Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Lamberti Prosecco Vino Spumante Extra Dry NV

The Wine Curmudgeon does not drink much Italian sparkling wine. This disappoints two of my favorite people in the wine business, who see qualities like lightness and charm where I see fizziness and dullness. So this wine is their holiday gift.

That's because the Lamberti (sample, $15) manages to be very Italian and yet still offer some backbone and sturdiness that too many Italian sparklers don't have. The Lamberti is simple and light with a hint of apple fruit, but it's not too sweet and it's bubblier than many other proseccos. Italian sparkling wine usually doesn't have wave after wave of small, tight bubbles rising to the top of the glass, which I love and which seems to be the sign of quality bubbly.

Hence my pleasant surprise at how well this wine was made, and especially at this price. Drink the Lamberti to welcome in the New Year, with any sort of holiday brunch, as an aperitif, or with a mid-week dinner (white pizza or spaghetti with clam sauce).

New Year’s sparkling wine 2010

image from www.openclipart.org Keep two things in mind when you pick a Champagne or sparkling wine for this week's festivities. First, bubbly has a language of its own, where extra dry means sweeter than dry and brut is the word for dry. Our sparkling wine glossary explains all, and the 2009 New Year's post explained the difference between the world's various sparkling wines.

Second, enjoy sparkling wine more than once a year. Please? The Wine Curmudgeon has never understood why Americans drink such nice wine once a year. It's food friendly, which should not be surprising since most of it is made with chardonnay and pinot noir, perhaps the two most food-friendly grapes. It's fun to drink, what with all those wonderful bubbles, and it tastes good. And how often do I say something tastes good? More, after the jump:

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Wine of the week: Peirano Estate The Other 2008

It's the holidays. You want wine. You don't want to have to think about it. That's what The Other is for.

It's a red blend from Lodi (mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot with a splash of syrah) and yes, I can see the wine snobs shuddering. That's their problem. The Other ($14, purchased) is a fine value, it's well made, and it has never let me down. Look for black fruit, but in a sensible, this tastes good sort of way. Serve this wine with red meat, as an aperitif for people who want a glass of red wine when they come to visit, or in front of the fire when you're worn out from holiday fun.

It's true that most people who pick up The Other for the first time do so because of the label, which is the back of a naked woman. But the wine is consistent, and that doesn't happen often enough with less expensive labels. And, sadly, it's not $10 any more, which it was when I started drinking it. But that doesn't mean I still don't enjoy it.

More about holiday wine:
? Holiday wine guide 2010
? Holiday wines 2009
? Holiday wine in a hurry
? Expensive wine 12: Twomey Santa Barbara Pinot Noir 2008

Wine review: Bolla Valpolicella 2009

This is the first wine I ever drank. It is, in fact, the first wine I have any memory of. In the 1970s, if you were a “serious” wine drinker in the United States, you drank French Beaujolais, California burgundy or chablis (which were not necessarily pinot noir or chardonnay), German liebfraumilch, Lancers and Mateus rose, or the Italian Bolla. My father, an Italophile, drank the Bolla.

Which meant I did, too. I brought it with me with when I went to someone’s house for dinner. I bought it to impress girls (one of my first big dates, actually). I had no idea whether the wine was any good. I knew very little about wine 30 years ago; the Bolla was wine, and that was good enough.

Bolla, as a brand, mostly disappeared in the 1990s. It was bought and sold several times, and I had not seen it in years. And then, at the grocery store this week, there it was. I checked with my Italian wine expert, who told me, yes, the current owners dusted the brand off, changed the label, and are bringing it back.

Memory is part of wine, as much as the grapes or the soil. This is one of Alfonso Cevola’s favorite themes, that it’s not just what the wine tastes like now, but what we remember of the tasting — who we were with, where we were, what we were doing when we tasted it. So when I opened the Bolla ($6, purchased), I was thinking about my dad and Chicago in the 1970s and the girls I bought it for. The Wine Curmudgeon was sipping and analyzing, but Jeff Siegel was remembering.

So maybe this is memory talking. Maybe the Bolla isn’t what I tasted the other day — young and disjointed, yes, but fresh and clean, with a funky Italian nose and lots of sour cherry fruit. It’s an incredible value at this price, a wine for winter stews and red meat and tomato sauce. And, of course, for memory.

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.

Expensive wine 21: Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Another reminder why points are worthless.

The Grgich ($60, sample) is a gorgeous, beautiful wine with all elements in balance, and it's only going to get better as it ages. It's a lesson in winemaking — how to produce a Napa Valley cabernet that speaks to the terroir without the excesses (too much oak, too much fruit) that drive so many of us crazy.

So what scores did this wine get? How about 89 points from something called the Connoisseur's Guide? How about 92 from the Spectator? I've got $10 wines that score that well. To add insult to injury, Robert Parker wrote: ".. high acids and high tannin give the wine a monochromatic, clipped, lean character that will not age out. Rather, the wine is likely to dry out."

All of that negativity, of course, is because the Grgich is a gorgeous, beautiful wine without any of the excesses that drive so many of us crazy and that earn the wines with the excesses such high scores. Look for black cherries and a rich, long finish without any of the sweetish fruit that the excess wines display — and, at the risk of offending Mr. Parker, this wine is not going to dry out.

This is a holiday wine for prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, or nuy it as a gift for someone you really like and who will really appreciate it. And, thanks to the recession, it's available for as little as $45 at a variety of Internet retailers.

Wine of the week: Eco Balance Carm n re 2009

The Wine Curmudgeon, once a huge fan of Chilean wine, has become mostly ambivalent over the past several years. Too many Chilean wine have gone from being cheap and well done to just cheap. Labels that had once I counted on, like the Veramonte sauvignon blanc, have morphed into just another grocery store wine. Blame the weak dollar for much of this, but the Chileans have been turning out a lot of ordinary wine as well.

That's why the Eco Balance ($10, sample) was so welcome. Carmenere is a tricky grape to work with, and the Chileans are still trying to figure out what to do with it, especially for cheaper wines. I didn't expect much with this, and at first sip there wasn't much there. But let it open a bit, and you'll find lots of cherry fruit, something that tastes like fake oak but that isn't cheesy, and healthy tannins. The tannins were a nice touch; most wines at this price either have no tannins at all or tannins that are so harsh they grate your tongue. It's a beef wine, probably best suited for burgers and meat loaf.

And yes, it is eco-friendly. Emiliana, the producer, does three green wines — biodynamic, organic, and the Eco, which is produced using environmentally protective farming practices.