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Category Archives: Rose wine

Take heart: Charles & Charles has three great cheap wines

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Take heart: Charles & Charles has three great cheap winesTake heart, everyone who loves cheap wine. Charles & Charles has not only released its new, always excellent, rose, but a white and red as well.

“We try to have fun with the labels, and we want people to have fun drinking our wines, but that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention when we make them,” says Charles Bieler, who was in Dallas this week to promote the inexpensive Washington state wines he makes with Charles Smith. “We couldn’t be more serious.”

In this, Bieler is as passionate as the labels are unconventional — think 30-something winemakers as urban music superstars. Our discussion covered the costly winemaking techniques not usually used for cheap wine but found in Charles & Charles wines; high alcohol, and why the Charleses don’t like them; the changing face of the wine business and the need to attract new wine drinkers; and that rose is quickly becoming an acceptable wine to drink in a way that I never thought it would be (and for which Bieler didn’t treat me like a cranky old man).

Most importantly, we tasted the wines, which are priced at $13 but can be found for as little as $10 (and all were samples):

 • Charles & Charles Rose 2013 (12.6%): This is consistently one of the best roses in the world, fresh and crisp with red fruit, and the 2013 is no exception. The best news is that production almost doubled for this vintage, so there should be plenty of wine to go around.

 • Charles & Charles Chardonnay 2012 (13.3%): Bieler emphasized the wine’s French style, but I saw more Washington state, with a touch of oak, rich fruit, and a subtle balance. It’s practically subversive, given what most cheap chardonnays taste like.

• Charles & Charles Post No. 35 2012 (13.6%): This red blend, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, was my favorite of the three. It’s a stunning wine for the price, dark and interesting but with telltale Washington state black fruit and amazing tannins. The catch? The 50,000 cases are almost gone, thanks to a 90-point review in the Wine Spectator. How dare it deprive us of such a wonderful wine.

Finally, consider this irony: We met at a restaurant where there was only one wine on the list that cost less than $30, and most were overpriced and quite ordinary. Maybe I should have mentioned the Charles & Charles to someone there?

My lunch with Randall Grahm, part II

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Randall Grahm, part IIThis is the second of two parts detailing my recent chat with Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm. Today, reviews of the wine we tasted. Part I — Grahm on wine, winemaking, and the post-modern wine world.

My Boony Doon moment came during the 2011 Le Cigare Blanc. I said I liked it a lot, and Grahm smiled and offered that it would be even better when he added picpoul to the blend, which is currently grenache blanc and roussanne. Which demonstrates his creativity and passion, but also what Grahm admits may be a less than consumer-centric approach to winemaking. It’s not as if wine drinkers are clamoring for a $25 white blend made with three grapes they’ve never heard of.

But how dull the world would be if all we drank were chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. Which, of course, is part of Grahm’s reason for being, and why so many of us appreciate what he does. After the jump, the eight wines and cider we tasted (all were samples):

Wine of the week: Georges Vigouroux Pigmentum Rose 2012

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Vigouroux Pigmentum rose 2012What better way to start the new year and the release of the 2014 $10 Hall of Fame than with a cheap and delicious rose? And from southwestern France, too, home of so much great $10 wine.

The Pigmentum ($10, purchased, 13%) is made with malbec, which gives it a style somewhere between a fruity, strawberry-ish New World rose and and the more traditional and tart French style. But it’s still balanced and food friendly, and well worth drinking again. In fact, in most years, it would have made the hall of fame. This year, though, given all the tremendous candidates, it had to wait. This, apparently, is not an uncommon problem with halls of fame.

The Pigmentum is made by a French wine company, Atrium Vigouroux, which specializes in cheap wine. The rose is for sale in Europe through their site (ah, the joys of unrestricted direct shipping) for 5 a bottle, and the company’s white blend (which I also like) is only
€4.90. Both work out to less than $8 a bottle. Is it any wonder that those of us who pay attention to these things still see the French wine model as worthy of admiration?

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