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Category Archives: White wine

Wine of the week: Carmel SelecteD Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Carmel Selected Sauvignon BlancIsraeli wine has a long and mostly obscure history; if it’s known at all, it’s for kosher wine, which has not traditionally been something one wants to be known for. The Israelis want to change that, and made a U.S. tour — with a stop in Dallas this spring — to tell consumers and critics that they’re a wine region, just like any other, and that kosher is not all they do.

In this, the wines we tasted from Carmel and Psagot reminded me of U.S. regional wine from one of the top couple of states. Some were terrific, with varietal character and terroir, but others weren’t far enough removed from the old kosher days. In addition, price — $25 for an ordinary California-style chardonnay? — was as problematic as it is for U.S. regional wine.

Carmel’s SelecteD sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 12.5%) was one of the former — lots of sauvignon blanc grassiness, some tropical fruit in the middle (melon?), and enough citrus to be noticeable but not so much that it gets in the way. It’s a professional, eminently drinkable wine, and among my two or three favorites of the dozen or so we tasted. That’s not because the SelecteD was one of the least expensive, but because it was one of the best made, regardless of price. The winemaker didn’t try to impose his or her will on the grapes, forcing the wine to be something that it wasn’t. That’s another common problem with regional wine, where winemakers get a style in their head and try to replicate it even when the grapes are best suited for something else.

Serve this chilled, with or without food (grilled shrimp with garlic and parsley? spaghetti with basil pesto?), and enjoy it on a hot summer day. It’s California in style, as many of the wines were, but that’s not a problem with the Selected.

Wine of the week: Toad Hollow Chardonnay 2012

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Toad Hollow Chardonnay One of the most difficult things about buying cheap wine is consistency. Given the way the system works, where production costs often matter more than quality, a great $10 wine one vintage is no guarantee of a great $10 wine the next vintage. Right, Meridian?

Fortunately, the Toad Hollow Chardonnay ($12, sample, 13.9%) is usually immune from that process. It has its up and downs since it was first made 20 years ago, but those are more likely vintage differences than pencil pushers squeezing the bottom line. When the wine is right, and the 2012 is the best vintage in several years, un-oaked chardonnay don’t get much better than this, even for wines that cost $15 or $18. It’s even a value at the suggested retail price of $12. If you can find it at $10, which it often is with grocery store discount cards, buy a case.

Look for green apple fruit in the front, a little tropical something or other in the middle, and some stoniness in the back. This is a clean and refreshing wine, without the fake oak used to make so many other wines at this price. But it also has some body, so it’s not as crisp as a sauvignon blanc. Drink the Toad Hollow Chardonnay on its own, or with summer salads, grilled chicken, and the like. If I can find it for $10 in Dallas, it’s a candidate for the 2015 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Bogle Sauvignon Blanc 2012

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Bogle Sauvignon BlancThe Wine Curmudgeon has finally found something wrong with the Bogle sauvignon blanc ($10, purchased, 13.5%). It doesn’t have a screwcap, and it comes in an old-fashioned, heavy bottle. Otherwise, it’s pretty much what a great $10 wine should be:

 • More quality than its $10 price. Classic California sauvignon blanc — grassiness, crisp, and with an almost tropical finish.

• Widely available. My biggest frustration, when I find great cheap wine, is that it’s not for sale in enough places so I can write about it. That’s rarely the case with Bogle, which makes more than 1 million cases annually. It’s in grocery stores (I bought this at Whole Foods, believe it or not), independents, and chain retailers.

• It doesn’t try to be something that it isn’t. This is a problem with wine regardless of price, in which consumers think they’re buying one thing and often get something else, fooled by back label nonsense or a too-cute front label. It’s telling that the three comments I found on CellarTracker (the blog’s unofficial wine inventory web app) for this vintage all said the same thing, even though each comment had a different score with it. Which, again, tells us what we need to know about scores.

Serve this chilled, with or without food, and know that wherever you are in the U.S., you’ll be able to buy a bottle of wine that won’t make you wish you had bought something else.

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