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Category Archives: Red wine

Wine of the week: Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red 2012

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shannon ridge wrangler redThere are a variety of red blends from California, usually older vintages from smaller wineries, that you won’t find unless you dig through the bottom shelves at your local retailer. The Wine Curmudgeon, who is infamous for this sort of behavior, found the Clayhouse, Josh Cellars, and Stephen Vincent reds this way.

My most recent shelf digging turned up the Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red ($14, purchased, 13.9%), a blend from from Lake County, a region probably better known for its whites. Nevertheless, the red — a combination of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon — was more than up to the standards set by the region’s whites. It had a most welcome freshness, without any of the cloying fruit that dominates so many of these kinds of wines.

Look for red fruit (cherries and raspberries?), but much more than fruit, including a surprising depth from the cabernet that most winemakers don’t bother with when they make this style of red blend. The oak was a little top heavy, but given the wine’s age, it didn’t get in the way and even sort of faded as the bottle emptied. Drink this with any summer barbecue; it’s the kind of wine to sip while you’re grilling burgers and getting ready for Fourth of July fireworks.

Wine of the week: Trivento Malbec 2013

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trivento malbecIt’s not so much that the Wine Curmudgeon doesn’t like malbec; rather, it’s that most malbec tastes like it’s made from the same recipe, regardless of who makes it or where it’s from — too much sweet red fruit and without any tannins or crispness, as boring as it can be. So when I tasted the Trivento malbec, I didn’t expect much.

Silly me. What’s the first rule of wine writing? Taste the wine before you judge it, and the Trivento ($9, sample, 14%) was a revelation, everything that most malbec isn’t — surprising depth and structure, and especially for an Argentine malbec at this price. I guess I forgot how much I liked it last time.

The red fruit (cherry?) was more juicy than soft, and the wine wasn’t flabby at all. I can’t remember the last time I wrote that about this kind of wine. In addition, there was varietal character, with sweet tannins and some heft at the back. Tasting this, it’s easy to see why malbec is supposed to be a beef wine, which isn’t true of most of that I taste, which is more suited to ice cubes.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 Hall of Fame. The Trivento malbec was so much more interesting than most of the malbec on grocery store shelves that it makes me wonder why more producers don’t try this approach.

 

Wine of the week: Caposaldo Chianti 2012

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Caposaldo ChiantiWho thought the Wine Curmudgeon would ever have anything nice to say about an Italian wine made with merlot? But that was before I tasted the Caposaldi Chianti.

This Italian red from the Chianti region in Tuscany is a brilliant example of traditional Italian style combined with modern winemaking techniques. The Caposaldi ($10, purchased, 12.5%) is dark, earthy, funky, and full of delicious sour cherry fruit, yet it isn’t too heavy or too harsh in that old-fashioned and not missed way. And much of that is because it’s a blend, with the traditional sangiovese complemented with 10 percent cabernet sauvignon, 10 percent merlot and 5 percent malvasia, a white grape. The cabernet adds some heft, the merlot adds freshness to the fruit, and the malvasia softens the sangiovese. The result is amazing.

In one respect, this isn’t new, since blended Chianti, even with white grapes, has been allowed for decades. But this style of blend takes a different approach from those who use the cabernet and merlot to make a wine more New World in style — fruitier and less dark. Here, though, the two grapes reinforce the Caposaldo Chianti’s Italianness. This makes it perfect for any food that has pork, tomato sauce, beef, noodles, cheese, or any combination thereof.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame — another example of what a winemaker who wants to offer the best value can do when value and quality are what matter most.

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