Tag Archives: wine reviews

Mini-reviews 138: German riesling, white Burgundy, godello, Rombauer

rieslingReviews 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.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Riesling 2018 ($13, purchased, 10%): This Total Wine private label is a German white that is honeyed and lemony.  It’s simple but enjoyable, and the “medium dry” sweetness doesn’t get in the way. Imported by Saranty Imports

Sauzet Bourgogne Blanc 2016 ($32, purchased, 12.5%): The Big Guy brought this white Burgundy, from our favorite Burgundy producer, to WC world headquarters for pandemic, socially-distanced, porch sipping. Sadly, thanks to the tariff and premiumization, this is no longer the “affordable” wine it used to be. It’s fine for what it is,  with some green apple and well-constructed oak. But it lacks the Sauzet verve and dash, and especially at this price. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Virxe de Galir Pagos del Galir 2018 ($18, sample, 13.5%): This Spanish white is made with godello, which the wine geeks compare to chardonnay (same green apple fruit, same mouth feel, though a bit more spice). Hence the problem: You can buy a nice albarino or a Basque Txakolina  for more or less the same price. Imported by Aaron LLC

Rombauer Sauvignon Blance 2019 ($25, sample, 14.2%): This California white is a terrific example of this style of pricey wine — and it’s the style that Rombauer made famous. It’s a little hot, and features some grassy notes but surprisingly muted citrus fruit. Plus, it has a much fuller mouth feel than other sauvignon blancs. In other words, $10 New Zealand it ain’t.

Photo: “Sunny Afternoon on the Roof” by winestyr is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2018

Mont Gravet CarignanThe Mont Gravet Carignan offers value and quality and interest – impressive in any wine, and even more so for $10

This vintage of the Mont Gravet Carignan, a red wine from France, isn’t as amazing as the 2015, which was one of the great cheap wines of all time. But that doesn’t mean the 2018 isn’t a terrific cheap wine.

Because it is. The Mont Gravet Carignan 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%) is everything a great $10 wine should be – professionally made, varietally correct, and interesting. Why interesting?

• It’s not tannic, but it’s not the kind of “smoooooth” wine that a focus group would approve of.

• It’s made with carignan, usually used for blending. So it doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon, merlot or pinot noir. Which is OK, since it’s not supposed to.

• It’s both food friendly (burgers and fajitas) and something to drink when you feel like a glass of red wine. That just doesn’t happen much any more.

Look for berry fruit, not quite brambly and not too much of it, plus a little bit of earth (one of my favorite things about this wine every vintage). The  smidgen of tannins and acidity make the wine complete. Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2021.

Imported by Winesellers, Ltd.

Wine review: Six white wines from New York’s Fox Run

fox runThese six white wines are some of the reasons why New York has come so far in wine quality

One of the great successes in Drink Local over the past 15 years has been New York state, which has grown, thrived, and earned rare critical acclaim. In fact, one of my great regrets with Drink Local Wine is that we never held a conference in New York’s Finger Lakes, home to some of the world’s best rieslings.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to taste New York wine regularly since the blog started, and so have been able to follow the Finger Lakes’ success. One recent example: Six white wines from Fox Run Vineyards, which was founded in 1984. Winemaker Peter Bell and co-owner Scott Osborn have long been ardent supporters of Drink Local, and I used to judge with Peter at the old Eastern International in upstate New York. His rant while we were tasting supermarket zinfandels one year has stayed with me since.

Each of these six wines are worth drinking, and several are even better than that (and most of the prices aren’t bad, either):

• Fox Run Silvan Riesling 2018 ($25, sample, 12.5%): This riesling shows why the Finger Lakes has earned its reputation. It’s long, complex, and intriguing, but also terroir-driven. That means it’s rich and full, but without the petrol or honey of a similar German riesling. Instead, there is zesty lime fruit and lots of minerality. Sill very young and probably needs a couple of years to open up. Highly recommended.

• Fox Run Dry Riesling 2018 ($15, sample, 11.7%): Very New York in style – oh so crisp, an echo of sweetness, a little lemon, maybe some oiliness (or maybe not), very long, and very clean.

• Fox Run Semi-Dry Riesling ($13, sample, 11.4%): This is exactly what an off-dry riesling should taste like — the sweetness is part of the wine, and not glopped on. This might have been my favorite of the batch, and I don’t go out of my way to find off-dry wine. Look for a bit of petrol and a bit of lime, both of which balance the sweetness. Highly recommended.

• Fox Run Traminette 2018 ($15, sample, 11.2%): This is a well made traminette, something never easy to do with this particular hybrid grape. There’s some spice, some tropical fruit, and noticeable (but not annoying) sweetness.

• Fox Run Chardonnay 2018 ($15, sample, 12.4%): One of the best domestic chardonnays at this price I’ve tasted in years — crisp green apple, clean, no hint of sweetness or the cloying tropical fruit that so many similarly priced wines have. If there is any oak, it’s hiding in the background where it should be. Tremendous value and highly recommended.

• Fox Run Kaiser Chardonnay 2018 ($15, sample, 12.5%) This tastes like Peter Bell’s take on all those fake, over-oaked, $12 to $18 supermarket chardonnays that make me crazy. Which, of course, it didn’t. Yes, the oak is pronounced, but the vanilla is balanced against the pear and apple fruit. If you like this style of wine, this will make you very happy.

More regional wine reviews:
Michigan wine 2019
Beard award semifinalists: One more victory for regional wine
Regional wine update: Virginia, Texas, Lake Erie

Wine of the week: El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018

El Coto Rioja BlancoThe El Coto Rioja Blanco delivers once again – quality Spanish white wine for $10

El Coto, one of my favorite Spanish producers, understands how to make great cheap wine – and that it’s just not about what’s in the bottle.

Does that sound odd, especially coming from the Wine Curmudgeon? Not at all. Because not only is the wine top-notch, but the El Coto Rioja Bianco doesn’t waste money on a heavy bottle with a punt, which so many $15 supermarket wines still do. Plus, it comes with a screwcap. What more could the WC ask for?

So drink and enjoy the El Coto Rioja Blanco 2018 ($10, purchased, 12%), a white wine made with almost all viura. That means it doesn’t taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc. Rather, it’s viura as it should be: Tart, lemony, and simple without being stupid. Plus, it’s also consistent from vintage to vintage without being boring, perhaps the third hallmark of a great cheap wine after quality and minimal marketing costs. Hence, the kind of wine to buy because you know it will offer quality and value every time. And buy more than one bottle at a time.

This vintage of the El Coto Rioja Blanco may be a touch light on the back; I couldn’t tell because I enjoyed it so much that I drank it without paying enough attention. Regardless, it’s well worth drinking, and especially at this price and especially given the tariff.

Imported by Opici Wines

Expensive wine 137: St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett 2016

St. Urbans-Hof Riesling KabinettSweet? Yes, but the St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett shows how gorgeous sweet wine can be

The Wine Curmudgeon’s campaign to increase U.S. riesling consumption continues with the St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett. This vintage isn’t necessarily a typical approach to German riesling, given how cold and wet the year was, but it is a delicious one.

The St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett 2016 ($25, sample, 8.5%) is sweet – make no mistake about it. But this is not sweet as we understand it from focus group supermarket wine, but sweetness that comes from beautiful candied lemon fruit and a fresh, honeyed sweetness. In this, the acidity and minerality balance the sweetness. The former, though not necessarily noticeable, keeps the wine from being syrupy, while the latter cleans the palate at the finish. Who am I to argue with the Wine Spectator’s assessment: “Elegant.”

Highly recommended. Drink now, but would probably improve with a couple of more years in in the bottle. It also needs food – and how often do you hear that about sweet wine? The St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Kabinett would pair more effectively with something like sausage and braised cabbage than anything spicy.

Imported by HB Wine Merchants

Wine of the week: Umani Ronchi Podere Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2018

Umani Ronchi PodereWines like the Umani Ronchi Podere, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, fill the void for quality cheap wine brought on by the Trump wine tariff

Maybe it’s shopping different retailers during the pandemic. Maybe it’s retailers stocking more well-made cheap wine because of the pandemic. Regardless, the Wine Curmudgeon has been drinking even more Montepulicano d’Aruzzo than usual over the past six months.

Which is almost always a good thing. These Italian red wines, made with a lesser known grape (montepulicano) from a lesser known region (d’Aburzzo), are usually well made and terrific values. The Umani Ronchi Podere is no exception.

The Umani Ronchi Podere ($12, purchased, 13%) is classic Montepulicano d’Abruzzo. (The first two words are the producer and Podere is the name of the wine.)  That means tart cherry fruit, a minimal amount of tannins, and acidity in the back that says drink this with sausages and red sauce. And then maybe open another bottle.

This is wine for everyday drinking, something the Italians still send to the U.S. in vast quantities – and for which the WC remains quite grateful. The tariff has limited quality cheap Spanish wine, which I have depended on more and more over the years, but the Italians have more than picked up the slack.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Vineyards Brands

 

Wine of the week: Sokol Blosser Evolution Lucky No. 9 2019

EvolutionHow about a white wine from an Oregon producer in a 1.5 liter box that works out to $9 a bottle?

We’ve heard lots about the west coast grape glut, but we haven’t seen it translate into much in the way of lower wine prices. Sokol Blosser’s Evolution white blend, the Lucky No. 9, might be the first of many.

That’s because it’s unusual to see a wine like the Evolution, a white blend that usually carries an Oregon appellation, in a box at this price. The 1.5-liter box works out to $9 a bottle; typically, the wine costs around $15. So what’s the catch here? It may well be all those grapes. The box has an American appellation, which means 75 percent of the grapes didn’t come from any one one state. My guess, from tasting it, is that it’s Oregon fruit with more than a fair share from California’s Central Valley, the center of the grape glut.

Which is is not say the Evolution white blend ($18/1.5 liter box, sample, 12%) isn’t worth drinking. Because it is – the kind of wine to chill, keep in the fridge, and drink when you feel like a glass. Look for the slightest hint of sweetness, and not nearly as much as I thought there would be. Plus, it’s hidden among a variety of white fruit flavors – some tropical, maybe some peach, and a pleasing sort of apricot stone bitterness.

This is a fine value, and I’m not the only one who think so. Give Sokol Blosser credit – it saw all those grapes sitting there waiting for someone to be creative and figured out how to make a quality cheap wine and still turn a profit. What a unique concept for the post-modern wine business.