Tag Archives: Washington state wine

Mini-reviews 141: Be Human, Carmel Road, Brancott, Mulderbosch

Be HumanReviews 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, bring on the residual sugar!

Be Human Merlot 2018 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Slightly sweet Washington red, with lots of fake chocolate and fake cherry. Somehow, one review described this as a dry, cheap wine. Sigh.

Carmel Road Chardonnay 2019 ($15, sample, 13.%): A California white that is about as typical a $15 supermarket wine as you’ll find: Pleasant and a touch sweet, the kind of wine that will leave you wondering what you saw in it after you finish the bottle.

Brancott Flight Song Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, purchased, 9%): This New Zealand white gives new meaning to the term post-modern. It’s a riesling-style pinot grigio, so it’s sweet – and its selling point is that it’s lower in calories than “regular” pinot grigio. Not so much gross as just annoying. Imported by Pernod Ricard USA

Mulderbosch Cabernet Franc 2017 ($39, sample, 13%): South Africa’s Mulderbosch has found a way to add sweetness to a pricey red wine. Who knew? Otherwise, it’s a sort of New World cabernet franc, which means less graphite and more red fruit, and not much else. Imported by Third Leaf Wines

Photo: “A couple drinking wine” by freestocks.org is marked with CC0 1.0

Mini-reviews 140: Christmas Eve edition 2020

christmas eve 2020Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. This month, a special Christmas Eve 2020 edition.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2020 ($15, sample, 12.5%): The South African Mulderbosch was once one of the world’s great cheap roses. This isn’t it — there has been a price hike and the wine is softer, without the edge the cabernet used to give it. Plus, there’s a touch of sweetness. Very disappointing. Imported by Third Leaf Wines

Petra Zingari 2015 ($13, purchased, 14%): This red blend is made in the popular post-modern Italian style, so that the sangiovese is surrounded by three international grapes — merlot, syrah, and petite verdot. Notice I wrote surrounded, and not complemented. It is well made and professional, and spot on if you like this style. Imported by TMT USA

Calcu Escarlata 2019 ($12, sample, 14%): This Chilean red blend is exactly the kind of supermarket wine that focus groups like — lots of dark fruit, no tannins, and very little acidity. It does what it does well enough, but there are hundreds of wines exactly like it. Imported by Global Vineyard Importers

Chasing Rain Merlot 2018 ($24, sample, 14.5%): A very dark merlot from Washinton state that tastes like it has lots of winemaking going on. It’s more heavy and tannic, more like a caberent, with less soft merlot character.

Mini-reviews 139: Black Friday edition 2020

Black Friday 2020Reviews 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 reds, a white, and a rose for Black Friday 2020

La Vieille Ferme Rouge 2019 ($8, purchased, 13%): Long-time reader Rich Liebman always insisted I was too hard on this French red blend, which I’ve been drinking off and on for longer than I care to remember. And he was correct — it’s nowhere near as old-fashioned as it used to be. It’s less harsh, there’s more dark fruit, and there might even be something that could be oak. But I’m still not sure it should be part of my regular wine rotation. Imported by Vineyard Brands

CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($6, sample, 12.6%): This California white is notoriously inconsistent, so the good news is that this vintage tastes like $6 sauvignon blanc — more sauvignon blanc in character (some grass, some citrus fruit) and less cheap tasting.

Dixie & Bass Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($18, sample, 14.5%): There’s nothing very subtle about this Washington state red. It’s a standard big, fruity (black cherry?), over-the-top cabernet (though it tastes more Lodi than Washington state). If this is your style of wine, it’s a fair value.

Notre Vue GSM Rose 2019 ($29, sample, 12.7%): This California pink is a pretty, well-made, and enjoyable wine. Look for crisp berryish fruit, and a long, clean, mineral-driven finish. But is really three times better than a top-notch $10 rose?

Wine of the week: Hedges CMS 2017

Hedges CMSWashington state’s Hedges CMS red blend remains one of the world’s great cheap wines

The Hedges CMS red blend from Washington state has traditionally been one of the world’s great cheap wines. So why hasn’t it been on the blog since 2013? Chalk it up to premiumization and availability – its price has been as high as $16 or $17, and I haven’t seen it in Dallas in years.

Enough of the bad news. The good news is that the Hedges CMS 2017 ($12, purchased, 14%) remains everything that it has always been – a Washington state red blend that has the state’s tell-tale richness and fruitiness. But it’s also wine, which means it’s balanced and sensible and never once saw a focus group on its way to a store shelf.

CMS stands for the grapes in the blend; in this case, about two-thirds merlot, with the rest more cabernet sauvignon than syrah. Look for lots and lots of dark berries, but  some heft from the cabernet and its tannins to play off the softness of the merlot. Finally, the syrah rounds it all out. It’s just the thing for Friday night pizza, but would also pair with something much more formal.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 Hall of Fame and the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year. What’s most impressive about the Hedges is that it doesn’t sit in the mouth like a fruit bomb waiting to explode in a mess of sweet, gooey muck. Rather, it’s so well made that it even appeals to people (like me) who prefer a more Old World style, with less fruit and more acidity. What more can we ask for from a $12 wine?

Memorial Day and rose 2020

memorial day and roseCheck out these six roses — cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

There is lots and lots of quality rose out there at terrific prices as we continue the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza with today’s post. But given the surreal way wine works these days, that’s both good news and bad.

Good because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, keeping prices down. Case in point: I got a California rose sample this month that cost $2 less this year, and it was the exact same wine the producer sent me last year. Yes, a price cut in the wine business – as hard as it is to believe.

Bad because there is lots and lots of rose in the marketplace, much of it unsold from last year. That’s almost unprecedented for rose. But pink wine’s sales have slowed thanks to the general wine sales slowdown and the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t helped. In this, many producers have delayed release of the 2019 until they sell out. Bota Box, whose 3-liter rose is one of the best values in the world, isn’t releasing its 2019 until August. And I haven’t seen the 2019 Angels & Cowboys rose, always well-done, though there is lots of 2018 on store shelves.

Complicating matters is the 25 percent tariff on French and Spanish wine, which accounts for some of the best cheap rose in the world. It’s not so much that the tariff bumped up prices; in fact, I’m surprised so many producers didn’t increase prices more. Rather, importers cut their orders because they were unsure what they could sell given the general slowdown in wine. So there is still lots of great cheap Spanish and French rose, but there isn’t necessarily a lot from each producer.

Not to fear, though: The Wine Curmudgeon has found cheap, delicious, and honest roses (not sweet, not high in alcohol and not tannic). And don’t overlook the blog’s rose primer and the rose category (from the dropdown menu on the lower right), which lists 13 years of rose reviews.

Today, six standout roses – each highly recommended. Tomorrow, six more roses worth writing about:

Bielet Pere et Fils Sabine Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 13%): This French pink is one of the world’s best roses every year, regardless of price. In this vintage, the cabernet sauvignon in the blend gives the wine a little more structure, depth, and body, plus a little darker flavor (blackberry instead of strawberry?). As it ages, the cabernet should go to the back and more red fruit will come to the front. Imported by Bieler et Fils

Santa Julia Organica Rose 2019 ($6/375 ml can, sample, 13%): This is the same high-quality Zuccardi family rose that shows up under a variety of labels – this time, in a half-bottle sized can. Look for some not too ripe berry fruit, a bit of structure, and a fresh finish. Let it open up, and it’s even better in a glass. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

MontGras Rose 2019 ($15, sample, 12.5%): This Chilean pink made with zinfandel is quite fruity, with lots and lots of red berries. But it’s not sweet. Quite interesting, in fact, and perfect for anyone tired of the taut, crisp, Provencal style. Imported by Guarachi Wine Partners

Banfi Centine Rose 2018 ($10, purchased, 13%): Banfi’s Italian Centine line offers some of the best cheap wine in the world today, and the rose is no exception. It tastes Italian, with a well-done crispness and soft cherry fruit. A touch short on the finish, but that’s not a problem. Imported by Banfi Vintners

Mont Gravet Rose 2019 ($10, sample, 12%): This French label is all a $10 rose should be — a little bit of not quite ripe berry fruit, crisp, clean and fresh. It’s not fancy or flashy; rather, it’s wine for people who care more about what’s in the bottle than the marketing campaign. (And the 2018 is still yummy, too – I’ve got six bottles in the wine closet). Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Charles & Charles Rose 2019 ($12, sample, 11.4%): Winemakers Charles Bieler and Charles Smith combine on this Washington state rose, which shows up on this list every year. The 2019 is stunning – low alcohol, bone dry, with pleasingly crisp and tart strawberry fruit.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
• Memorial Day and rose 2019
• Memorial Day and rose 2018
• Memorial Day and rose 2017
• Will the 2020 rose season survive the coronavirus pandemic?
• Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Photo: “Rose tasting 2012” by WineCoMN is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Mini-reviews 126: White Burgundy, albarino, Estancia, petit verdot

white burgundyReviews 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

Estancia Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8, purchased, 13.5%): Estancia was once a dependable cheap wine producer. Now, it’s just another Big Wine brand. This California white is green and unripe and tastes very little like sauvignon blanc.

Cameron Hughes ‘Lot 638’ Petit Verdot 2016 ($15, sample, 14.4%): VinePair’s reviewer loved this Washington state red wine, raving about its “concentrated dark-berry fruit, especially blackberry and black currant.” That’s the exact reason I didn’t care for it – too ripe and too overdone, especially given the grapes involved.

Photo: “Lancers” by Rochelle Ramos is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 

Memorial Day and rose 2019

Check out these six roses — still cheap and delicious — for the blog’s 12th annual Memorial Day and rose celebration

Rose is officially mainstream after all those years in the wilderness. How else to explain a “dry” Provencal-style rose from E&J Gallo’s Apothic, the brand that all but invented sweet red blends?

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.

More about Memorial Day and rose:
Memorial Day and rose 2018
Memorial Day and rose 2017
Memorial Day and rose 2016
Winecast 36: Charles Bieler
Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Photo: “Wine o’Clock” by VanessaC (EY) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0