Tag Archives: sauvignon blanc

Wine review: Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Spy Valley Sauvignon BlancThe Spy Valley is annually one of the world’s best sauvignon blancs

The most important thing to know about this vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc? It cost $16, and I’m writing an entire post about it. How often does that happen on the blog?

But the Spy Valley ($16, purchased, 13%) is no ordinary sauvignon blanc. It’s always among the best in the world, not just in quality and value, but in taking the New Zealand style and adding depth and complexity. This is much, much more than grapefruit first, last, and only, but a wine made for people who want wine, and not just something to drink.

The 2016 vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc has the grapefruit, of course, as well as a hint of tropical fruit and a minerality that doesn’t seem to have been there in previous vintages. In addition, it’s a very young wine and should get softer and rounder, with more layers of flavor, as it ages over the next couple of years. I’d also suggest letting it breathe for at least 20 minutes; that should help with its youth that it has a screwcap.

Highly recommended. Drink this chilled on its own or with almost anything fish or chicken that is grilled or roasted. I do it with a shrimp boil, and it’s always spot on.

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.

Wine of the week: Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Crowded House sauvignon blancThe Crowded House sauvignon blanc shows how New Zealand producers can combine quality and value

New Zealand changed the way we bought and enjoyed sauvignon blanc, and the Crowded House sauvignon blanc is another in a long line of wines that shows how that happened.

Before New Zealand, sauvingon blanc was often cheap and boring, or interesting but either difficult to find or too expensive to be worthwhile. The exceptions, like white Bordeaux and Sancerre from France, were almost geeky at a time when there weren’t a lot of wine geeks.

The New Zealand approach, starting 10 or 15 years ago, focused on affordable quality and an almost grapefruit-like flavor. The latter was especially unique, since traditional sauvignon blanc barely bothered with fruit and was more about minerality. In this, the Kiwi approach was taken to all sorts of extremes.

The Crowded House sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13%) is a step up from most grocery store sauvignon blancs, which are mostly about the grapefruit. Here, the citrus is a little more restrained and is complemented by a nice touch of minerality on the back. A dollop of tropical fruit in the middle would have been welcome, but the wine is still enjoyable without it.

Serve the Crowded House sauvignon blanc chilled and on its own for some early spring porch sipping if the weather cooperates, or with grilled seafood or almost any fish or chicken prepared with garlic, olive oil, and parsley.

Wine of the week: Justin Sauvingon Blanc 2015

Justin Sauvingon BlancThe $14 Justin sauvignon blanc is a step up from most of its cheaper brethren, and worth the extra money

What’s the difference between a $10 wine and a $15 wine? Usually, save for a more marketing-friendly front label, not much. This is one of the curses of premiumization, in which we pay more for wine that is not appreciably better.

Sometimes, though, as with the Justin sauvignon blanc ($14, sample, 14.5%), there is a difference worth paying for. The Justin, a white wine from Paso Robles in California, is a step up from most $10 sauvignon blancs, including my favorites. It’s a little more full and round, with white fruit and even some tropical fruit to balance the usual citrus. Most less expensive sauvignon blancs don’t have that, and their one-note grapefruit gets old after a glass or two.

About the very high alcohol: Most of the time, high alcohol white wines that aren’t chardonnay use the extra couple of points of alcohol to simulate chardonnay, in the belief that consumers prefer chardonnay even if they’re drinking something else. This wine, though, still tastes like sauvignon blanc, and the extra alcohol doesn’t get in the way.

In this, the Justin sauvingon blanc is still balanced, fresh, and varietally correct. That rarely happens with a 14.5 percent white wine and is a testament to the winemaker’s skill – very ripe fruit, but not so ripe as to make the wine something it shouldn’t be.

Thanksgiving wine 2016

Thanksgiving wine 2016Four Thanksgiving wine 2016 suggestions to enjoy the holiday

A website asked me for Thanksgiving wine advice this year, and I offered the blog’s holiday wine mantra: “Don’t buy someone wine you think they should like; buy them wine they will like.” The guy at the website was impressed, which was flattering. But he didn’t need to be. After all, would you buy someone clothing or a toy that they wouldn’t like?

Hence Thanksgiving wine 2016. As noted many times before, Thanksgiving is the greatest wine holiday in the world because families and friends get to share lots of different kinds of wine and because it isn’t about money or showing off. Instead, it’s

about being thankful that we can be together to enjoy the holiday. The blog’s guidelines for holiday wine buying are here.

This year’s Thanksgiving wine suggestions are just a start:

Angeline Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2015 ($16, sample, 13.9%): One of the Winestream Media ripped this California red, doing so for every reason that I liked it – a lighter style, more delicate cherry fruit, and just enough oak hovering in the background. If I wanted zinfandel, I’d buy zinfandel. Highly recommended, and especially since pinot noir at this price is either undrinkable or tastes like something else.

Hanna Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($20, sample, 13.2%): This white is one of the best California sauvignon blancs I’ve had in years, and yes, I’d pay $20 for it. It’s more complex than most New World sauvignon blancs, which means more than just citrus fruit and a longer, more pleasing finish, as well as mouth feel that says more than sauvignon blanc. Best yet, no oak.

Desiderio Jeio Cuvée Rosé NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Nicely done pink Italian sparkling wine that has quality bubbles, fresh acidity, some almost tart red fruit, and not too much sweetness. Very surprising for the price, and head and shoulders more interesting than Big Wine Prosecco that costs the same amount.

Père Anselme La Fiole Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): This pink wine from France’s Rhone shows why rose is so wonderful: Made in a crisp, though almost New World style, so the black cherry fruit is more pronounced and less delicate. And still, after 10 months in the bottle, oh so fresh.

More about Thanksgiving wine:
Thanksgiving wine 2015
Thanksgiving wine 2014
Thanksgiving wine 2013

Mini-reviews 90: Vermentino, two sauvignon blancs, and red Rhone

vermentinoReviews 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.

Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Vermentino 2015 ($25, sample, 12.5%): This Italian white wine from the Antinori family has an almost creamy texture to go with its varietal lemon fruit and minerality. Very nicely done, and a step up from most $15 and $20 vermentinos.

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($7, sample, 13%): You get what you pay for with this Chilean white wine from Big Wine’s Concha y Toro. This supermarket staple has lots of harsh citrus fruit, though it should tone down a little over time.

Saint-Cosme Cotes du Rhone 2015 ($15, purchased, 14%): A disappointing vintage from what may be my favorite $15 wine. There is little more here than rich, dark berry fruit – no earthiness, no interest, and no reason think it’s from the Rhone. Maybe it needs more time in the bottle?

Sunshine Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($6, purchased, 12.5%): Tastes almost exactly like most Big Wine New Zealand sauvignon blancs (lots of grapefruit and some freshness, but nothing special), and yet costs half as much. Go figure.

Mini-reviews 89: The Wine Curmudgeon has questions

Mini-reviews 89Reviews 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, I have questions that the wines can’t answer.

Tasca D’Almerita Lamùri 2014 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Italian red offers about $10 worth of Sicilian nero d’avola at twice the price, and it‘s about as Sicilian as a Paso Robles red blend. My question: Why did I get it as part of a Sicilian wine promotion when it isn’t very Sicilian?

Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($14, purchased, 13%): This New Zealand white offers $10 worth of Zealand sauvignon blanc and its citrus flavors at one-third more the price. My question: How could this vintage be so much less enjoyable than the 2012?

Les Portes de Bordeaux Rose 2015 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French pink wine is not exceptional, but tastes like it should (freshness, red fruit) and is yet another reason why rose is always a good value. My question: How can this be, in the history of the blog, the first Trader Joe’s wine I can recommend?

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2015 ($10, purchased, 13%): A French red that was too tart and not very Beaujolais-ish, without any of the round and fruity flavors that should be there. My question: How can anyone at Jadot, one of the most important producers in France, think this is what this wine should taste like?