Tag Archives: white wine

Mini-reviews 20: Stone Hill, Souverain, Spy Valley, Vertus

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 (Thursday this month because of the holiday).

? Stone Hill Vignoles 2009 ($16, sample): Lots of pineapple, but not all that sweet with a long peach pit finish. An excellent example of what can be done with this hybrid grape from one of Missouri’s top producers.

? Souverain Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($14, sample): This wine is one of the reasons why I love wine, and it has nothing to do with whether I “liked” it or not. The Souverain is done in a style I don’t usually care for, oaked sauvignon blanc, but it’s so well done that I can appreciate what it offers and recommend it.

? Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18, purchased): More wonderfullness from what may be the best sauvignon blanc in the world. Look for even less citrus and more tropical fruit than usual, which is saying something since Spy Valley is among the least citrus-y of the New Zealand sauvignon blancs.

? Bodegas Iranzo Vertus 2003 ($15, sample): Tempranillo from a less well-known part of Spain, and well worth the effort. More fresh cherry fruit than a Rijoa, lots of bright Spanish acidity and even a bit of herb tucked in. Highly recommended.

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2009

The late Todd Williams always took pride in being just a little bit different. This was a Sonoma winemaker, after all, who had Missouri nortons in his wine cellar.

So, in 1993, when he made 3,000 cases of unoaked Toad Hollow chardonnay, the wine world probably chalked it up to his eccentricity. Who would make an unoaked chardonnay for $10 and expect to be taken seriously when California was famous for expensive, heavily oaked chardonnays?

This vintage of the chardonnay ($15, sample) continues the winery’s tradition of quality wine at a fair price. No, it’s not $10 any more, but it still has lots of green apple fruit, a long mineral finish, and not a hint of oaky or toasty. It’s a wine you can keep in the refrigerator during the holidays in case anyone drops by, and it will also work well with all sorts of holiday leftovers or Chinese takeout.

The winery has also gone to screwcaps (wonder what Todd, a cork man, would think of that?), so let this sit for 10 minutes or so after you take the top off. It will improve the flavor markedly.

Wine of the week: Mouton Cadet Blanc 2009

A long time ago, before livestock wines and malbecs from Argentina, Americans drank cheap French wine. And one of the most important cheap French wines came from Mouton Cadet. Mouton was part of Le Famille Rothschild, which included Mouton Rothschild, a Bordeaux first growth that was (and still is) one of the great wines of the world. I'm not sure those of us who drank the Cadet understood what that meant, but the label was classy and we were drinking French wine — which was a big deal 30 years ago.

These days, Mouton is not what it used to be. It's still a major brand, but it's just another of many major brands. Much has changed since Mouton's heyday in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the Australians, Chileans and Argentines have mostly replaced the French as the world's source of cheap wine.

In fact, I have been debating whether to review the Cadet for a couple of months, and have always passed. I didn't have the heart to buy the wine, taste it, and discover that another part of my past was gone. Still, when Mouton sent samples this fall, I decided to take a chance.

I'm glad I did. The Cadet ($10, sample) has changed significantly since the old days. It's more fruit forward, with a lemony-grapefruit flavor more reminiscent of Chilean sauvignon blanc than the typical slate and minerality of a white Bordeaux. This change is aimed at the modern American palate, and it pretty much works. I don't know that I like the new style better than the old, but the Cadet offers $10 worth of value. And that's the important thing.

Wine of the week: Falesco Vitiano Bianco 2009

Today's metaphysical question: How does Ricccardo Cotarella produce a wine of this quality, ship it to the U.S., overcome the high euro, and sell it for about $10? Most California wineries who do cheap wine can't even come close to this.

In other words, Riccardo Cotarella is still a genius.The Wine Curmudgeon has been drinking Falesco wines for almost 10 years, and I have never been disappointed, whether it's the red, white or pink. This vintage of the white, the Bianco ($10, purchased), is made with verdicchio and vermentino. They have produced a wine low in alcohol with tell-tale Italian acid and just enough fruit to appeal to American palates. Think of it as tart with a touch of lime, but fresh and clean and pretty close to fabulous. Highly recommended, and certainly in the $10 Hall of Fame.

Chill this and drink it on its own, with salads, or most any kind of chicken. Fried chicken, in fact, would be quite a nice pairing.

Wine of the week: Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2009

The Wine Curmudgeon, who usually knows no fear when it comes to tasting wine, was a bit wary of the Geyser Peak. A decade ago, when I started writing about cheap wine, this was one of the first ones that impressed me. It was in the first couple of $10 Hall of Fames, and I've always had fond memories of it.

But, for a variety of reasons, I haven't tasted the Geyser Peak ($8, purchased) much over the past several years, and wasn't sure what to expect this time. I didn't want to be disappointed if the wine wasn't what I remembered it being, or if my palate had gone in one direction and the wine had gone in another.

Not to worry, though. The Geyser Peak was all that it ever was — solid, dependable, $10 wine that succeeds in being more than some wines that cost twice as much. It has lots of lime, a bit of a middle (not something many $10 wines have), and a long, lime pith finish. Chill and serve with salads, grilled shrimp, and roast chicken — almost any white meat dish, actually. A candidate to return to the $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Accordeon Torrontes 2009

Finding a quality $10 malbec is difficult; finding a quality $10 torrontes makes the malbec search seem easy. That's because torrontes, which is malbec's white grape counterpart in Argentina, is in short supply. The best torrontes grapes are used to make pricey wines, and even some of the least of the grapes end up in those pricey wines.

Fortunately, Argentine producer Fincas Ferrer has found a way around this problem. The Accordeon ($10, sample) is not only one of the best-made torrontes I've had, but it's a steal at this price. I tasted the wine at a lunch with winemaker Miquel Salarich and several other Dallas wine writers, and we took turns asking Salarich if this wine was really only $10. He just smiled and said yes.

Torrontes, when it is done well, should be floral and fruity. Sometimes, the wine is off-dry, with a hint of sweetness, but this is often used to mask the wine's faults. The Accordeon is bone dry, though still low in alcohol, and it has peach fruit and an almost riesling-like oiliness (which is a good thing) as well as a classic peach pit finish. It's just not a simple, fruity white wine; there's much more to it than that.

Drink this wine chilled on its own, or with any kind of spicy food. Highly recommended, and almost certain to show up in the 2011 $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

Off-brand whites

Please, try something besides chardonnay. In 2006, almost one out of every four wine dollars was spent on chardonnay. That not only makes it the top-selling varietal in the U.S., according to The Nielsen Company, with almost twice the sales of cabernet sauvignon, but puts chardonnay so far ahead of every other white wine that it’s kind of spooky.

In the Nielsen report, consumers bought three times as much chardonnay as pinot grigio and pinot gris, and six times as much chardonnay as saugvinon blanc. Riesling was barely mentioned, and viognier and gewurtztraminer weren’t even counted. Now, the Wine Curmudgeon loves chardonnay as much as the next oenophile, but enough is enough. There is more white wine than chardonnay.

How has this happened? Some of it, certainly, has to do with pronunciation. Chardonnay is easier to say, which means it gets ordered more often in restaurants. Some of it is style. Not only is most chardonnay fruit-forward and easy to drink (with less citrusy flavors), but it’s consistent There are differences between producers and regions, but chardonnay is pretty much chardonnay regardless of who makes it and where it’s from. That isn’t true for pinot grigio and gris, for example, where it’s sometimes difficult to believe the Italians and Alsatians use the same grape.

But that doesn’t mean you need to drink chardonnay all the time. The next time you reach for the usual, think about one of these:

Gainey Riesling 2006 ($10). I was pleasantly surprised by this California label, which is just a touch sweet (or, as it’s called in the trade, off-dry). It has riesling’s characteristic floral aromas, with a bit of peach-like flavor. Serve this chilled with spicy Chinese or Thai food, and it should even work with roasted turkey.

White Knight Viognier 2006 ($13). Viognier, a Rhone grape often used for blending, has had fair success as a varietal in the U.S. This California wine is dry, but very soft without any harsh tannins or oak. Look for the orange-ish bouquet and a peach pit kind of finish. Serve chilled with chicken braised in white wine, using this for the wine.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2006 ($17). This dry white from South Africa, which is fruitier (think tropical flavors) than its French counterpart and doesn’t have the earthy funkiness that plagues so many South African wines. Serve it chilled with roast pork loin and apples.

Technorati Tags: ,