Category Archives: Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2014


Line39 Sauvignon Blanc Line 39 is one of five labels owned by Cecchetti Wine, which makes it a sort of Big Wine company brand. In this, the sauvignon blanc can teach the rest of Big Wine a thing or two.

That’s because the Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc ($12, sample, 13%) does something too many Big Wines don’t — offers more than the one flavor that dominates everything else, on the theory that’s all cheap wine consumers want or understand. Instead, it makes the step from the quality $10 wine that it has been over the years to outstanding $10 wine that we don’t have enough of. This may be the best Line 39 sauvignon blanc vintage yet.

Look for muted citrus (lemon-lime) in the front, some tropical fruit in the middle, and a richness that previous vintages didn’t have. This is exactly what quality sauvignon blanc should taste like, regardless of price, and that the citrus is muted puts in squarely in the California style. Plus, the wine doesn’t have any of the bitterness in the back that too many $10 wines expect us to endure as the cost of paying that little.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s $10 in many parts of the country).  Drink this chilled on its own or with anything with garlic and parsley — grilled shrimp, for instance, or spaghetti olio.

Wine of the week: Straccali Chianti 2014


Straccali ChiantiThe retail market, despite years of producers wishing otherwise, is still awash in cheap Chianti, the Italian red wine made with sangiovese from the Chianti region of Tuscany. Most of it, save for a couple of brands like Melini, tastes like you’d expect: harsh and bitter, with little reason to drink even though it costs less than $10. 

Add the Straccali Chianti ($8, purchased, 12%) to the first group. It’s not just a better value than the Melini, which I love, but a well-made wine that embarrasses all those $15 grocery store red Italians with their cute names and shiny labels. One of the great questions in Italian wine: Why, if the country’s winemakers can do something like the Straccali Chianti, do they do so many dull, overpriced, Paso Robles-style wines on the theory Americans prefer them? Trust me — we want quality, not marketing.

Look for more depth than the Melini, so that you have to swallow twice to get a hint of everything that’s going on. It’s also less rustic, with black pepper, red cherry, a little more grip, and the acidity that Chianti is famous for. One key to this wine: a touch of merlot is blended with the traditional sangiovese and canaiolo grapes, which rounds out the flavors and mouth feel. Plus, no oak, which lends more freshness than you expect.

Highly recommended, and almost certain to be added to the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Drink this as the weather cools on its own if you want a glass of red, or with pork or beef that will complement the crisp red fruit, as well as red sauce.


Mini-reviews 77: Reinhold Haart, Piccini, Picpoul, Corvina


Reinhold HaartReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final Friday of each month.

• Reinhold Haart Riesling 2014 ($35, sample, 7%): Gorgeous, honeyed white wine with sweet lemon fruit — and not the fake Sweet Tart kind common these days — that reminds you how wonderful German riesling can be. This is sweet wine the way it should be, made to be a sweet riesling instead of just being made to be sweet.

• Piccini Memoro Rosso 2014 ($12, sample, 14%): Very ordinary Italian red blend of no particular interest, with that ashy middle that often shows up when too much winemaking is going on. The poorly done oak overshadows too soft red fruit.

• Domaine des Cadastres Picpoul 2014 ($10, sample, 13%): Regular visitors know how much the Wine Curmudgeon appreciates picpoul, a cheap French white. Sadly, this isn’t one of them. Old-fashioned, but not in a good way, made with unripe grapes, almost no fruit flavor, and a too sour taste.

Tenuta Sant’Antonio Corvina 2013 ($10, purchased 13%): One review of this Italian red made with the corvina grape (usually used as for blending) says it has tropical fruit, an interesting way to describe a red wine. Another way is flabby and soft, without any freshness or acidity. Very disappointing given the quality of the producer.

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