Tag Archives: zinfandel

Expensive wine 102: Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel 2014

Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel The Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel is California zinfandel with an intriguing approach

You never stop learning in this business, and anyone who says differently is either lying or doesn’t understand wine. The Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel is a red wine from California’s Sonoma Valley that proves the point.

Regular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon prefers subtlety, and that many California wines view subtlety as something to be avoided. But since I am always learning, I took a lesson to heart several years ago judging TexSom. My panel had to judge zinfandel – lots and lots of California zinfandels from throughout the state. Yes, some of them were excessive, but as my colleagues showed me, the best wines were tasty and interesting, even if subtlety wasn’t their reason for being.

Hence the Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel ($41, sample, 14.75%), a classic example of the Napa style – lots and lots of sweet black fruit, black pepper, a little more sweet black fruit, a dash of oak, and then some sweet black fruit for good measure. But the wine is so so powerful, so overwhelming, that it works. And this comes from someone who doesn’t like this style of wine.

This is a fall wine for stews, sausages, braised beef, and the like. And remember to never judge the wine until you taste it.

Mini-reviews 93: Barefoot bubbly, red Loire, Ridge, red Cahors

Barefoot bubblyReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month

Barefoot Bubbly Brut Cuvee NV ($10, sample, 11.5%): One of the most frustrating things about reviewing wine is consistency of the product. I’ve written glowing reviews of this wine, but when I tasted the most recent sample, it was almost flat and devoid of flavor and character. Is this a flaw with this specific bottle of wine? Is it a problem with the current “vintage?” Or is it a problem in the supply chain, where the wine sat in a warehouse or delivery truck? I think the last, since I’ve had this problem with sparkling wine from many producers at many prices over the past 18 months. This is one of the disadvantages of non-vintage ones; you don’t know how long it has been sitting and getting worse.

Domaine de la Chanteleuserie Cuvée Alouettes ($17, purchased, 12%): This red wine, from the French region of Loire, is an excellent example of what the Loire can do with cabernet franc – red berry fruit, freshness, graphite, spice, and length. It’s clean through the palate with surprisingly soft tannins. Highly recommended.

Ridge Geyserville 2014 ($35, purchased, 14.5%): This California zinfandel red blend isn’t anywhere near ready to drink, and needs at least another year (if not longer). Until then, look for ripe black fruit and a lot less of the style and elegance that Ridge is known for.

Château Lafleur de Haute-Serre 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): This French red, made with malbec from the Cahors region, is not what I’d hoped given that it’s from Georges Vigouroux, a fine producer. It’s just ordinary, 1970s style wine with too much unripe fruit and a rusticity that isn’t as much charming as annoying.

Mini-reviews 92: 2016 closeout edition

2016 closeout editionReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month. This month, the 2016 closeout edition.

Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel 2014 ($25, sample, 14.5%): OK California zinfandel that isn’t what it once was, when it ranked with Ridge for quality. But it fits the parameters for what zinfandel is supposed to taste like today. Lots of sweet black fruit, though a bit of spice and earth on the back.

Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 ($25, sample, 13.5%): Not very interesting Italian red wine without much fruit but with a lot – and I mean a lot – of acidity. It was so out of whack I wondered it was flawed in some way.

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2007 ($45, sample, 15.5%): No, not a typo, but a California red that I got as a sample when the blog started and has been sitting the wine fridge since then. It’s made to taste exactly the way it tastes to wow the Winestream Media. In other words, rich, elegant, not quite sweet grape juice with some oak. If you like that style, you’ll love this wine.

Bodegas Salentein Killka Malbec 2014 ($13, sample, 14%): Competent premiumized Argentine red wine, with less fruit than most. But in the end, it’s still sweetish and not very interesting – another in a long line of malbecs made to taste a certain way and do that one thing very well.

Expensive wine 91: Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1910 2013

Limerick Lane Zinfandel How about a $50, high alcohol zinfandel worth drinking? That’s the Limerick Lane zinfandel.

The Wine Curmudgeon does not like high alcohol zinfandel, most of which seems to exist for no other reason than to show it can be done. So that the Limerick Lane zinfandel appears on the blog speaks not just to its excellence, but to the approach that produced that excellence.

The post-modern design for success, be it retailing or baseball or winemaking, focuses on processes instead of results. That is, it’s not let’s make a 17 ½ percent zinfandel, but let’s find a way to make one, given the grapes and terroir, that will allow us to do it well every time. The Limerick Lane zinfandel ($50, sample, 14.8%) is process driven, and is that much better for it.

Look for black fruit (blackberries?), that bramble that most zinfandels of any quality have eschewed in favor of loading up on sweet fruit, herbs, and black pepper. In other words, everything that a zinfandel is supposed to have. This is food wine – barbecue, smoked brisket, and the like.

Highly recommended, but why not given that Ron Washam and Robert Parker both sing Limerick Lane’s praises? This is not quite the same thing as matter and anti-matter not causing a warp explosion, but it’s close enough.

The bad news? There is very little of this wine, and I’m not sure why I got a sample. I wrote about it because there are other Limerick Lane wines that are more available, and are certainly worth trying.

Expensive wine 81: Ridge Lytton Springs 2013

ridge lytton springsDollar for dollar, Ridge is probably the best winery in the U.S. This is doubly impressive given that it makes almost no white wine and most of the reds it makes are zinfandel. But quality will out, as the Ridge Lytton Springs demonstrates.

The Lytton Springs ($32, purchased, 14.3%) is an amazing wine, a zinfandel blend that includes just enough petite sirah, carignane, and mataro so it can’t be labeled zinfandel. Credit this to Ridge impresario Paul Draper’s sense of humor and winemaker John Olney’s sense of what needs to be done with the wine. Who knew one percent more petite sirah and one percent less zinfandel would make such a difference?

Look for lots of jammy black fruit with more oak than expected, but with pepper, acidity, and some herbal notes toward the finish. Best yet, there are even so-subtle tannins, something most zinfandels, even at this price, abandoned years ago and that lend structure to the all that fruit. This wine is a work in progress, and will only become more complete, as the fruit fades and it becomes spicier and deeper over the next couple of years.

Highly recommended, and especially as a gift for a red wine drinker who appreciates something just enough off the beaten path. I had the Ridge Lytton Springs with pot roast, and it was one of those pairings that explains why we do pairings. And Christmas prime rib would be terrific, too.

Wine of the week: Clayhouse Adobe Red 2011

 Clayhouse Adobe Red The Wine Curmudgeon spends an inordinate amount of time trying to find California labels to use for the wine of the week. Either they’re too pricey, $10 wines in $16 packaging, or too crummy, one-note wines with little more than focus group sweet fruit.

So when I find a California wine to use, like the Clayhouse Adobe Red ($12, purchased, 13.7%), you know it’s not a wine of the week just to fill space. Rather, it’s one of a too-rare example of what California — in this case, the Paso Robles region — can do with cheap wine when a producer focuses on wine and not hocus pocus.

This red blend, mostly zinfandel, has lots of sweet red fruit. But that’s not all it has, and the fruit is more than balanced by a surprising grip, some zinfandel brambliness that you almost never see anymore, and soft tannins on the finish. That a wine at this price and this style has tannins to complement the fruit shows how serious Clayhouse is about quality.

Highly recommended, and so far above the glut of grocery store wine that I must endure to do what I do that I could carve out a special place in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame for it. Serve the Clayhouse Adobe Red as winter ends, but keep it around for summer barbecues.

Mini-reviews 57: Bonterra, Carlos Pulenta, Da Luca, Tormaresca

Mini-reviews 57: Bonterra, Carlos Pulenta, Da Luca, TormarescaReviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

? Bonterra Zinfandel 2011 ($16, sample, 14.5%): More old-style zinfandel than new, with brambly black fruit and alcohol in balance instead of a fruit-infused cocktail that makes you reach for a glass of water after a sip and a half. Another winner in my recent zinfandel streak, and a treat to drink.

? Carlos Pulenta Malbec Tomero 2011 ($15, sample, 14%): Fairly-priced Argentine red that doesn’t have too much black fruit — which means it’s drinkable and not syrupy — and somehow manages to be mostly balanced. A very pleasant surprise.

? Da Luca Pinot Grigio 2012 ($13, sample, 12%): Disjointed pinot grigio with requisite tonic water at back but also weird fruit in the middle, almost tropical. Not much better than grocery store pinot grigio but at almost twice the price.

? Tormaresca Chardonnay 2012 ($9, purchased, 12%): How the mighty have fallen. This white, like the Tormaresca Neprica, used to be value-priced quality wine. Now, it has just one note — lots of what tastes like cheap fake oak, with very little fruit or interest. Very disappointing.