Tag Archives: wine reviews

Wine of the week: Banfi Col di Sasso 2017

Banfi Col di SassoThe Banfi Col di Sasso is another in the produer’s long line of quality $10 wines

Banfi’s $10 wines, even in these uncertain times, are a hallmark of consistency and quality. We’ve waxed poetic about the Hall of Fame Centine wines, and the Col di Sasso is of the same type.

The Banfi Col di Sasso 2017 ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is an Italian red blend made in the Super Tuscan style; that is, it uses sangiovese combined with international grapes liker cabernet sauvignon and merlot. The 2017 has just sangiovese and cabernet, and though the proportion isn’t listed, it’s probably more of the former than the latter.

That’s because Banfi’s red wines are typically softer than the normal $10 Italian – less tart and with rounder tannins. This isn’t a bad thing, but a house style that the company has refined over the years and that it puts to good advantage.

Look for a bit of spice, full black cherry fruit, and a clean finish. Again, this is not Chianti, with its trademark bright acidity, or a high-end Super Tuscan, plush and California-like. Rather, it’s the kind of wine for a midwinter dinner – spaghetti and meatballs, perhaps?

What better use is for a quality $10 wine these days?

Wine of the week: Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles Blanc 2016

Colombo Les Abeilles BlancForget about “smooooth:” the Colombo Les Abeilles Blanc is a well-made, terroir-driven French white

Wine Curmudgeon alert: The Colombo Les Abeillles Blanc is not for all tastes – it’s not “smooooth,” it’s made with weird grapes, and it’s most decidedly a product of its terroir. So when you see people saying nasty things about it (some very nasty, in fact), you’ll know why.

And also why the Colombo Les Abeillles Blanc 2016 ($12, purchased, 13%) is the wine of the week. It’s a French white blend from the Rhone made with roussanne, which is sort of known, and clairette, which is barely known at all. As such, it doesn’t taste like chardonnay and it doesn’t taste like the high-score, trophy white Rhone wines that cost $50.

But it does taste like the kind of wine to have for dinner with chicken braised with chickpeas. The wine, despite its age, is still quite fresh. Look for a little petrol aroma, as well as that wonderfully off-center lime-ish roussanne fruit and some peach from the clairette.

The 2017 is the current vintage, which I have not tasted. But if it is as well made as the 2016, all should be well.

Imported by Palm Bay International

Expensive wine 140: WillaKenzie Estate Chardonnay 2018

Willakenzie Estate ChardonnayWillakenzie’s Estate Chardonnay is a top-notch, New World-style Oregon white

Oregon is best known for pinot noir; chardonnay has traditionally been an afterthought. In fact, pinot gris has been the state’s main white wine for years.

That approach, though, has been changing. One reason, according to a long-term Oregon winemaker: High-end chardonnay has a bigger market than high-end pinot gris – depending, of course, on quality.

Which is where WillaKenzie’s Estate Chardonnay ($72, sample, 13%) comes in, even with the hefty price tag. This Oregon white is an impressive New World-style chardonnay that shows that Oregon producers can do for chardonnay what they’ve done with pinot noir.

In this, the Willakenzie estate chardonnay isn’t too ripe or too oaky, as might be expected from a similar California product. Look for green apple fruit and some lemon zest, more minerality than I expected in a New World charrdonnay, and even some brioche and yeastiness for those of you who want noticeable oak. The wine should become rounder and more full as it ages; it’s ready now, but will likely be that much better with a couple of more years in the bottle.

Mini-reviews 141: Be Human, Carmel Road, Brancott, Mulderbosch

Be HumanReviews 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. This month, bring on the residual sugar!

Be Human Merlot 2018 ($17, sample, 14.5%): Slightly sweet Washington red, with lots of fake chocolate and fake cherry. Somehow, one review described this as a dry, cheap wine. Sigh.

Carmel Road Chardonnay 2019 ($15, sample, 13.%): A California white that is about as typical a $15 supermarket wine as you’ll find: Pleasant and a touch sweet, the kind of wine that will leave you wondering what you saw in it after you finish the bottle.

Brancott Flight Song Pinot Grigio 2019 ($12, purchased, 9%): This New Zealand white gives new meaning to the term post-modern. It’s a riesling-style pinot grigio, so it’s sweet – and its selling point is that it’s lower in calories than “regular” pinot grigio. Not so much gross as just annoying. Imported by Pernod Ricard USA

Mulderbosch Cabernet Franc 2017 ($39, sample, 13%): South Africa’s Mulderbosch has found a way to add sweetness to a pricey red wine. Who knew? Otherwise, it’s a sort of New World cabernet franc, which means less graphite and more red fruit, and not much else. Imported by Third Leaf Wines

Photo: “A couple drinking wine” by freestocks.org is marked with CC0 1.0

Wine of the week: Parducci Petite Sirah Small Lot 2018

Parducci Petite SirahThe Parducci Petite Sirah Small Lot is a California red that offers structure, quality, and interest

Mike Dunne, the esteemed California wine writer, has pointed out more than once that we don’t do enough California labels as wines of the week on the blog. In fact, he and I are trying to figure out a way to fix that.

Until then, the Parducci Petite Sirah Small Lot.

The Parducci Petite Sirah ($12, purchased, 14.5%) is a California red made with one of my favorite grapes, petite sirah (which, as regular visitors know, was once one of the state’s glories). It’s surprisingly nuanced for a post-modern petite sirah, let alone one at this price. That means it has much more than just sweet dark fruit and that party cocktail mouthfeel.

Instead, it’s almost plummy, in a pleasant, old-fashioned way. Best yet, the wine opens up after 30 minutes or so to reveal a little spice and something that tastes sort of earthy (hard to believe, I know). The fruit even gets juicier, though still rich and full.

Highly recommended, and just the kind of thing for big, beefy winter dinners.

Wine of the week: Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer 2018

The Villa Wolf gewurztraminer is a sweet German white wine that reminds us that sweet doesn’t have to be overdone

Gewurztraminer is a white grape that is little known any more, but that once used to have a sizeable following for its price, value, and the idea that sweet wine doesn’t have to be sickly sweet. In this, the Villa Wolf gewurztraminer reminds me of what those wines were like.

The Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer 2018 ($13, purchased, 12.6%), a German white, is the kind of supermarket wine I wish we could buy in the U.S. It’s simple but not stupid, with a little bit of that spicy quality that gewurztraminer used to be known for. Riesling was oily and lemony; gewurztraminer was floral and spicy. And the Villa Wolf is, with a touch of orange-ish fruit for good measure.

So how sweet is it? My tasting notes say moderately sweet, so it’s certainly noticeable – but not as sweet as white zinfandel or even some sweet reds. In this, the sweetness is part of the wine and not something tacked on at the end, so it’s not the wine’s reason for being.

The traditional pairing for this is spicy Asian food, but I also think it would match with something fatty and salty – German sausages, perhaps.

Imported by Loosen Bros. USA


2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016