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. This month: Maybe New Year’s wine, maybe not
• Mumm Napa Brut Reserve NV ($18, purchased, 12.5%): How the mighty have fallen, and how sad it is to taste. This used to be one of the best affordable California sparklers, with fresh fruit and lots of interest. These days, it’s soft and almost flabby, with gassy bubbles — just one more focus group wine.
• Boordy Vineyards Landmark Reserve 2014 ($44, purchased, 12%): Maryland red blend speaks to terroir and how distinctive regional wine can be when it’s not trying to imitate French or California wine. Soft tannins and a long finish, plus a little spice and ripe, but not sweet black fruit.
• Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This French red is better than what has passed for Beaujolais Nouveau over the past decade, with a little more acidity and not nearly as much banana fruit. But it’s still softish and too bubble gummy. Imported by Boisset America
• Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This California white used to be one of the world’s great cheap wines, combining chenin blanc’s crispness with viognier’s stone fruit. Now, it’s just overpriced plonk, with acidity added to counterbalance all of that residual sugar. It’s awkward, unbalanced, and oh so disappointing.
How impressive is this California white wine blend? For one thing, it has its own website, and how many $10 wines can say that? For another, some retailers — who apparently have no shame — charge as much as $15 for it. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon is so curmudgeonly?
The other thing you need to know about the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier ($10, purchased, 12.5%)? That it is, as always, one of the great cheap wines ever made, combining the qualities of each grape to produce something greater than the whole. Given how much stupid label, fake oak, sort of sweet cheap white wine gets foisted off on us, this is a revelation. And that it’s made with two grapes that don’t get much respect makes the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier that much more interesting.
In addition, the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier is different each vintage, something that also rarely happens with cheap wine. The 2014 has less citrusy sauvignon blanc character than the 2013 (something you can get from chenin blanc), with more steely chenin minerality and a dollop of white fruit (peach?) from the viognier, as well as an almost floral aroma.
Drink this chilled on its own, or with any end of the summer dinner. It’s a fried seafood wine, too — clam rolls, anyone? Highly recommended, and sure to take its place again in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.
What’s not to like about the Pine Ridge ($10, purchased, 12%)? It’s cheap and it delivers so much more value than what it costs that I can’t find a sufficient metaphor to describe how much more value that is.
The 2012 may be the best vintage ever, which is saying something given the wine’s quality over the past decade. This California white wine blend offers peach fruit and a bit of floral from the viognier plus some citrus and a touch of honey from the chenin blanc. The chenin and viognier play off each other so well that it’s hard to believe this wine didn’t cost as much as one of Pine Ridge’s $50 and $100 reds.
In this, it demonstrates one of the keys to finding great cheap wine from California. Forget the goofy names and cute labels; look for a less expensive wine from a producer who makes lots of expensive wine, be it Pine Ridge or Dry Creek. That’s one of the lessons, by the way, in the Cheap Wine Book.
Highly recommended, and will almost certainly be included in the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this chilled on its own or with almost any sort of white wine dish.
In a perfect world, Americans would drink dry chenin blanc the way we drink Coke and Pepsi. Until then, we'll have to settle for the Pine Ridge ($10, purchased). Which, actually, is not a bad thing at all.
This year's version of the Pine Ridge is about three-quarters chenin, and tastes drier than previous vintages, some of which tended toward sweet. In fact, the 2011 has a pleasing edge that I haven't tasted before — perhaps the handiwork of winemaker Michael Beaulac, who made some very zippy white wines when he was at St. Supery. Look for more grapefruit up front than in years' past, but with a very soft and delightful finish that shows off the viognier's apricot.
Chill this, and drink it by itself as the temperatures get warmer. Or pair it with spicy food, fresh summer salads, and even delicate fish. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2013 $10 Hall of Fame.