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Category Archives: Wine of the week

Wine of the week: Cusumano Insolia 2012

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Cusumano InsoliaThe Wine Curmudgeon, for all the chips on his shoulder, is always wiling to admit when he’s wrong. Hence another mea culpa for Cusumano, the Sicilian producer whose qualities I have doubted, and this time for its Inosolia white wine.

The Cusumano Insolia ($11, purchased, 12.5%) is made with the insolia grape, native to Sicily and mostly used to make marsala until the Sicilian wine revolution of the past decade. This is an unusual white grape, even for Sicily, and I’m not sure there’s a white quite like it anywhere else in the world — almost tannic, but also softer than chardonnay and crisper than viognier.

This vintage, which is apparently current despite its age, isn’t as long in the finish as when it was younger, but it still shows why Cusumano is one of the best producers on the island. Look for the qualities that make me so excited about Sicilian white wine — melon fruit, white pepper, an herbal aroma, and all in balance for a very fair price.

Drink this chilled, and pair it with grilled fish or chicken finished with olive oil and herbs. In this, one more reason why we don’t need to drink badly made chardonnay.

Wine of the week: Clayhouse Adobe Red 2011

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 Clayhouse Adobe Red The Wine Curmudgeon spends an inordinate amount of time trying to find California labels to use for the wine of the week. Either they’re too pricey, $10 wines in $16 packaging, or too crummy, one-note wines with little more than focus group sweet fruit.

So when I find a California wine to use, like the Clayhouse Adobe Red ($12, purchased, 13.7%), you know it’s not a wine of the week just to fill space. Rather, it’s one of a too-rare example of what California — in this case, the Paso Robles region — can do with cheap wine when a producer focuses on wine and not hocus pocus.

This red blend, mostly zinfandel, has lots of sweet red fruit. But that’s not all it has, and the fruit is more than balanced by a surprising grip, some zinfandel brambliness that you almost never see anymore, and soft tannins on the finish. That a wine at this price and this style has tannins to complement the fruit shows how serious Clayhouse is about quality.

Highly recommended, and so far above the glut of grocery store wine that I must endure to do what I do that I could carve out a special place in the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame for it. Serve the Clayhouse Adobe Red as winter ends, but keep it around for summer barbecues.

Wine of the week: Lyeth Meritage 2012

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Lyeth MeritageWineries are like rock ‘n roll bands — they come and go for no particular reason, and if you write about wine or drink it, that’s something you need to understand. Just because a winery made a great wine one vintage is no guarantee it will be around to make a great wine five years later.

Which is much of what you need to know about the Lyeth Meritage ($12, purchased, 13.5%). In the 1980s and early 1990s, this was one of the world’s great wine values, and then it disappeared. I had not seen it in 20 years until I was digging through the bottom shelves of a Dallas wine shop a couple of weeks ago, and there it was.

Hence this very unexpected — but very positive — Lyeth Meritage review. A Big Wine company bought the Lyeth name and has been turning out a full line of wine for the past couple of years. They have done an excellent job with the Meritage, a red blend that’s mostly merlot and cabernet sauvignon. And it shows just how good cheap wine can be when the producer cares — terroir, even. Look for sweet Sonoma black fruit, earthiness, and tannins that offer some grip, each part in balance with the other.

Highly recommended; big enough so that it would complement red meat, but not so big you can’t sip it in the evening after work. And if Lyeth can come back, does that mean there’s hope for Rockpile?

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