Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Vinum Cellars Petite Sirah Pets 2016

Vinum Cellars PetsThe Vinum Cellars Pets is California petit sirah that delivers quality and value

Wine will surprise you, even when you’ve been doing it as long as the Wine Curmudgeon has. Sit and bemoan the lack of quality cheap California red wine and especially the lack of top-notch inexpensive petite sirah, and then you’ll taste two terrific petites – first, the McManis and now the Vinum Cellars Pets.

The Vinum Cellars Pets ($12, sample, 14.5%) was even more surprising than the McManis; the latter has long been one of the best cheap producers in the world. Vinum Cellars, on the other hand, has been annoyingly inconsistent – sometimes wonderful, sometimes not, and with no real reason for the difference.

But know that the Pets is well worth drinking. It’s petit sirah that tastes like petit sirah, so it’s not too jammy or too sweet (either the fruit or from residual sugar). It’s also not too hot, despite the high alcohol.

Instead, there is berry, almost plummy fruit, well-integrated oak, and soft tannins that aren’t too soft. In all, a $12 wine with structure and body, hardly what we’ve come to expect from this grape from this part of the world and certainly at this price.

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

Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

MAN Chenin BlancSouth Africa’s MAN chenin blanc offers quality and value in an $11 white wine

I’ve spent the past couple of months writing about South African wine, not only here but for the trade media. The goal? Trying to figure out if South Africa can fill the void caused by the 25 percent tariff on French, Spanish, and German wine.

Sadly, despite top quality wines like the MAN chenin blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%), the answer seems to be no. The reasons are many, including the three-tier system (since each wine needs a distributor, which most don’t have) and problematic pricing on higher-end South African wines.

Which is too bad, since the MAN chenin blanc does everything a terrific $10 wine should do. It’s a far cry from the country’s pre-Apartheid chenin blanc, when it was called steen and was likely to be soft and flabby.

Instead, the MAN is fresh, crisp, and enjoyable, without any cloying fruit or sweetness. Look for some lime and tropical fruit and more layers of flavor than most chenins at this price have. In this, is a professional wine and very well done, and shows how far South African winemaking has come.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Expensive wine 130: Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve 2015

Ponzi Chardonnay ReserveThe Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve speaks to Oregon quality and value

The Ponzi family was one of the first to make pinot noir in Oregon’s Willamette Valley in the 1970s, and their pinot has long been regarded as some of the state’s best. Now, second generation winemaker Luisa Ponzi wants to do for chardonnay what her father Dick did for pinot.

The Ponzi Chardonnay Reserve ($40, sample, 13.5%) shows the skill and quality in her approach. First and foremost, it’s a tremendous value – a top-notch New World chardonnay that is quite young but delicious now (and could age for as much as a decade).

Look for an almost baked apple aroma, followed by fresh, tart green apple fruit and baking spice flavors and supported by just the right amount of oak. The finish is long and pleasant. This wine, as most great Oregon wines do, sits somewhere between the French and California versions of chardonnay and shows why Oregon has earned its excellent reputation.

Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to buy now drink and buy again and keep for a couple of years.

Results: The fifth $3 wine challenge

$3 wine challenge

Hopefully, that guy isn’t looking for a $3 bottle of wine.

This $3 wine challenge? One bottle was sort of palatable, but the other four weren’t even close

A 3-liter box of decent wine, like the Bota Box rose or the Black Box merlot, costs about $15, which is less than $4 a bottle. Do yourself a favor and buy one of those. Don’t waste your money on any of the wines in the WC’s fifth, almost annual, $3 wine challenge.

I tasted five $3 chardonnays with dinner last week – the complete story is in this week’s Dallas Observer. The less painful version:

• The Three Wishes from Whole Foods tasted like pinot grigio.

• The Kroger Bay Bridge smelled like nail polish remover, the sign of a wine flaw called volatile acidity. Yummy!

• Four of the five were noticeably sweet and a couple were very sweet. Which would be fine, except that these wines pass themselves off as dry.

• The Two-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s smelled like old cheese. More yummy!

• The best of the five was Walmart’s Oak Leaf, which was thin, watery, and not obviously sweet, but sort of tasted like chardonnay. And it’s the only one that had any acidity, and there was even a touch of nicely done fake oak. Yes, that would be damning with faint praise.

More on the $3 wine challenge:
Results: The fourth $3 wine challenge 2018
Results: The third $3 wine challenge 2017
Results: The second $3 wine challenge 2014
Results: The first $3 wine challenge 2013

Wine of the week: Herdade do Esporao Alandra Branco 2018

Esporao Alandra BrancoOnce again, the Portuguese Esporao Alandra Branco white blend is terrific cheap wine

One of the best things about this job is finding a great cheap wine that remains a great cheap wine from vintage to vintage. And the Wine Curmudgeon has found one with the Esporao Alandra Branco.

The 2018 version of the Esporao Alandra Branco ($9, purchased, 12.5%) is a Portuguese white blend made with grapes like antão vaz that most of have never heard of. And that’s OK – not every wine has to be made with chardonnay. That it doesn’t taste exactly the same as the 2017? That’s OK, too. Vintage difference is not a bad thing as long as quality remains consistent. And it has here.

The 2018 is a little brighter and fresher than the 2017. There is more lemon and lime zest flavor than the than citrus fruit that the previous vintage had, and there is even a little minerality that wasn’t there last time. This wine is leaner and not as full in the mouth; again, not a bad thing, just different.

Highly recommended, and certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2021. It’s just the wine as winter ends and we’re looking for something lighter and more spring-like.

Imported by NOW Wine

 

Do wine critics matter any more?

wine critics

“It’s good to know someone is still reading my stuff.”

Go figure: Some one-quarter of wine drinkers still say wine critics’ scores and reviews are highly influential

The wine world has Instagram influencers, Facebook groups, Twitter raves, and who knows what else. So where does a traditional wine critic fit into all of this in the second decade of the 21st century?

Almost where we did the last time I wrote about this, according to one recent survey. We’re not quite as important as store employees or friends and family, but we still matter, according to a January survey by Wine Opinions (with analysis by Lew Perdue at Wine Industry Insight). One quarter of wine drinkers say a 90-plus score from a “respected” critic is highly influential in wine purchase, while about one in five say a review on-line or in print is highly influential in making a purchase.

That compares to 42 percent for friends and family and 31 percent for store employees. Interestingly, tasting wine in the store ranked highest, at 60 percent, and second highest was “wine is from country or region I like,” at 45 percent. What makes those interesting? Talk to people who do store tastings, and they’ll tell you they often don’t sell that much wine. And that we buy wine from regions we know isn’t surprising; in fact, it’s one of wine’s great problems, that people won’t buy out of their comfort zones.

The other surprise? Price didn’t matter, coming in as only the seventh most influential. The question was phrased oddly, which may account for the result: “The wine is on sale for 10 percent off or more,”

And where did those Instagram influencers rank? The survey didn’t address them specifically, but this result speaks volumes for that approach to wine marketing. “Recommendation through an app” was just 8 percent, second lowest.

The survey results, not surprisingly, skewed significantly with age. Older men cared more about scores (which is why the preferences for scores didn’t bother me all that much). Meanwhile, younger wine drinkers cared more about recommendations from friends and family.

Wine of the week: Zestos Garnacha 2018

zestos garnachaTariff be damned! The Spanish Zestos Garnacha remains one of the world’s great $10 wines

This is the third time I’ve reviewed the Zestos Garnacha, a Spanish red wine made with garnacha. And the only reason I haven’t reviewed it more is availability – some vintages just never showed up in Dallas. The other reviews are here and here.

Because, regardless of anything else, the Zestos Garnacha ($10, purchased, 14%) just keeps on giving – a cheap red wine that offers quality, value, and deliciousness every vintage.

The 2018 is listed at 14 percent alcohol, which is higher than some years. This is no doubt to get around the Trump Administration’s 25 percent tariff on Spanish wine; wines with 14 percent or more alcohol aren’t taxed. It makes absolutely no difference. The Zestos is as delightful as ever.

Look for lots and lots of dark berry fruit, but not too ripe or too sweet. It’s also juicy without being jammy, something that doesn’t happen often with inexpensive garnacha and grenache. In addition, there is an almost herbal aroma and a sort of spiciness at the back of the wine. That’s a lot to be going on at a wine of this price.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to return to the $10 Hall of Fame in 2021. It’s also a candidate for the 2021 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Ole & Obrigado