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 – two California and two French.
• Oak Ridge OZV Rose 2018 ($15, sample, 13.8%): This California pink, made with zinfandel, is a heavier, red wine-style rose, that needs food. Look for crisp, almost back fruit is crisp.
• Toad Hollow Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($17, sample, 13.9%): Major winemaking going on with this California red. Somehow, it’s sweet and tart at the same time, with nary a tannin in sight. One more example of focus group wine aimed at people who don’t drink wine.
• Domaine Dupeuble Beaujolais Blanc 2017 ($18, purchased, 13%): This French white is chardonnay from the Beaujolais region, not something you see much on store shelves. It’s well made, with green apple fruit, some minerality, a touch of mouth feel, but that it costs $18 speaks to the dearth of quality chardonnay that tastes like chardonnay at less than this price. Imported by Kermit Lynch
• Charles Joguet Chinon Cuvée Terroir 2015 ($17, purchased, 13%): French red made with cabernet franc from the Loire that is a little fruitier (black cherry?) than I expected, and not quite as earthy. But well made and enjoyable, and a food wine for barbecues and steak frites. Imported by Kermit Lynch
Mini-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. This month, two whites you’ll enjoy and two reds you probably won’t.
• Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($6, sample, 13.5%): It’s not so much that this Australian red tastes like a $6 cabernet, with overly sweet black fruit and lots of fake chocolate oak. It’s that so many wines that cost two and three times as much taste the same way (albeit with better grapes).
• Toad Hollow Merlot 2014 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Red from a once great California producer that tastes more like cabernet than merlot, complete with manly tannins. One fix? I put ice cubes in my glass, which toned down the wine enough so that it tasted like merlot.
• Dancing Coyote Gruner Veltliner 2015 ($15, sample, 13%): California white is a well-made, varietally correct version of the Austrian sommelier favorite – which is saying something given the Wine Curmudgeon’s lack of enthusiasm for gruner. Look for citrus and peach and a crisp finish.
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.
• Domaine de la Quilla Muscadet 2014 ($13, purchased, 12%): Muscadet is under-appreciated in this country, not only because the name is so different but because the style — clean, tart, and lemony without a trace of softness — isn’t popular. This is an excellent example of Muscadet (made with the equally unappreciated melon de bourgone grape in the Loire region of France), though it would be better a couple of bucks cheaper.
• Masseria Surani Ares 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Not much Italian style in this red blend from the Puglia region in the bootheel; it’s mostly fruit forward (cherry) in the international style. But as Cellar Tracker user Merky_Waters wrote: “This is a nice break from all the California blends on the market. No earth, definitely fruit forward but not too clumsy and not sweet.” Why someone in Puglia would emulate California is a question for another day.
• Toad Hollow Rose 2015 ($14, sample, 11.5%): Better than previous vintages and closer to what it was when this California rose was one of the great cheap wines of all time, but still missing something — and the price increase from last year doesn’t help. You can buy much better roses for $4 or $5 less. Looks for lots of strawberry fruit, but not much else.
• Chateau Ste. Michelle Pinot Gris 2014 ($11, purchased, 13%): One more in what is getting to be a long line of bitter, not all that pleasant sub-$15 pinot gris from quality producers. I have no idea why this is, but there is no excuse for making wine that tastes this way. The Chateau Ste. Michelle from Washington state has some apple fruit, but that’s not enough to save this white wine.
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.
? Estancia Chardonnay Unoaked 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): Not very chardonnay-like, with an odd, though pleasant, orange muscat aroma and a hint of sweetness. Chardonnay for people who want it to taste like moscato.
? Toad Hollow Risqu ($16, sample, 6%): One of my favorite bubblies, mostly because it’s made using an obscure grape and equally obscure sparkling process. This is the best it has been in years, and one of best sweet sparklers I’ve tasted in a long while. Tight, wonderful bubbles, sweet lemon, and acidity to balance all.
? Cellier des Dauphins Les Dauphins Reserve Rouge 2013 ($13, sample, 13%): Grocery store plonk masquerading as award-winning French wine, with lots of flabby sweet red fruit, harsh tannins, and almost nothing else. This is a marketing wine, where what the label looks like is more important than what’s in the bottle.
? Chapoutier Belleruche Rose 2014 ($12, sample, $13): Everyone else likes this wine more than I do, and it always shows up on summer rose lists. But it always seems pricey for what it is — sweet, crisp strawberry fruit and not much else.
One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?
Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.
Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.
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:
? Beronia Tempranillo 2010 ($15, sample, 14%): Spanish red is rich, has lots of red fruit, and is professionally made. That it doesn’t especially taste like it ?s from Rioja is only a problem if you care about those things.
? Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2011 ($13, sample, 13.9%): California white is unoaked, and mostly tastes as it always does, with green apple fruit. But seems to be a hint of sweetness.
? Tormaresca Neprica 2011 ($12, sample, 13.5%): This vintage of the one-time favorite is more balanced and Italian than the 2010, but still firmly in the international style with lots of sweet red fruit.
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. This month, in honor of the record-setting temperatures across much of the U.S., heat wave wines:
? Round Hill Chardonnay Oak Free 2010 ($12, sample): This wine deserves a real review, but I'm still waiting — after several calls and emails — to hear from the winery about availability, so it gets a mini-review. Lots of fresh pear and green apple with refreshing crispness. Highly recommended, assuming you can find it.