Tag Archives: pinot noir

Mini-reviews 111: Geyser Peak, Castle Rock, Ranch 32, Tyrell’s

geyser peakReviews 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 highly recommended white and red:

Geyser Peak Chardonnay Water Bend 2016 ($18, sample, 14.5%): California white that tastes like coconut and pineapple – another example of the post-modern, better living through winemaking approach that dominates so much wine at this price. Coconut and pineapple are ideal for an ice cream sundae, but probably not the way chardonnay should taste.

Castle Rock Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This vintage of the Oregon red is not what the 2015 was, unfortunately – a little brambly black fruit aroma, but too heavy and not very interesting. It tastes like it has lots of something in it besides pinot noir, a practice that is legal and not uncommon for less expensive pinot noirs.

Ranch 32 Pinot Noir 2016 ($17, sample, 13.5%) If all $17 wine tasted like this California red, I wouldn’t rant about $17 wine. It’s got actual pinot noir character – almost silky, with precise black fruit and actual oak that lends to the wine and doesn’t dominate it. Highly recommended.

Tyrell’s Semillon 2016 ($22, purchased, 11%): This white is another brilliant Australian wine that was lost in the disaster that was 15 percent shiraz and that the Aussie wine business is still recovering from. It’s somehow balanced, soft and crisp and with lots of fresh stone fruit, and balanced. Highly recommended. Imported by Broadbent Selections

Wine of the week: Bogle Pinot Noir 2015

bogle pinot noirThe Bogle pinot noir is, as always, $10 Hall of Fame wine. The same can’t be said for the label’s cabernet sauvignon

How amazing is the Bogle pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%)? It mostly tastes like pinot noir. This is unheard of in a $10 wine, and it’s not all that common for pinot noir that costs as much as $30, either. That Bogle can do it speaks to the producer’s emphasis on quality and value.

That’s the good news. The bad news, and it pains me to write this, is that the 2015 Bogle cabernet sauvignon ($10, sample, 13.5%) is as disappointing as the pinot noir is not. The cabernet is soft, flabby, and bereft of almost any varietal character. In this, it’s another example of winemaking by focus group; someone, somewhere, decided that U.S. wine drinkers don’t want tannins or spice or pepper or earth or anything that adds interest to cabernet. Instead, all we want is great gobs of gushy fruit, so any number of red wines that were once worth buying aren’t (like this one and this one). I never thought to add a Bogle wine to that list.

Regular visitors here know of my respect – almost reverence – for Bogle. That is borne out in the pinot noir ($10, sample, 13.5%), which is as subtle and elegant as a $10 pinot noir is going to get. Look for cherry fruit, some peppery spice, a little foresty something or other, and oak that is there to be barely noticed. Again, all qualities I rarely seen on wines at this price.

Hopefully, the decision makers at Bogle will realize wine drinkers prefer wines like the pinot and will return the cabernet to its former style. That, more than anything, is why I included it in this review. Because it’s easy to buy cheap wine; it’s much more difficult to buy cheap wine that reminds us why we love wine.

Expensive wine 107: Fort Ross FRV Pinot Noir 2013

Fort Ross FRV pinot noirThe Fort Ross FRV pinot noir is a rarity from California – elegant, graceful, and varietally correct

California pinot noir is a conundrum, which is why we have movies about it, best-selling sweet versions of it, and critically acclaimed cabernet sauvignon versions of it. Mostly, the state isn’t cool and rainy enough to make a classical, varietally correct version of it. Which is where the Fort Ross FRV pinot noir comes in.

The Fort Ross FRV pinot noir ($52, sample, 13.8%) is elegant and, in its elegance, spectacular. It’s not what one expects from California pinot nor, given the excesses of many of the best selling labels. It somehow combines New World freshness with a little Burgundian complexity, so that each part of the wine complements the other and the whole is greater than the parts. It’s balance where balance is too often lacking.

Look for forest floor aromas (not too funky), plus dark red fruit and baking spice flavors, and soft, refined tannins. The tannins, as well as the exquisitely judicious use of oak, might be the most impressive achievements. This is a California pinot noir made to express pinot noir from Fort Ross’ Sonoma terroir instead of making it to get 94 points, the soil and the climate be damned.

Highly recommended. Ready to drink now, and probably won’t age for more than several years. Enjoy it with anything pinot noir–related, from roast lamb to salmon. And, given its grace, by itself.

Wine of the week: Le Charmel Pinot Noir 2016

Le Charmel pinot noirThe Le Charmel pinot noir is a pleasant, enjoyable, and lighter red wine that offers more quality than it costs

Mel Masters has been making wine in France almost as long as I’ve been writing about it, which should give you an idea of how serious this expatriate Englishman is about his craft. Best yet, Masters has focused on affordable quality wine like the Le Charmel pinot noir.

The Le Charmel pinot noir ($12, sample, 13%) comes from the Languedoc in southern France, so don’t expect any high-end Burgundian sophistication. Even though the aroma is a touch earthy, there is little classical pinot noir varietal character. Having said that, it is more than $12 worth of wine – a pleasant, enjoyable, and lighter red, with a sort of dried cherry fruit flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the soft tannins or the hint of acidity that keeps the wine from tasting like it was made in bulk in California.

In fact, the Le Charmel is the kind of inexpensive pinot noir that we rarely see made in this country anymore; and no, the Mark West is not what it once was. Drink this on its own if you want a glass of wine after work, and you can even chill it a little. It would also pair with weeknight meatloaf, as well as weekend hamburgers.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

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

Mother's Day wine

Mother’s Day wine 2017

mother's day wine 2017Four suggestions for Mother’s Day wine 2017

The same lesson applies for this, the Wine Curmudgeon’s 11th annual Mother’s Day wine post, that applied to the previous 10. Buy Mom something 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 make her happy, not to impress her with your wine knowledge. She’s your Mom – she’s impressed already.

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

Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling 2015 ($16, sample, 12.5%): Australian rieslings are some of the least known quality wines in the world, because who associates riesling and Australia? This white shows why the wines offer so much quality at more than a fair price: dry, crisp, lemon and lime fruit, and a certain zestiness. Highly recommended.

Cristalino Rose Brut NV ($9, sample, 12%): Every time I taste this Spanish cava, or sparkling wine, I am amazed at how well made it is, and especially how well made it is for the price. No wonder it has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since the beginning. Tight bubbles, red and citrus fruit, and perfect for Mother’s Day brunch.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2016 ($10, sample, 12.5%): This South African pink is tighter and more closed this year, and the weight of the cabernet is more obvious. Having said that, it’s still a fine, fresh rose, with dark red fruit and a little spice and what could even be tannins in the back that add a little interest.

Bravium Pinot Noir 2015 ($30, sample, 12.5%): This California red is nicely done, a varietally correct pinot from the well-regarded Anderson Valley and more or less worth what it costs. Some earth, red fruit and even a hint of orange peel.

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2016
Mother’s Day wine 2015
Mother’s day wine 2014
Wine of the week: Anne Amie Cuvee Muller Thurgau 2015

Angeline Winery: Value, quality, and honest wine

angeline wineryFour wines worth drinking, for value and cost, from California’s Angeline and Martin Ray wineries

Maybe it’s because winemaker Bill Batchelor was an anthropology major in college. Maybe it’s because Angeline Winery and its sister label, the high-end Martin Ray, are not corporate in any way, shape, or form. Or maybe it’s because someone in California understands quality is not about what the hipsters are drinking, but about making honest wine.

Regardless, my visit last month with Batchelor during his trip to Dallas was almost too much fun. Imagine a winemaker who barely mentioned scores once during our chat, and you’ll get the idea.

“One of the things we keep in mind is that we don’t want to chase trends,” says Batchelor. “We want our wines to represent the place where they came from.”

All of the eight wines I tasted demonstrated that approach, and even the most expensive offered value in addition to quality and terroir. Among my favorites:

Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir 2016 ($16, sample, 13.9%): I’ve been bellyaching for years about how few pinot noirs that cost less than $25 taste like pinot noir, but this spring has seen four or five to reverse the trend. This is classic California pinot noir – not as earthy as Burgundy or as zesty as Oregon, but with fresh raspberry fruit balanced by bright acidity and just a hint of oak at the back. Highly recommended.

Angeline Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($13, sample, 13.8%): This white has more tropical and stone fruit flavors than the typical California sauvignon blanc, but that just makes it more interesting. And it, too, is balanced, so that that it remains fresh despite the softer fruit flavors.

Angeline Rose of Pinot Noir 2016 ($13, sample, 12.5%): This rose does the always reliable Charles & Charles one step better – some floral aromas (orange blossom?), plus candied strawberry fruit and a crisp citrus finish. Highly recommended.

Martin Ray Synthesis Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($50, sample, 14.8%): This is a Napa Valley cabernet (with a smattering of cabernet franc and petit verdot) that tastes like wine and not a chemistry experiment designed to get the highest score possible. Look for blueberry and plum fruit, an herbal something or other, and just the right amount of oak to support everything that is going on. Also impressive: the wine handles the high alcohol nicely, and it doesn’t get in the way. Ready to drink now, and should age for at least two or three more years.