Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Ken Forrester Petit Rose 2018

Ken Forrester petit roseThe Ken Forrester petit rose may be the best rose no one has ever heard of

There’s no easy way to say this, so here it is: The Ken Forrester petit rose is a brilliant wine, consistent from year to year, and a tremendous value. But good luck trying to buy it, given the failures of the three-tier system.

In fact, the Ken Forrester petit rose ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is one of several top-notch wines from this outstanding South African producer that are difficult to buy in the U.S. Why? Because it’s South African wine, hardly the darling of the distributors or retailers; because Forrester isn’t a big winery; and because the winery has had importer problems for at least as long as I have been writing about it.

In a perfect world, where we could buy wine the way we buy pants and computers, none of that would matter. But since wine has the three-tier system, we have to make do. Which is a shame, because the rose is everything a great pink wine should be.

Look for strawberry aromas, but not the syrupy, overdone kind that poorly made roses sometimes show. There is fresh, just ripe raspberry fruit flavor, and the finish is precise and almost stony. All in all, the kind of wine to buy again and again. Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2019 $10 Hall of Fame.

The new U.S. Pizza Museum is missing just one thing – wine

u.s pizza museum

My Old Style days are a thing of the past — today, it’s wine and pizza.

Four wine-related exhibits for the U.S. Pizza Museum

The new U.S. pizza museum – in Chicago, of course – is a wonderful idea. The only thing that seems to be missing is wine.

Which we can’t have if the museum is to be taken seriously (despite the usual pizza whining from Manhattan). The Wine Curmudgeon knows this because, before I wrote about wine, I wrote about pizza. Those were the halcyon days of Pizza Today magazine, working for the great Bruce Allar and knowing the joy that was the annual Pizza Expo trade show. Where else could anyone get so excited about flour and yeast but at Pizza Expo in the Las Vegas convention center?

I also lived pizza, growing up in Chicago and understanding the symbiosis between cheese, a proper thick crust, the correct tomato sauce, and Italian sausage. Those were the days of Dave’s Italian Kitchen, the pre-chain Giordano’s, the Silo in Lake Bluff, and cold, leftover Rosati’s pizza for breakfast. And yes, I used to drink Old Style with pizza, but I write about wine now, don’t I?

So if the museum doesn’t have a wine and pizza exhibit, then the Wine Curmudgeon will do something about it. Consider these possibilities:

• Always pink: rose with pizza. A French chef, long before the rose boom, told me the only proper wine for pizza was pink. So why not Cuvée des 3 Messes Basses Rose ($10, purchased, 13.5%), a solid, well made southern French rose with tart berry fruit, some minerality, and the necessary freshness and crispness. Imported by Kindred Vines

• Chianti, tomato sauce, and pizza. Any of our cheap Chiantis would work, as would any sangiovese-based wine from Tuscany in Italy. The Monte Antico Toscana, a sangiovese blend, offers fresh cherry fruit and the Italian earthiness I so enjoy.

• Regional pizza and regional wine. One of the things that surprises me about pizza is someone somewhere always seems to be doing something new with it (though you can probably guess how I feel about pineapple as a topping). Given the success of Drink Local, a top-quality Missouri norton like the St. James Estate Norton ($15, purchased, 13.5%), full of spice and dark black fruit, would complement even the unique St. Louis style of pizza.

• Why not seafood? I first saw shrimp on pizza at Gino’s in Houma, La.; despite my Chicago roots, it took me just 12 seconds to accept it as legitimate. In fact, seafood is a common topping in much of the U.S., like the clam pizza popular on the east coast. Seafood-friendly white wine, like the Fantini Farnese Trebbiano d’Abruzzo ($8, purchased, 12%). It’s less tart and crisp, but more spicy and chalky than ugni blanc (the French version of the trebbiano grape) as well a little citrus fruit. Imported by Empson USA.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Pizza Museum, using a Creative Commons license

Wine of the week: Garofoli Superiore Macrina 2017

arofoli Superiore MacrinaThe Garofoli Superiore Macrina is an Italian white wine that offers surprising quality and value

Of all the things the Wine Curmudgeon loves about wine – and I love almost everything about it – my favorite might be finding an inexpensive wine of tremendous quality that I knew nothing about. In other words, a wine like the Garofoli Superiore Macrina.

The Garofoli Superiore Macrina ($13, purchased, 12%) is an Italian white wine made with the verdicchio grape from the Marche region. Don’t worry if you don’t know either; they’re not especially important in the Winestream Media scheme of things. The only reason I bought the bottle is that the Italian Wine guy recommended it, and few know more about Italian wine value than he does.

The wine was everything it should have been – somehow, both fresh and rich, with an almost creamy approach that tasted of almonds and citrus. But it wasn’t heavy, which is what that description makes it sound like. The finish, in fact, was clean and crisp, with lots of minerality. Is it any wonder I enjoyed it so much?

Drink this chilled on its own or with almost any kind of grilled or boiled seafood (the Marche is on the Adriatic coast). A note about the price – they’re all over the board, from as little as $11 to $16.

Imported by Garofoli USA

Wine of the week: Mont Gravet Carignan 2017

mont gravet carignanThe Mont Gravet carignan is professional and terroir-driven cheap wine

The 2015 Mont Gravet carignan was one of the great cheap wines of all time, on a par with the legendary black Jaja de Jau and the Hogue fume blanc. The 2016 version was quality cheap wine, if not quite the 2015. The 2017, though, is almost as terrific as the 2015 was.

That’s because the current vintage of the French Mont Gravet carignan ($10, sample, 12.5%) is more earthy and interesting than the 2016. In other words, this red from the south of French (made with the carignan grape) displays vintage difference. How often do we see that in $10 wine?

The 2017 has less ripe red fruit, as well as more structure and acidity than the 2016. In addition, look for some spice, the tiniest hint of vanilla (from oak staves in steel tanks – fake oak as it should be done), and a clean and refreshing finish. Would that more cheap wine was this professional and terroir-driven.

Highly recommended, and should return to the Hall of Fame in 2019. This is red wine for grilled vegetables, burgers and sausages on the barbecue, and even something like smoked pork shoulder.

Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

Wine of the week: Conde Pinel Verdejo-Viura 2017

Conde Pinel Verdejo-ViuraThe Conde Pinel verdejo-viura is one more top-notch, inexpensive Spanish white blend

We’ve spent a lot of time on the blog analyzing wine label descriptions – what they mean, if they matter, and how reliable they are. Which, given the description on the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura, means I never should have bought it.

But the Conde Pinel verdejo-viura ($10, purchased, 13%) is more than its front label description – “sweet pineapple combined with green apple.” Someone, somewhere, figured the only way to sell this Spanish white blend in the U.S. was to appeal to the so-called American palate. In doing so, they may scare wine drinkers away from a top-notch $10 wine.

Which would be too bad. This is a professional $10 wine that makes the most of the verdejo and viura grapes that compose its blend. It’s not sweet or especially tropical, but it is clean and refreshing with a little soft lemon fruit and an almost minerally finish It’s not quite a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but it’s a lot more than its description.

Drink this chilled on its own as summer winds down, or pair it with salads, vegetable dishes like hummus or baba ganoush and pitas, and even cheese.

Imported by Hammeken Cellars USA

 

Wine of the week: Falesco Vitiano Rosso 2015

Falaseco Vitiano RossoThe Falaseco Vitiano Rosso may be the world’s greatest cheap red wine

The Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t get to taste the Falaseco Vitiano Rosso much anymore. That’s one of the drawbacks about what I do; the blog needs to be fed, and that means a constant stream of new and different wines.

So when I do get to taste the Vitiano ($10, purchased, 13.5%), it’s even more of a treat. This Italian red is one of the world’s great cheap wines, and it’s not going too far to call it one of the world’s great wines regardless of price. It has everything a great wine should have: varietal correctness, terroir, and honesty. The Cotarella family, which makes these wines, believes in value for money. They don’t skimp on what’s inside the bottle, regardless of price.

The Falaseco Vitiano Rosso is a blend – one-third sangiovese, one-third merlot, and one-third cabernet sauvigon. The 2015 vintage is a little heavier than previous vintages, which isn’t a bad thing. That makes it more of a food wine, and it needs red sauce, sausages, and the like. In fact, as cool weather returns, drink this with a braised pot roast cooked with garlic, tomatoes, herbs, and red wine.

Since it’s heavier, look for more plum than cherry fruit and a deeper, darker approach to the winemaking. Having said that, the wine isn’t too tannic or too tart, and all is in balance. Which is what I expect from the Cotarella family.

Highly recommended, and it will return to the $10 Hall of Fame next year. It’s also a candidate for the 2019 Cheap Wine of the Year.

Expensive wine 112: Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2015

Chateau Montelena ChardonnayThe Chateau Montelena chardonnay remains classic California white wine

The Big Guy and I were drinking pricey California chardonnay, which is probably worth a blog post all by itself given our devotion to white Burgundy. The point here, though, is that the wines we tasted, which included the Chateau Montelena chardonnay, reminded us that California producers can make some of the best wine in the world.

The Chateau Montelena chardonnay ($48, purchased, 13.5%) remains the kind of California wine that helped earn the world’s attention at the Judgment of Paris in 1976. It’s elegant and balanced, without the too much of one thing or another that makes me crazy when I taste high-end California chardonnay. Yes, some of my colleagues may consider this a fuddy-duddy approach to winemaking, but it’s their problem if they can’t appreciate grace and virtuosity.

What makes the Chateau Montelena chardonnay so classic? Taste this – even just one sip – and you can tell it’s Napa Valley chardonnay. That means more fruit (a lovely, barely ripe green apple) and an undercurrent of minerality, as well as layers of structure. The oak is decidedly New World, but it isn’t over the top and will integrate into the wine over the next several years.

Highly recommended. This is a delicious wine that will only get better over the next five years and could last even longer.