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.
• Jean-Jacques Vincent Bourgogne Blanc 2017 ($20, purchased, 13%): This is the second time I bought this chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France, which shows that even those of us who do this for a living make mistakes. Bland, boring, and overpriced. Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons
• Raimat Saira Albarino 2016 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Spanish white is cheaply made, watery, and doesn’t much taste like albarino. It apparently exists for no other reason than to cost $10. Imported by Aveniu Brands
So know, as we celebrate the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that there is a lot of rose out there looks pink. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to taste like the dry rose we’ve taught the world to love.
In fact, as rose-maker extraordinaire Charles Bieler told me this spring, no-self respecting Big Wine company is going to let rose pass it by. Hence, some of them are making two, three, and even four labels to make sure they don’t miss any of the sales momentum. In this, there’s some talk among wine business types that rose is saving wine from the worst effects of premiumization, and that its popularity is boosting sales that otherwise would be even more flat than they already are.
So yes, there’s lots of plonk out there, which I know because I’ve tasted so much of it. How about thin? How about bitter? How about tannic? How about sweet? To paraphrase Joseph Conrad (though he was probably more of a vodka man): “The horror! The horror!”
But not when it comes to the roses reviewed this post and in tomorrow’s post. These are all cheap, delicious, and rose in style and honesty. What else would you expect from the Wine Curmudgeon?
Prices this year are a touch higher than last year, but there is still plenty of terrific rose for less than $15. Also, don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer, which discusses styles, why rose is dry, how it gets its pink color, and why vintage matters. This year, vintage isn’t quite as important as in the past, and many 2017s should still be wonderful. That’s because technical quality, traditionally a problem with rose, has improved and the wines don’t fall apart like they used to. But still be wary of anything older than two or years, and especially it isn’t pink any more. Brown wine isn’t worth drinking, no matter how little it costs.
For more suggestions, check out the rose category link, which lists 12 years of rose reviews. Today, six standout roses we’ve come to know and appreciate — each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth drinking:
• Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2018 ($15, sample, 13.5%): The most interesting of Randall Grahm’s California pink of the past several years. It’s more Provence in style, with barley tart strawberry fruit, and even fresher. Honest wine from an honest producer does matter.
• Mont Gravet Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This French rose is made with cinsault, a terrific grape for pink wine. It’s fresh, bright, and crisp – with more depth than the 2017 and better quality fruit. Plus, the red fruit (berries) taste likes red fruit and not soda pop. Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.
• Bieler Père et Fils Sabine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): The cabernet sauvingon in the blend gives this Provencal wine a little more structure, depth, and body this year, as well as a little darker flavor (almost blackberry?). As it ages, the caberrnet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils
• Pedroncelli Dry Rosé of Zinfandel 2018 ($12, sample, 13.5%): One of the most consistent and enjoyable California pinks, and also made in a darker style (cranberry, blackberry?) that lots of people try but few succeed with. In this, it tastes like rose and not red wine.
• Angels & Cowboys Rose 2018 ($15, purchased, 12.8%): This California effort, always one of my favorites, is much more subtle this vintage, with a wisp of strawberry fruit and not much else. Still enjoyable and interestingly different.
• Charles & Charles Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 12.6%): This Washington state rose, from Chalres Bieler and Charles Smith, is fresh and crisp, with tart strawberry and orange fruit and a very clean finish. All in all, another exceptional effort.
The Hedges La Haute Cuvee is top-notch Washington state cabernet sauvignon
Hedges Family Estate has been part of the good fight for quality wine, transparency, and fair value for years. Its $13 CMS red and whites are well made and almost always worth buying, and the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys tasting its more expensive wines, like the Hedges La Haute Cuvee whenever I get a chance.
Hence, my anticipation when I opened the Hedges La Haute Cuvee ($50, sample, 13.5%). It’s Washington state caberent sauvignon that speaks to terroir and the difference between the state’s Red Mountain appellation and those in California and France. It’s not as rich and opulent as a Napa Valley caberent, nor as taut and firm as a great red Bordeaux. It’s different – and that’s the joy, for all wine is not supposed to taste the same.
Look for lots of black fruit (blackberry?), though aging has mellowed the fruit’s power a bit; some baking spices (cinnamon?) and even a intimation of cocoa; beautifully soft and integrated tannins, and a fine balance. One key to this wine: aging in older oak, to complement the fruit instead of overwhelming it. This is a wine that has aged magnificently, and should continue to do so for at least another five to seven years.
Pair this with red meat (I drank it with homemade mushroom and pecan sausage), and enjoy what Washington state has learned about making top-notch red wine.
• Exem Rouge 2015 ($13, sample, 13%): Pleasant French merlot blend from Bordeaux with nothing really wrong with it, save that it’s about $8 worth of wine. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.
• Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2016 ($15, sample, 13.5%): More Old World in style than one expects from Chilean wine, and especially from malbec. This red has less ripe fruit and more backbone and acidity than similar South American wines. Find this for less than $15, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Imported by Excelsior Wine.
The Goedhart Family syrah is Washington state red wine at is finest, and in time for Father’s Day
Washington state wine is mostly known for Chateau Ste. Michelle’s usually competent grocery store stuff, including the self-named rieslingand the 14 Hands and Columbia Crest brands. This is not to say that there isn’t more expensive wine worth buying, but that it doesn’t get as much attention.
First, it’s varietally correct, rare enough these days of wine made with too much fruit, too much oak, and too much alcohol so it can get the points needed to sell a $32 wine. Look for a subtle bacon fat aroma as well as some pepper, and even some gamey notes. Plus, it has syrah’s rich red fruit, but not so much that it overwhelms everything else and which means you can taste the wine’s layers and subtleties, also rare for post-modern syrah.
This is honest winemaking, something I don’t see enough of any more, even at this price. Highly recommended, and a fine Father’s Day gift (a holiday barbecue?) for anyone who wants to see what Washington state can do with expensive wine.
Duckhorn’s Washington state Canvasback cabernet sauvignon speaks to terroir, value, and quality
California producers have been buying land in Washington state recently, something that surprised a lot of people. But why not? Land prices in Washington are a fraction of what they are in Napa Valley, where Duckhorn Vineyards makes its highly-rated red wines. So Washington gives it a chance to make quality wine, like the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon, for half of what its Napa wine costs.
And the Canvasback cabernet sauvignon ($37, sample, 14.5%) does Washington proud. In this, it tastes like Washington state wine, and not an extracted, overripe Duckhorn Napa knockoff. The company and Canvasback winemaker Brian Rudin deserve much credit for this; given the way wine works, it would have been much easier – and more expected – to do it the Napa way.
Instead, look for more freshness, juicy cherry fruit, some green herbs (thyme?), and even some spice. It’s not a heavy wine, and as young as it is, should age a little – the fruit will become less juicy and the wine will get rounder and fuller. Best yet, Rudin didn’t get carried away with the oak. There’s enough there to do what needs to be done with cabernet, but not so much that it gets in the way of the wine.
Highly recommended, and just the thing for a dinner party or spring holiday with prime rib or any fancy red meat.
The Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon is a classic Washington state red wine
Washington state wine, and especially its reds, remains less known and less appreciated than the bottles the Winestream Media and its scores push for. Case in point is the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon, a classic Washington state effort.
The scores for the Cadaretta cabernet sauvignon ($50, sample, 14.8%) aren’t bad, but shouldn’t a $50 wine get more than 90 points? In this case, the wine isn’t exactly what the Winestream Media looks for. Yes, there is powerful dark fruit (blackberries?), but also tannins lurking in the background, a wonderful and unexpected earthiness, and even some black pepper. But the wine isn’t a fruit bomb and the oak, while obvious, doesn’t get in the way. It’s about as balanced as a wine of this style is going to get.
Highly recommended, with the caveat that there isn’t much of it. But if you can find it, it’s a prime rib and holiday dinner wine, and should get better over the next couple of years. The fruit and oak should tone down, and the wine will get more complex.