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: a terrific red Burgundy for Black Friday 2019
• Joel Gott Pinot Gris 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.2%): This Oregon white is mostly OK for what it is, with some lime fruit and what tastes like a little fizziness. But there are better made wines at this price.
• Toad Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($17, sample, 14.1%): This California red from Lodi is $12 or $13 worth of cabernet, which is not a bad thing. It’s reasonably well made, with with brambly berry fruit and almost cabernet tannins (though the oak is out of balance). But $17? Only in the premiumization universe.
• Domaine Thenard Givry Les Bois Chevaux 2012 ($20, purchased, 13%): A Premier Cru red Burgundy, the second highest classification, that actually tastes like red Burgundy (French pinot noir) at a tremendous price. It’s getting a touch thin, but still has earth, some forest floor, and telltale lovely red fruit. Imported by Beverly Imports
• Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Nouveau 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This French red, made from gamay, is a November tradition. The 2019 version from Drouhin is a little thin, but mostly Beaujolais in style and taste (berry fruit). Which means it’s missing the horrible ripe banana fruit that too many nouveaus have had in the past decade. Imported by Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.
The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris is substantial, age-worthy, and delicious – who cares what score it got?
How useless are scores? The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris got 88 points on Cellar Tracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory software). Just 88 points for one of the best-made wines I’ve tasted in my life? So yes, past useless.
The Eyrie Vineyards pinot gris ($22, purchased, 12.5%) is a dazzling Oregon white that doesn’t rely on showy limeade fruit to make its point. Rather, it’s about spice and white pepper, a full and complex mouth feel, and layers and layers of subtlety. In this, what fruit there is (lime peel?) is just one of its many attributes.
But why not? The Lett family behind Eyrie has been making Oregon wine for as long as there has been Oregon wine, and every Eyrie wine I’ve ever tasted reflects their history and passion. This is a substantial wine, as “important” as any chardonnay is in the foolish hierarchy that is part of how wines are scored. Or, as a nationally known expert once told a judging panel I was on: “If it isn’t cabernet, chardonnay, or pinot noir, it doesn’t get a gold medal.”
Highly recommended – not only one of the pinot gris I’ve ever tasted, but a steal at this price. This is a substantial wine that will age for maybe a decade, but is delicious now. Pair this with roasted or grilled seafood and chicken dishes (no heavy sauces), and marvel at what second-generation owner Jason Lett has accomplished.
The Wine by Joe pinot gris is quality cheap wine and a candidate for the 2018 $10 Hall of Fame
Sometimes, even the most cynical among us can be given a reason to believe. That’s what the Wine by Joe pinot gris did for the Wine Curmudgeon.
I’ve spent the past year tasting junk, plonk, and even worse, much of it costing as much as $20 – boring, dull, one-sided, syrupy wines that not even a winemaker could love. So that the Wine by Joe pinot gris ($10, purchased, 13.5%) was none of those things made dinner that much more enjoyable.
The Joe in Wine by Joe is the legendary Joe Dobbes, who has been making wine in Oregon for almost as long as there has been wine in Oregon. I waxed poetic about his pinot noir in February; this wine is just as impressive – perhaps even more so, given that it’s a previous vintage. The 2016 should be even fresher and more delicious.
Look for that wonderfully Oregon lime aroma, plus barely ripe pear mingling with citrus zest flavors. It’s not too fruity, but balanced and interesting. The finish is clean with a bit of minerality, and not as short as I expected given it’s an older wine. Most telling? The last three wines I’ve had with dinner, all samples and that cost as much as $17, were so annoying that I didn’t finish them. This one was gone before dinner was over.
The 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.
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.
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.
? Mateus Rose NV ($5, purchased, 11%): I don’t remember this wine, popular when I was in high school, tasting like raspberry 7 Up. But that was a long time ago. The wine has been repackaged since then, so that it’s in a clear glass bottle instead of the traditional green and doesn’t look quite the same as it did. And maybe it did taste like raspberry 7 Up all those years ago, which isn’t offensive — just odd.
? Chateau Graville-Lacoste Graves 2014 ($20, purchased, 12%): The legendary Kermit Lynch imports this French white Bordeaux, and it’s another example why you should buy any wine that has Lynch’s name on it. Look for freshness, minerality, and a clean sort of citrus flavor. Well worth every penny of the $20 it cost.
? Muga Rioja Reserva 2011 ($23, purchased, 13%): This Spanish tempranillo blend from one of my favorite producers was much lusher and fruitier than I expected, without as much of the tart cherry acidity and herbal appeal that I like about wines from the Rioja region. Having said that, it’s well worth drinking, and should age for close to forever. As it does, the fruit and oak will probably give way to more traditional flavors.
?Peter Yealands Pinot Gris 2014 ($12, purchased, 13%): Why grocery store wine makes me crazy. Yealands is a respected New Zealand producer, and this white should have been delicious. But the bottle I bought was a previous vintage that was bitter and pithy on the back, and much of the fruit, freshness and crispness — hallmarks of pinot gris — were gone. Who knows how long it was sitting and baking in some warehouse? Did anyone at Kroger care?
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.
? Ponzi Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014 ($17, sample, 13.2%): Needs more time in the bottle, but when this Oregon white is ready in a couple of months, it should be classic, elegant Oregon pinot gris — fresh tropical fruit, rich mouth feel, and long finish.
? Weingut Schnaitmann Lemberger 2012 ($15, sample, 13%): Unfortunately for those of us who like lemberger, a red grape that’s hard to find, this isn’t the answer. There’s lots of red fruit, but this German wine is disjointed and needs something more than just the fruit.
? Rudi Wiest Dry Pinot Blanc 2012 ($12, sample, 12%): This German white was delightful, with candied lime fruit, fizzy acidity, and just a touch sweet. It was everything I hope it would be; the catch being that availability is limited.
The Wine Curmudgeon has almost run out of nice things to say about the J Winery pinot gris. You can look here. Or here. Or even here. But given that the 2013 vintage may be J’s best yet ($15, sample, 13.8%), I’ll try to find a couple more:
? Round, soft white fruit — peach, perhaps — but not flabby or overdone so that the fruit is the only thing you taste.
? Fresh and crisp without any bitterness in the back, something else that is not common in this style of wine.
? Honest winemaking, in which the goal was to make a quality wine and not to hit a price point or please a focus group. Those are things that also happen too often with this style of wine.
This California white wine is highly recommended, as always, whether to finish out the summer on the porch or with grilled chicken or even fried catfish.