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Category Archives: Red wine

Wine of the week: Cantine Colosi Rosso 2012

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Cantine Colosi RossoSicilian wine has made such advances over the past decade that it was only a matter of time until the Wine Curmudgeon found some that weren’t worth buying. You know the kind of wine, one made to take advantage of being trendy, with too much fruit, not enough interest, and an inflated price.

Fortunately, the Cantine Colosi Rosso ($10, purchased, 13%) isn’t one of those. It’s a red blend, mostly nero d’avola, and the kind of wine that has helped make Sicily what it is today. It’s almost certain to go in the $10 Hall of Fame next year, and has been one of the great joys of my wine drinking this summer. Look for juicy, fresh cherry fruit, and drink it by itself (yes, really) or with any kind of grilled food, be it burgers, sausage, or chicken.

The Rosso was missing the Sicilian earthiness that I like and expect, but it didn’t make any difference. This is an Italian wine that’s about fun and happiness and enjoying your food and the people you’re with. The Rosso doesn’t get in the way and doesn’t demand attention the way so many other wines do (and they know who they are). It’s content to complement what you’re eating or what you’re doing, and isn’t that what every great wine is supposed to do, regardless of price? It’s our great luck that this costs $10 and not two or three times that.

Wine review: Rodney Strong Merlot 2011

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Rodney Strong merlotRodney Strong is an example of how sophisticated the California wine business has become. It makes $15 wine that is sold in grocery stores, but is of better quality than most grocery store wine. It has a line of very high-end reds, aimed at the Winestream Media and the people who read it, and which are about as different from its $15 wines as possible. In all of this, Rodney Strong produces more than 800,000 cases a year, making it the 20th biggest winery in the U.S., according to Wine Business Monthly.

That Rodney Strong can do all three of those, and do it mostly well, speaks to California’s dominant role in the wine world. It’s not only the best place to grow grapes, but its business model is the best, too. The idea is to make wine the way Detroit makes cars, with something for grocery store consumers, something for people who want to spend more, and then the very high end stuff.

The trick to this approach is not sloughing off. The quality/value ratio at the bottom has to be as impressive as at the top, or you’ll never get anyone to trade up. The  2011 Rodney Strong merlot ($17, sample, 13.5%) shows how much care goes into the wines. The 2011 California vintage was one of the coolest in decades, but that didn’t stop a lot of producers from making their usual over-extracted, over-alcoholic, over-oaked wines — even though, thanks to the cool vintage, they had to use a fair amount of sleight of hand to do it.

But not the Rodney Strong merlot. It tastes like it came from a cool vintage — fresh and juicy, no cloying red fruit, a touch of oak at the back that makes the wine better and not like caramel candy, and almost spicy in a French sort of way. It’s about as honest a California merlot as I’ve had in years, in which the winemaker makes what the grapes give him or her, and not what the focus groups want (“smooth,” “sweet fruit”).

Highly recommended, and not just for dinner (beef and lamb almost certainly). This is a gift wine, to show someone you want them to drink interesting wine, and that you found a very interesting one for them to drink.

Wine of the week: Stephen Vincent Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

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stephen vincent cabernet sauvignon 2011The Wine Curmudgeon has fond memories of the Avalon cabernet sauvignon, which carried a Napa appellation and cost just $10 or $12 in the bad old days before the recession, when great cheap wine was becoming increasingly difficult to find. The Avalon is closer to $15 or $17 these days, replaced by a $10 or $12 California appellation version which isn’t quite the same thing.

Fortunately, the Stephen Vincent ($11, purchased, 13.8%) does a fine job of doing what the old Napa Avalon did. It’s a solid entry-level cabernet, with lots of black fruit and a flavor somewhere toward the back that can be described as chocolate for people who look for that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, there are enough tannins and acid to be varietally correct, so that it’s more than just another tarted up wine designed to please a grocery store focus group.  The Vincent’s great strength is that is well made enough so that those of us who want cabernet quality in their cabernet will probably enjoy just it just as much as people who want their red wines to be “smooth.”

Drink this with any red meat dish, and especially summer beef grilled on a backyard barbecue. And don’t be afraid to chill it a touch, so that the wine isn’t the same temperature as the back yard. Otherwise, you’ll miss some of the qualities that make the Vincent so enjoyable.

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