 2016
New Year’s sparkling wine 2015
New Year’s sparkling wine 2014
Wineof the week: Francois Montand Brut Rose NV
Wine of the week: Juve y Camps Brut Rose NV

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

Holiday wine gift guide 2017

Who needs to blow $1,500 for something no one needs when you have the Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2017?

holiday wine gift guide 2017Premiumization isn’t just about wine these days. It’s about wine gifts, too. How about $95 for a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, packaged in a gift box shaped like a lipstick, complete with bright red top? Or the $1,500 Plum wine preservation system? It’s so complicated that I can’t figure out what it does or why I need it.

Never fear. That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon is here. As always, my goal is to offer ideas that are tasteful, affordable, and enjoyable. Because who wants to get a set of beer glass wraps made of leather?

This year, my suggestions are mostly wine, but also keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10).


• Jon Bonne’s new book, “Thee New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know” (Ten Speed Press, $15). This effort continues the former San Francisco Chronicle wine editor’s attempt to remake how we look at wine. It’s not long, but length isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the 89 “rules” – practical advice instead of the commandments that we have had to endure for generations. And yes, says Bonne, you can drink rose all year long.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2015 ($40). Dollar for dollar, California’s Ridge may be the best winery in the U.S. The Lytton Springs, one of the winery’s trademark zinfandel blends, shows why – lots of jammy black fruit and sweet oak, but with black pepper, more acidity than the usual flat and flabby zinfandel, and some herbal notes toward the finish. And it’s very young – should last for a decade or more.

Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 ($25): This Spanish sherry is dessert wine even for people who don’t like dessert wine – nutty, raisiny, rich and luscious, and one swallow seems to last forever. It may be difficult to find, but is more than worth the effort and more than a fair value. This is a sister product to a very rare Osborne sherry, which was easily the best I have ever tasted. And this one is almost as good.

Jose Zuccardi Malbec 2013 ($45): Argentina’s Zuccardi may be best known for its terrific cheap wine, including some classic $10 roses. This red, which includes a little cabernet sauvignon, takes the winery in a much different direction. It’s part of a decade-long effort to do for malbec what the Italians have done for sangiovese blends – call it a Super Mendoza. It’s not for all tastes – bigger and bolder than I expected. But the winemaking is impeccable.

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2014 ($28): This California white wine is made with two grapes rarely used in the U.S., so it’s worthwhile just for that. That it comes from the talented Randall Grahm is another reason to buy it. And that it offers quality – a little pear fruit, some bright acidity – is a third reason.

Holiday wine trends 2017

holiday wine trends 2017We’re willing to spend more money for holiday wine in 2017, but don’t try fobbing us off with overpriced crap

We’re willing to spend more money for holiday wine in 2017, but – and am I the only one surprised by this? – we don’t want to overpay. And, in as good a bit of news as I can imagine for holiday wine trends 2017, the younger among us are willing to buy something that isn’t chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir, and cabernet sauvignon.

“Consumers are ahead of producers in terms of quality, and they catch up to the idea of quality pretty quickly,” says Michael Warner, who owns Dcanter, a wine shop in Washington, D.C. “They’re willing to try something else, something different, but only if the price and quality is right.”

In fact, these younger wine drinkers are fussy about quality and price, and they aren’t willing to be fobbed off on something they consider inferior wine just because it’s different. Which is why I think this is such good news. They want wines from regions and made with grapes that their parents and grandparents aren’t interested in, and that includes wine from eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the southern Hemisphere.

How prevalent is this attitude? Michael Osborn at Wine.com, the largest Internet wine retailer in the country, says the site now sells wine made from almost 100 varietals. This is much larger than just a few years ago, and includes grapes like albarino, which no one has paid much attention to until the past couple of years. What makes the Wine.com numbers even more relevant? Its customers aren’t as old as the traditional U.S. wine drinker – two-thirds are younger than 50.

Several other trends after talking to a variety of retailers about holiday wine 2017:

• The most popular price this holiday season? The range from $15 to $25, as consumers don’t mind spending money to buy a better bottle of wine. The catch, though, is that they will only pay if it’s a better bottle. We’re not trading up just to trade up.

• Rose remains popular, with sales continuing to increase everywhere, including Wine.com. So do pinot noir and sweet red blends.

• Champage is regaining some of its popularity, but Prosecco – the Italian sparkler that’s about one-third the price and a little sweeter – remains the best-selling bubbly category in the country.

• One reason younger wine drinkers opt for non-traditional wines is value. Customers at New Orleans’ Pearl Wine Co. love a South African cinsault blend, says owner Leora Madden, because it offers so much more value than the $12 price. At Dcanter, says Warner, someone who wants to buy a red Bordeaux will leave with a red from the much less known and much less pricey Cahors region.