Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu, since it’s so difficult to find meat

mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon buys dried mushrooms, and then they sit on a back shelf,  almost forgotten. So, when I found a package while rummaging through the pantry, I thought: Why not use them to make a mushroom ragu, a dish ideal for dinner at time when even ground beef is in short supply?

In fact, almost everything in this recipe can be substituted for what’s on hand. I like spinach noodles, but almost any noodle or spaghetti will work. Less expensive dried mushrooms will work just as well as pricey shitakes. Don’t have dried mushrooms? Then just use more fresh and substitute vegetable stock for the mushroom soaking liquid.

The other thing about this recipe? No tomatoes or tomato sauce. You can certainly add them if you want, but given how many of us are eating spaghetti with red sauce with regularity these days, a pasta recipe without tomatoes is likely most welcome.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is light red wine food (or even rose), since you don’t want to cover up the subtleties of the mushrooms. These three suggestions will get you started:

• Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): I bought this Argentine blend of malbec and cabernet franc when the European wine tariff was wine’s biggest problem, but not because I wanted to drink it. Once again, don’t judge the wine until you taste it. There is sweet berry fruit (but the wine isn’t sweet), as well as some grit and body from the cabernet franc. Very well done for this style, and people who appreciate this approach will want to buy a case. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

• Badenhorst The Curator Red 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): Nicely done Rhone-style blend from South Africa, with rich dark fruit, soft tannins, and a pleasant mouth feel, There’s not a trace of the pinotage in the mostly shiraz mix, which is not easy to do. Imported by Broadbent Selections

• Cheap Chianti: This post, featuring five Chiantis costing $10 or less, speaks to pairing wine with food from the region. Each of them show why this is such a terrific idea.

Full disclosure: I forgot to take a picture of the ragu; the one accompanying the post is from the What James had for Dinner blog. My noodles were fettuccine size.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken
• Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Wine of the week: Torres Verdeo 2018

torres verdeoThe Torres Verdeo offers a welcome and refreshing take on Spanish verdejo

The Wine Curmudgeon hasn’t been able to visit his local shops as much as usual during the duration, which means I’ve been buying more from national wine retailers. That also means I’ve had to drink more Big Wine products than usual, and many of them have been as expected. On the other hand, there have been a variety of pleasant surprises, including the Torres verdeo.

The Spanish white comes from a branch of the Torres family, which has been making wine in Spain for five generations and 150 years. It’s best known for Sangre de Toro, a supermarket red wine that comes with a plastic bull. The Torres Verdeo ($11, purchased, 13%) costs three or four dollars more, but it also tastes like this part of the family wants to do something a little different than make supermarket red wine.

The wine is made with the verdejo grape, which can be turned into into quality cheap wine but can also be tart or bitter or both. In this, the Torres verdeo is a step up, much better than I expected (and this comes from someone who has bought and enjoyed cases and cases of the Sangre de Toro). It’s almost layered, so that the lime flavors aren’t quite as limey as in less well made versions, and there seems to be the taste of some kind of stone fruit. Plus, the wine shows an almost nutty oiliness that rarely shows up in wines of this price.

If not highly recommended, certainly worth trying, and I will taste a second bottle to see if this is a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Wine of the week: CVNE Vina Real Rosado 2019

CVNE rosadoThe CVNE rosado is Spanish pink that does exactly what it should do for $11 – and even a little more

It’s difficult to believe, as we celebrate the blog’s 13th annual Memorial Day and rose extravaganza, that most wine drinkers used to think rose and white zinfandel were the same thing. That’s why, back then, it wasn’t always easy to find quality rose. But when you did, it was Spanish more often than not. The CVNE rosado continues that tradition.

The CVNE rosado ($11, sample, 12.5%) is a blend of tempranillo, garnacha, and viura, a white grape. The combination, if not uncommon, offers an interesting take on a typical tempranillo rose. Here, the viura adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit, which is welcome and interesting. It lightens the cherry and gives the wine a lift in the middle that it might not otherwise have. Plus, all the other qualities that make Spanish rose shine are there – the freshness and that lingering finish, a little crisp, a little tart, and even a little minerally.

This is a well-made rose, and CVNE once again shows why it’s one of my favorite cheap wine producers. It also makes the well-done Cune rose, which costs a little less. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Arano LLC

wine critics

The sixth do-it-yourself wine review

do-it-yourself wine review

I’m really going to have to practice if I ever hope to write as well as this.

The blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review — what better way to enjoy the duration than to poke fun at wine?

Technology keeps threatening to make wine reviews obsolete, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still revel in the snobbish gibberish that has made them infamous. Hence, the blog’s sixth annual do-it-yourself wine review.

So write your own wine review, using the drop-down menus in this post. Just click the menu and choose your favorite line. Those of you who get the blog via email may have to go to the website — click here to do so.

As always, thanks to Al Yellon, since I stole the idea from him. This year, the format is a little different — reviews of four wines. A special tip of the WC’s fedora to those who contributed classic lines.

This French red blend:

This California cabernet sauvignon:

This Italian Prosecco:

This $50 rose:

More do-it-yourself wine reviews:
The fifth do-it-yourself wine review
The fourth do-it-yourself wine review
The third do-it-yourself wine review

Wine of the week: Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin 2018

villa maria pinot noirThe Villa Maria pinot noir is simple but structured — a fine value for pinot noir

There’s no reason why the Villa Maria pinot noir should be such a value and taste so much like pinot noir. It’s almost a Big Wine product, for one thing, and it’s almost impossible to find quality pinot noir at this price.

Nevertheless, that’s the case – a welcome relief in these days of sweet, focus grouped pinot. In fact, you can’t ask more from the Villa Maria ($14, purchased, 13%) at this price. It isn’t complex, but it is structured, with an almost Burgundian forest floor aroma, some herbs and tannins, and lots of bright berry fruit in the New Zealand pinot style. It’s especially impressive for an entry level product.

So how does this happen? For one thing, Villa Maria is still owned by the Fistonich family; its Big Wine deal is an import agreement with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and the latter is lot more hands off when it comes to telling its “partners” what to do. Second, I was lucky enough to meet Villa Maria founder Sir George Fistonich early in the blog’s history. He impressed me as someone who cared about the wine his company made in a way that too many others don’t.

Serve the Villa Maria pinot noir with the usual suspects, like lamb and salmon, but don’t be afraid to experiment with it. It would make terrific coq a vin, both as the wine for the chicken and to drink with the dinner. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame.

Imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates

Mother's Day wine

Mother’s Day wine 2020

mother's day wine 2020Four suggestions — rose, white, red, and sparkling — for Mother’s Day wine 2020

Mother’s Day wine 2020: This year.s version, the 14th annual, finds us in a different place than ever before. But the premise hasn’t  changed — We’re looking for value and quality, and we want to buy Mom something she will enjoy and not something we think she should drink.

These Mother’s Day wine 2020 suggestions should get you started:

La Playa Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($9, purchased, 13%): Supermarket Chilean white  sauvignon blanc at a fair price (lots of citrus and not much else); given how inconsistent these wines have become it offers value. Imported by Cabernet Corporation

CVNE Via Real Rosado 2019 ($12, sample, 12.5%): The white viura grape, part of the blend for this Spanish pink from a top producer,  adds a little lemon something or other to the tempranillo’s cherry fruit. It’s both welcome and interesting and a well-made wine. Highly recommended. Imported by Arano LLC

F. B. Schönleber Riesling Extra Brut 2013 ($22, sample, 13%): German sparkling isn’t common in the U.S., and this bubbly makes me wish that wasn’t the case. It’s a delicious, dry and minerally sparkling that exceeded all expectations. Highly recommended. Imported by Angels’ Share Wine Imports

Masseria Li Veli Primonero 2017 ($12, purchased, 13.5%): This Italian red, made with the negroamaro grape, has earth, dark black fruit and very Italian in structure and acidity. Fire up the social distancing barbecue. Imported by Li Veli USA

Photo:“Contest18A Mother” by FolsomNatural is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

More about Mother’s Day wine:
Mother’s Day wine 2019
Mother’s Day wine 2018
Mother’s Day wine 2017
Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

Wine of the week: Tiamo Pinot Grigio NV

tiamo pinot grigioYes, the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in a can – but it’s still top-notch cheap wine

Canned wine, for all its success in the U.S., has been held back by two things: canned formats are confusing, and the price too often reflects convenience and not quality. That’s where the Tiamo pinot grigio comes in.

The Tiamo pinot grigio ($5/375 ml can, sample, 12%) does what most other canned wines don’t: It tastes like the grape it’s made from, the quality matches the price, and it’s wine and not a sugared up canned beverage for the beach. In this, it could be the best canned wine I’ve tasted save for the Tiamo grillo, which is no longer available.

And it’s one of the best pinot grigios I’ve tasted in a while, canned or otherwise. This Italian white wine is crisp and clean, but it’s missing the tonic water finish that passes for varietal character in other cheap pinot grigios. Best yet, it has actual fruit flavors — some not quite ripe stone fruit that isn’t cloying or overdone. And at $5 for the equivalent of a half bottle, it offers plenty of value.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2021 $10 Hall of Fame. This is back porch wine for Mother’s Day in the age of social distancing, and it wouldn’t be bad for an indoor campout, either.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.