Tag Archives: pinot grigio

Wine review: Four Target California Roots wines

Target California Roots winesThese four Target California Roots wines don’t do anything to help the cause, and three of them aren’t even worth the $5 they cost

The Wine Curmudgeon wanted to write a glowing, “run out and buy these wines” review. Those of us who care about cheap wine need the good news. But these four Target California Roots wines aren’t much better than the $3 junk I tasted earlier this year – sadly, more marketing hype than wine, and where the back labels are of higher quality than the wine.

For instance, why does $5 wine have a cork? Why do the bottles have a punt (albeit shallow)? Why is the phrase “vinted in the Golden State” on every bottle? Why should I care? Why is not one of the wines labeled sweet, including the moscato, when my mouth felt like cotton candy at the end of the tasting?

The wines were purchased; each cost $5. My Target didn’t have the red blend, the fifth wine. Read and weep:

California Roots Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (13.5%): Smells like boysenberry juice, tastes too much like children’s cough syrup, and finishes with that old Big Wine standby, charred chocolate fake oak. It’s not so much that it doesn’t taste like cabernet, but that it’s overpriced at $5.

California Roots Chardonnay 2016 (13.5%): This smells like chardonnay, with lots of green apples, and I had high hopes I could write something nice. But the wine is so thin – diluted apple juice for babies? – that it had almost no flavor at all, save for a bit of sweetness. I’ve never tasted chardonnay made in the style of cheap, inoffensive pinot grigo.

California Roots Pinot Grigio 2016 (13.5%): Professional and competent wine, even if it’s not exactly pinot grigio. Think Costco’s Kirkland pinot grigio (pears and tonic water), but with appropriate amounts of sugar to cover up any bitterness and to round out the rough spots.

California Roots Moscato 2016 (10%): Not quite as sweet as white zinfandel, but that’s the approach. There’s a hint of the characteristic orange aroma of the muscat family, but everything else is sugar. And then a little more sugar just to be on the safe side.

Wine of the week: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2016

Tiefenbrunner pinot grigioThe Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio demonstrates that not all of this kind of Italian white wine has to be bland and boring

The Wine Curmudgeon’s long-standing antipathy for pinot grigio is rooted in sampling too many bottles of the Italian white wine that were overpriced, tasted like club soda, or both. So when I can rave about something like the Tiefenbrunner pinot grigo, more the better.

That’s because the Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio ($14, purchased, 13%) is more than another wine made for focus groups, bereft of flavor and character. It speaks to where it’s from in northern Italy, as well as to a grape that can make aromatic and subtly fruity wine if someone takes the time and trouble to do so.

Which is what happened here. Look for almost floral aromas, plus a little citurs that might seem more likely in an Oregon pinot gris. It’s not quite stone fruit when you taste it – more pear-like. One reason the flavor is so difficult to describe is that pinot grigio rarely tastes like this. Plus, it retains the hint of minerality that even the most bland of its brethren always seem to have.

Highly recommended (and it was a huge hit with my El Centro students). Pair this with almost anything spring related, and especially salads and shellfish.

Mini-reviews 100: Cerrosol, Hess, Parducci, Ecco Domani

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.

Fourth of July wine 2017

Fourth of July wine 2017Four delicious and value-oriented wines for Fourth of July 2017

The extra long Fourth of July 2017 weekend means more chances for great, cheap wine – always welcome when one is enjoying the United States’ birthday. But since it’s also summer, with hot and dry weather, the best way to celebrate is with lighter, less alcoholic wine – yes, even for red. That means summer wine (and porch wine); even though the food matters, lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2017 suggestions:

Masi Pinot Grigio Verduzzo Masianco 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): There was much more to this Italian white than I expected — some pinot grigio tonic water, but also a little pear and almost tropical fruit, and the verduzzo grape in the blend adds some softness.

Feudo Maccari Sicilia Rosé Noto 2016 ($16, sample, 12%): This is a terrific Sicilian rose made with nero d’avola – light and refreshing (pears and cherries) and an example of hoe versatile the grape can be. Look for it closer to $12 or $13, though, because the suggested price is someone sitting in an office poring over a spreadsheet and doesn’t reflect the wine’s value.

Firesteed Pinot Noir 2014 ($10, sample, 13.4%): This red was the first affordable Oregon pinot noir to get national attention, but it hasn’t been well made for a long time. This vintage, though, is infinitely better, Look for some cherry fruit, some earth, and the correct tannins. Of course, as soon as I tasted this, the brand was sold to a company with more than two dozen brands, so who knows what will happen next?

Segura Viudas Cava Brut Rosado NV ($9, purchased, 12%): This pink Spanish sparkler is one of the world’s great wine values, and every time I taste it I marvel at how Segura does it. Cherry and cranberry fruit that finishes softer than it has in the past, but still bubbly and delicious.

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2016
Fourth of July wine 2015
Wine of the week: Bogle Essential Red 2014

Wine of the week: A to Z Pinot Gris 2015

A to Z Pinot GrisThe A to Z pinot gris is widely available, well made, and shows off the Oregon style

Once, for a cheap wine talk, I used an A to Z wine. The audience was mostly dumbfounded, since they had never heard of A to Z, an Oregon producer, and didn’t believe that a wine without the Winestream Media seal of approval could be that well done.

Well, it is, and the A to Z pinot gris ($14, sample, 13.5%) is just one more example.

Pinot gris is the same grape as the Italian pinot grigio; the difference is in approach and terroir. The Italians prefer an austere, almost tonic water wine, with little fruit, while the Oregon style has lime and tropical fruit with a fuller and richer middle. The A to Z pinot gris is firmly in the Oregon camp, and the lime and lime zest practically jump around your mouth. The finish isn’t what it could be – a bit bitter, from all the acidity in the wine – but it’s still enjoyable and worth drinking.

Drink this chilled, and it’s yet another white wine as summer arrives, either for porch sipping, for chicken on the grill, or those bratwursts have that been sitting in the freezer.

A word about the price – the winery sells the wine for $15, it’s $14 on Wine-Searcher, and I’ve seen it for as little as $10 or $12 in grocery stores and the largest chain retailers. At $10 or $12, it’s that much more of a value.

Barefoot wine review 2016

Barefoot wine review 2016The Barefoot wine review 2016: an interesting pinot grigio and a pinot noir that isn’t very pinot noir-ish.

The Barefoot wine review 2016 goes a long way toward explaining why the market for wine that costs less than $10 has been eroding for a couple of years — save for Barefoot. These wines are professional and technically competent, but more importantly are made for specific groups who know what they like and will buy what they like.

The pinot grigio ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is more like pinot gris, with sort of soft lemon fruit and more acidity than I expected. This is not a tonic water pinot grigio like similarly priced Italian wines; instead, the Barefoot straddles the line between the two styles. It’s also sweet – not moscato or white zinfandel sweet, but with a touch of residual sugar that you’ll notice on the back of your tongue. There is lots of winemaking going on here, but the result is drinkable, especially if well chilled and of you don’t mind the sweetness. The pinot grigio is American appellation and non-vintage.

It’s not so much that the pinot noir ($10, purchased, 13.5%) doesn’t taste like pinot noir. You can say that about a lot of pinots that cost less than $25 and are made more like cheap red blends. Rather, my sense is that the goal was to make a wine that tastes like the kind of wine that people who don’t drink much wine think red wine should taste like. Yes, a complicated sentence, but it means that the pinot noir is a little rough and not smooth in the way many wine drinkers describe wine. Plus, the tannins are surprisingly noticeable and not well integrated, something that almost never happens with a Barefoot wine. The pinot noir is American appellation and non-vintage.

Finally, a word about the price of the wine, which was almost 50 percent higher than it should have been – $10 instead of $7. I bought both bottles at the same supermarket where I buy Barefoot every year for the review, and that was the price. Call it premiumization or grocery store pricing or whatever, but it means the wines are that much less of a value given the higher price.

More about Barefoot wine:
Barefoot wine review 2015
Barefoot wine review 2014
Barefoot: Almost the best-selling wine in the U.S.

Mini-reviews 86: Meh wine edition

meh wineReviews 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, meh wine — four wines you probably won’t want to buy.

Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2015 ($6, sample, 12.5%): $6 worth of pinot grigio in the cheap Italian style, more tonic water than anything else. It’s certainly drinkable for people who like this sort of thing, and in its own way an honest wine. But you can do much better for not much more money.

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, sample, 13.5%): Nicely done California white, as always, with varietal grassy character. But not for $18 (after a price increase from last year), and it’s not twice as enjoyable as a quality $10 sauvignon blanc or white Bordeaux.

Camino del Peregrino Albariño 2015 ($5, purchased, 12.5%): Spanish white is almost varietally correct, but there is almost nothing going on save some tart lemon. Certainly drinkable, but probably not worth buying again, even for $5.

Sauvignon Republic Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($8, sample, 12.5%): Thinnish, simple, $8 grocery store white from New Zealand that is OK as long as you don’t have to pay any more for it. This is what’s left after the recession-induced collapse of the high quality Republic of Sauvignon Blanc label, and it’s not nearly the same thing.