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Expensive wine 57: Ridge York Creek Zinfandel 2009

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Dollar for dollar, the best winery in California may be Ridge Vineyards. This may seem an odd thing for the Wine Curmudgeon to write, given that none of its wines cost less than $25. But Ridge crams value in every wine, and I’ve long admired its commitment to quality and fair pricing.

How well run is Ridge? How about the York Creek ($28, purchased, 15.3%), made in a style that usually makes me hit the wine rant key on the computer. It’s Ridge’s version of a high-scoring Wine Magazine zinfandel, which means lots of alcohol, too much oak, and plenty of sweet black fruit, and in this often tastes more like port than table wine. The difference, of course, is that since it’s a Ridge product, the York Creek has structure, body, and tannins, and tastes like wine and not a novelty act. Look for some very nice herbal notes, too, something that seems almost impossible given all the alcohol.

Very nicely done, and if I didn’t like it as much as Ridge’s Lytton Springs zinfandel (which didn’t seem to be available in Dallas), that’s my preference and not a reflection on the wine. It’s well worth drinking, a prime rib wine for Christmas at about half the price of the Winestream Media’s over-the-top zinfandels.

Expensive wine 56: Torbreck The Steading 2009

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steadingOne of the surprises when I wrote this year’s holiday wine trends post was the resurgence in Australian wine. The Aussies have been down for so long, and seemed to have so far to go to come back, that it was one of the last things that I expected.

Yet, on reflection, I’ve seen evidence of that over the past year, on both the low (Yalumba’s $10 wines) and high ends (the d’Arenberg Dead Arm). These are wines that acknowledge the excesses of the past but have found a way to make Australian wine that tastes not like someone thinks it should, but as it should, given the terroir the country’s winemakers have to work with.

The most recent example is The Steading ($38, sample, 15%), a shiraz that mostly lives up to the hype on the winery website: “The Steading is perhaps the most important wine within the Torbreck portfolio. …” It’s powerful, but not offensively so, as was the style in the past when 15 percent shirazes didn’t care what they tasted like as long as they were 15 percent shirazes.

It’s a dark, earthy and peppery wine, and thorougly intriguing. Missing was the blast of black fruit that I expected, but it was still fruity (blackberry?), as a wine of this kind should be. And, though the label says 15 percent alcohol, it didn’t taste like it. This is a a big wine that needs food, and would not be out of place at most holiday tables.

Expensive wine 55: Clos Beauregard 2011

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10287066t.jpg.pagespeed.ce_.mJCh4SDNle.jpgThe email asked if I wanted to taste some affordable red Bordeaux, the cabernet sauvignon and merlot blends that are the wines that remain the standard by which the rest of the world’s red wines are judged.

And, because affordable in Bordeaux means something completely different than it does to the Wine Curmudgeon, I got this.

Which is not to say that the Clos Beauregard ($36, sample, 13%) was not a terrific wine, because it was, and I had a wonderful time drinking it with the Big Guy. And, tasting this, it reminded me why red Bordeaux is still held in such high esteem, especially since Beauregard is regarded as a middling producer, good but not great.

The wine is mostly merlot with bits of cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon to round it out, enough black fruit to be noticeable, and with a heft and body that New World merlots aren’t interested in. It’s a typical example of the kind of wine made in Pomerol, an area located on what’s called Bordeaux’s right bank.

A couple of high-end reviews of this wine described it as lush, which points to the difference in style between Old World and New World wines. Lush, in France, means the wine isn’t earthy in the way so many French wines, even the most expensive, still are. In California, lush means the fruitiness starts before the bottle is opened and ends a day or so after the bottle is empty. It’s a difference that is to be valued, regardless of which style you prefer.

 

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