Category Archives: Wine reviews

Expensive wine 80: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2012


grgich hills chardonnayWant a classic example of Napa Valley chardonnay, with the just right amounts of fruit and oak, a proper mouth feel, balanced alcohol, at a fair price, and that speaks to Napa’s terroir? Then you could do much worse than the Grgich.

This is not damning with faint praise; rather, it says much about how wine is often made in that part of California — score driven, price be damned, and that the consumer will buy the Winestream Media tells them to buy. The Grgich, which has been around longer than I have been writing about wine, takes none of that into account. The 2013 Grgich Hills chardonnay ($42, sample, 13.5%) is no exception.

Look for green apple, a little citrus, and even some peach tucked away in the back. The oak is there, of course, but it’s integrated and part of the wine — not a flavor in and unto itself. Perhaps the most important quality is the wine’s acidity, something most California chardonnays don’t worry about. It helps the wine taste fresh and clean despite its richness.

Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to give as a holiday gift, drink at this time of year, and enjoy anytime.

Wine of the week: Colosi Sicilia Bianco 2013


Colosi Sicilia BiancoWhat better way to celebrate the blog’s eighth birthday than with a cheap Sicilian white wine made with three grapes no one has heard of? These are the days when it’s fun to be the Wine Curmudgeon.

The Colosi Sicilia Bianco ($10, purchased, 12%) is everything that I love about cheap wine, but that so many others don’t understand. It’s a light, simple, well-made, and refreshing wine, with green apple and lemon flavors, a bit of crispness in the back, and no oak. In this, it makes the point that sometimes all we need is a light, simple, well-made, and refreshing wine, whether to drink with dinner, to enjoy after work, or to sip on a weekend afternoon just because we want a glass of wine. Not every wine occasion has to be a big deal, and not every wine buying decision has to be as convoluted as purchasing a house.

The grapes, by the way, are inzolia, catarratto, and grillo (the latter of which I like almost as much as ugni blanc). Their combination gives the Colosi Sicilia Bianco a slightly chardonnay aroma, which is both surprising and not unwelcome. We don’t want U.S. wine consumers to be to turned off by a wine that has almost nothing in common with the stuff that Big Wine shovels at us in the grocery store, do we?

Four wines for International Tempranillo Day


International Tempranillo DayToday is the fifth annual International Tempranillo Day, in which those of us who appreciate value and quality tip our hats towards Spain’s signature grape — even when the wine isn’t from Spain. How wonderful is tempranillo? This year, the wine that the students in my El Centro class have enjoyed the most was a tempranillo from Spain’s Ribero del Deuro, and they’re a tough audience.

Tempranillo, and especially from Spain, is food friendly, terrific for Thanksgiving, and something that I drink almost as often as I drink rose. It’s one more example why the best wine values in the world come from Spain. This year, four wines for International Tempranillo Day:

• El Coto Rioja Crianza 2010 ($10, sample, 13%): This Spanish red, from the Rioja region, is always well done, always more traditional (brighter acid and cherry fruit), and always with just enough oak to round out the wine. And the stag label isn’t bad, either.

C.V.N.E. Rioja Cune Crianza 2010 ($15, purchased, 13.5%): Sophisticated crianza (the first of three quality levels of Rioja) that is more complex than its $10 cousins, with deeper and richer cherry fruit, more layered oak, and a fuller, more complete finish. Highly recommended and worth the extra money.

Llano Estacado Harvest Tempranillo 2014 ($18, sample, 12.8%): This is a beautiful wine, rounder than a Rioja, with less obvious red fruit and that speaks to Texas’ terroir. I was one of the doubters when Texas producers started making tempranillo, and I’m happy to say I was wrong. Highly recommended and one of the highlights of my American Wine Society presentation, though availability will be limited outside of Texas.

Emilio Moro 2011 ($20, sample. 14.5%): The wine that wowed those hard-nosed students, showing what Ribero can do when its producers want to make great wine and not just get a 98. The Moro is fruitier (black instead of red), with more oak, and less tart than a Rioja, but the alcohol doesn’t get in the way. Highly recommended.

For more on tempranillo:
12 wines for International Tempranillo Day
Wine of the week: Barao de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

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