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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

Reviews 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. • Da Vinci Chianti Read More »

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Are you a wine snob?

The cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused Read More »

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Winebits 343: Dave McIntyre, wine scores, and wine in the movies

• More than well deserved: Who knew the Wine Curmudgeon would know someone who had won the same award as a Mondavi? Or the legendary Konstantin Frank, without whom U.S. regional wine Read More »

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James Garner on wine writing

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Another study agrees: We buy wine on price

The biggest surprise in the Wine Genome study from Constellation Brands, one of the biggest wine companies in the world? That one-fifth of us buy wine on price. “We knew they were Read More »

Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa Cristina

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Mini-reviews 63: Da Vinci, Fetzer, Villa Maria, Santa CristinaReviews 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.

Da Vinci Chianti 2011 ($12. sample, 13.5%): Much, much better than the past couple of vintages of this Italian red, with an effort made to make it taste more like Chianti and less like merlot from California. This means less soft fruitiness and more earthiness, plus sangiovese’s tell-tale sour cherry.

Fetzer Gewurztraminer Shaly Loam 2012 ($8, purchased, 12%): This white wine won a platinum at the 2014 Critic’s Challenge, and  if that seems to be a bit of a stretch, it’s still an excellent example of an off-dry gewurtzraminer (though it could be a little more crisp), and especially for the price. Look for apricot fruit and white pepper spice.

Villa Maria Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 ($14, sample, 13%): Surprisingly dull white wine from an otherwise fine New Zealand producer, lacking fruit, crispness, and with a very bitter finish. If it didn’t have a screwcap, I’d think it was corked.

Santa Cristina Cipresseto Rosato ($12, sample, 11%): OK Italian rose made mostly with sangiovese, but nothing special, and especially for $12. Could use a little more interest, be it fruit or elegance or even a little acidity. More thin than anything else.

Are you a wine snob?

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wine snobThe cyber-ether has been abuzz with accusations of wine snobbery, and even Blake Gray — who recently shared a bottle of $10 South African chenin blanc with me — has been accused of snobbery. Trust me: People who drink cheap wine with the Wine Curmudgeon aren’t wine snobs. 

All of this back and forth means it’s time to set the record straight. Note that wine snobbery doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with winespeak, scores or high alcohol. It’s much more nefarious than that. Hence, the Wine Curmudgeon’s eight questions to tell whether you’re a wine snob. 

• Do you tell other people what to drink?

• Do you criticize other people when they drink wine that you’ve told them not to drink?

• Do you think wine quality is a function of price, and that all expensive wine is inherently better than cheap wine?

• Do you only drink certain varietals, like cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, because other varietals aren’t good enough for you?

• Do you only drink wine from certain regions of the world, because other regions aren’t good enough for you?

• Do you know everything there is to know about wine, and aren’t shy about telling others how smart you are?

• Do you gladly share wine knowledge with others, or are you glad you know more than they do?

• Do you remember the last time you tried a wine you didn’t think you would like?

Answer yes to more than one of the first six questions, or a yes plus a no to the seventh or eighth, and there’s no doubt: You’re a wine snob.

Wine of the week: Sara Bee Moscato NV

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sara bee moscato Sweet wine is not easy to review, and this doesn’t even take into account that a lot of sweet wine isn’t worth reviewing — poorly made, sweeter than Coke, and as cynical as a carnival barker. Many of the Wine Curmudgeon’s readers — half? more? — will skip this review in annoyance and some will even cancel their email subscription in disgust.

But let it not be said that I am easily intimidated.

The Italian Sara Bee Moscato ($7, purchased, 5.5%) is one of the best sweet wines I’ve tasted in years, and especially at this price. Yes, it’s sweet — probably somewhere around a high-end soft drink like Jones Soda — but there is plenty of orange fruit aroma, common to the moscato grape, apricot, some wonderful “fermentato,” which translates into light, fun bubbles, and even a bit of crispness (usually missing in most sweet wines at this price).

I drank it with some delicately-spiced Indian takeout, and the sweetness correctly played off the spice. It would also work as a dessert wine; something with chocolate, perhaps? Sweet wine drinkers, of course, won’t bother with any of that. Chill it well, add an ice cube or two if you want, and enjoy.

So what’s the catch? The Sara Bee is made by Santero, a dependable producer of grocery-store priced Italian sparkling wine, but this is a private label for the Trader Joe’s chain. This means two things: Trying to get information about the wine is almost impossible, since Trader Joe’s doesn’t like to return phone calls, and you can’t buy it anywhere else. If you’re in a state without a Trader Joe’s or one that doesn’t sell wine — in New York and Pennsylvania, for instance — you’re out of luck.

This is a $10 Hall of Fame wine, but because of the availability problems, I probably won’t add it next year. But if you have $7, are near a Trader Joe’s that sells wine, and are curious about the Sara Bee, don’t hesitate to try it.

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