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Category Archives: Wine of the week

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: Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Maxwell Creek Sauvignon BlancThe Maxwell Creek Sauvignon Blanc is the wine that could destroy every assumption wine snobs, the Winestream Media, and the wine business make about cheap wine. It doesn’t taste cheap, it’s made by a one of California’s most respected producers, and it comes from Napa Valley. That this wine costs $10, given all of those, speaks volumes about high overpriced so much wine in the world is.

The Maxwell Creek ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a second label from Napa’s St. Supery, long-regarded as one of the country’s top sauvignon blanc producers. This wine offers a hint of citrus, appealing California grassyness, and minerality, and it’s round and especially balanced for a $10 sauvingon blanc. This comes from a little semillion that is blended in, also unusual for a $10 sauvignon blanc.

The Maxwell Creek is not a big, showy wine, and it’s less full, not as intense, and not as sophisticated as the $20 St. Supery, but I’d argue that doesn’t matter. I don’t want to impress anyone; I want wine for dinner that is cheap and well-made, and the Maxwell Creek is not only that, but offers more than enough value for what it costs.

Highly recommended, and the best vintage in recent memory. The catch? It’s a World Market private label in much of the country, so it may be difficult to find if you don’t have World Market near you. Otherwise, almost certain to be in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

Wine of the week: Kon Tiki Merlot 2014

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kon tiki merlotMichael Franz, who judged the flight of $15 and under merlots at the Critics Challenge with me last month, was even less optimistic abut finding quality wine among the nine entries than I was. And regular visitors here know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about $10 grocery store merlot.

So if Michael was happy, then you know the wine was worth drinking. We gave six medals, including a platinum to the Chilean Kon Toki merlot ($12, sample, 13.2%) — easily one of the best grocery store merlots I’ve had in years. It tasted like merlot and not a chocolate cherry cocktail, with almost unheard of depth and subtlety. Look for a black currant aroma followed by black fruit and very correct tannins that weren’t harsh or off, but complemented the fruit.

This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and keep around the house when you want a glass of red wine that does what red wine is supposed to do, and that doesn’t offend you with too much fruit, bitterness, or oak. Drink it on its own, or with any weeknight red wine dinner, from meat loaf to takeout pizza. Dad probably wouldn’t mind a bottle, either, if he needs something for Father’s Day.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Wine Hall of Fame if I can find it for that price. The only catch? The importer lists distributors in 33 states and the District of Columbia, but many of them are small and may not have enough clout to get the wine on store shelves.

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