Tag Archives: white wine

Mini-reviews 135: Bonny Doon, Bota Box, Wente, Cameron Hughes

Bonny DoonReviews 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; four California wines for July.

Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2019 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Something is missing in this rose, released after Randall Grahm sold his legendary company in January. It’s not bad – some watermelon fruit, some minerality – but it’s not the top-notch rose of vintages past.

Bota Box Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18/3-liter box, sample, 12.5%): Decent California white that works out to less than $5 a bottle, though it’s nothing more than that. Not sweet but not especially tart, either, with a bit of green herb and citrus. There’s an odd grapiness in the back that makes me think it was blended with something like French colombard to stretch the sauvingon blanc.

Wente Cabernet Sauvignon Southern Hills 2018 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): Ordinary (if well-made) supermarket-style California red from a quality producer. Not much in the way of tannins or acidity — just lots of very ripe black fruit, lots of oak, and that sort of smooth finish that focus groups prefer.

Cameron Hughes Lot 676 2016 ($14, sample, 14.3%): Heavy, rich, hot, and full California white blend, made in the classic “Trying to get 94 points” style. There’s some fruit (stone, lime?), and a surprising amount of oak. Given its age, the style, and that Hughes buys what other producers can’t move, this may well be a pricey bottle that was sitting in a tank somewhere, unloved and unsold.

Photo: “Summer Hols Day 3 – Rain and Wine” by Ian Livesey is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

A tale of two Italian wines: Boffa Carlo Arneis and Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze 

Italian wineThe former is a lovely $15 wine, while the latter is a $40 Prosecco. How can Italy be going in two completely different directions?

Premiumization has done horrible things to the wine business, so horrible that they go beyond cutting sales and alienating younger consumers. Thanks to premiumization, wine is becoming something not to drink and enjoy, but for collecting and for showing off. Case in point: these two Italian wines.

The Boffa Carlo Arneis 2017 ($15, purchased, 13.5%) is a beautiful, almost elegant white wine, with subtle lemon and stone fruit, nuanced minerality, and a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a tremendous value for arneis, a lesser-known grape where prices can top out at $30.

The Mionetto is a $40 Prosecco (sample, 11%). It’s a well-made and enjoyable sparkling wine, but in the end, it’s a $40 Prosecco, not all that different or better than the legions of $12 Proseccos cluttering supermarket aisles.

So how did Italy, a country with thousands of years of winemaking chops, go from the more or less traditional approach that gave us the arneis to one based on premiumization and a $40 Prosecco? Because decisions are increasingly made based on marketing and category management, and not on wine.

My guess? Someone, somewhere decided Mionetto needed a product to compete with Champagne and high-end California sparkling wine. So we got a $40 Prosecco – not because the world was demanding a $40 Prosecco or because the grapes were of such high quality that they would produce a wine worth $40. We got it so an Italian wine would be able to sit on a store shelf next to Champagne and grab some of that market share. Because if a wine costs $40, it must be worth it, right?

The same thing has happened with rose, where the marketplace has been flooded with $25 pink wine that is almost no different from $10 and $12 rose in anything other than retail price. The reason? Because people who buy $25 red and white wines have been taught that cheap wine is crap, so why not sell them $10 rose that costs $25? A rose producer I know can launch into a rant on that subject even more quickly than I can, which should tell you how widespread the practice is.

Finally, remember that this post is not about price, but about value, and that expensive wines can offer, value, too. That’s the Wine Curmudgeon’s mantra. The wine business will have you believe that value is no different from price, because that’s how it makes its money. Because, $40 Prosecco. But we know better, don’t we?

Photo: “Hanging Bottles” by garryknight is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wine of the week: Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2019

matua sauvignon blancThe Matua sauvignon blanc is Big Wine at its best — varietally correct, cheap, and delicious

A blog reader told me that his Costco was selling the Matua sauvingon blanc for $7 a bottle. I told him to buy cases and cases.

That’s because the Matua sauvingon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is Big Wine at its best — a combination of best practices in mass market winemaking, economies of scale, and supply chain efficiencies. The result, from Treasury Wine Estates, is a wine that is simple but not stupid and tastes like it is supposed to — and which may be the best Big Wine product on the market.

The 2019 vintage, which seems to be current, is even a little more well done than past efforts — and those made the $10 Hall of Fame. Look for not too much New Zealand grapefruit, a noticeable if slight tropical middle, and a long, clean finish.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame, as well as the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by TWE Wine Estates

Expensive wine 134: Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Gris 2017

eyrie pinot grisThe Eyrie pinot gris shows why this family producer is one of the best wineries in the U.S.

No, the Eyrie pinot gris is not the most expensive wine in the world, and most of the Winestream Media would probably consider it popularly priced. But for those of us who consider value more important than anything else, a wine that costs this much and delivers value is rare and worth noting — and a wine to buy over and over.

The Eyrie pinot gris ($23, purchased, 12.5%) comes from one of my favorite producers, the second-generation Oregon winery that did so much to bring pinot noir to that state (and the U.S.). The pinot gris, if less well-known, is equally worth drinking.

This is still a very young wine, and the pear fruit (and maybe some peach) really isn’t showing the way it should in a few years. It’s sort of hiding in the background, so that when you taste it, you’re not quite sure if it’s there, but you know something is. And, of course, that’s far from the only quality — lots of flint and minerality, maybe some spice, and a clean mouth feel.

Highly recommended. Pair this with grilled seafood or roasted chicken, and be glad such value still exists in a wine costing more than $20.

Fourth of July wine 2020

forth of july wine 2020Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:

MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.

Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “20150702_182103000_iOS” by annisette64 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Mini-reviews 134: OZV, CK Mondavi, Domaines Ott, Tour de Bonnet

ozvReviews 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.

OZV Red 2017 ($13, sample, 14%): Yes, way too much fake vanilla and way too much berry fruit without anything in the back, like tannins or a finish. So hardly balanced. But all things considered, it’s more than drinkable – and if you like this style, it’s a fine value.

CK Mondavi Pinot Grigio 2019 ($6, sample, 13.5%): Cheap supermarket pinot grigio, which means no character, no flavor, and not much else save some tonic water flavor. One more reason why cheap doesn’t always mean worth buying.

Domaines Ott By.Ott Rose 2019 ($25, purchased, 13.5%): French rose that tastes more California than Provencal and comes in a heavy bottle with these winemaker notes: “Lovely pink hue with glistening golden highlights.” Ouch. This much money should buy a much better bottle of wine. Imported by Maison Marques & Domaines USA

Château Tour de Bonnet Blanc 2019 ($13, purchased, 13%): This Total Wine private label is mostly a New Zealand sauvignon blanc knockoff, and not very white Bordeaux-like. This is annoying, since it’s from Bordeaux and not New Zealand. Not to be confused with this wine. Imported by Saranty Imports.

Wine of the week: Balnea Verdejo 2018

Balnea VerdejoThe Balnea verdejo is a stunning wine, one of the best of its type I’ve tasted in years

Verdejo is a common Spanish white grape used to make lots and lots of wine, most of it OK and some even more than OK. But the Wine Curmudgeon had not tasted a verdejo as decidedly uncommon as the Balnea verdejo in a long time – if ever.

The Balnea Verdejo ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is a stunning wine, somehow layered and almost nuanced – but costing nothing more than a bottle of very ordinary supermarket plonk that tastes sweet and syrupy. A wine of this quality at this price, and especially these days, is nearly unprecedented.

Look for almost candied lemon fruit, although the Balnea is not a sweet wine; an almost flinty minerality; and a fullness in the mouth that is rare in verdejo at any price, given how simple most of the wines are and how tart lemon fruit is their reason for being.

Highly recommended and a wine destined for the 2021 Hall of Fame. And it is almost certainly on the short list for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.
Imported by Wines of Spain