Category Archives: Wine reviews

Wine of the week: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2014


Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognierHow impressive is this California white wine blend? For one thing, it has its own website, and how many $10 wines can say that? For another, some retailers — who apparently have no shame — charge as much as $15 for it. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon is so curmudgeonly?

The other thing you need to know about the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier ($10, purchased, 12.5%)? That it is, as always, one of the great cheap wines ever made, combining the qualities of each grape to produce something greater than the whole. Given how much stupid label, fake oak, sort of sweet cheap white wine gets foisted off on us, this is a revelation. And that it’s made with two grapes that don’t get much respect makes the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier that much more interesting.

In addition, the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier is different each vintage, something that also rarely happens with cheap wine. The 2014 has less citrusy sauvignon blanc character than the 2013 (something you can get from chenin blanc), with more steely chenin minerality and a dollop of white fruit (peach?) from the viognier, as well as an almost floral aroma.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any end of the summer dinner. It’s a fried seafood wine, too — clam rolls, anyone? Highly recommended, and sure to take its place again in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.


Wine of the week: Pinot Patch 2013


pinot patchRegular visitors here know one of the Wine Curmudgeon’s favorite laments: That it’s almost impossible to find $10 pinot noir that tastes remotely like pinot noir (or $20 or $30 or $40 pinot noir that tastes like pinot noir, but that’s another matter). There are several decent $10 wines that say pinot on the label, but they’re more fruity red blends than anything else.

So I was quite pleased to meet Aaron Inman, whose family owns Romililly Wines, which makes Pinot Patch pinot noir ($11, sample, 13.5%) because that’s one of the reasons for being for the wine — to make a quality, affordable pinot that tastes like pinot. This California red has berry fruit, but not so much that it tastes like a fruity red blend, as well as that hint of earthiness in the aroma that pinot should have. Best yet, the tannins are zingy and not harsh, so that the wine doesn’t remind you of cabernet sauvignon.

Yes, it’s a simple wine, but it doesn’t insult you by pretending to be something that it’s not. In $10 pinot, that’s a victory for the good guys. Drink this with any red meat (burgers on the grill?) and be glad that Inman gave up engineering in favor of winemaking. And check out the picture on the Pinot Patch website of the young Inman and his brother Jesse on their bikes. Those are the kind of people I want making my wine.

Expensive wine 78: Raumland Marie-Luise Brut 2008


 Raumland Marie-LuiseGerman sparkling wine made in the traditional Champagne style? How much wine geekier does it get? Not much, but the Raumland Marie-Luise is well worth the trouble to find and the price you will pay.

The amazing thing about the Raumland Marie-Luise ($40, sample, 12%) is not that it’s well made, but that it’s such a value, even at $40. I’ve tasted Champagne (before the boycott) at that price and even $20 more that wasn’t as pleasurable to drink — mass market plonk at high-end prices. The Raumland is made with pinot noir, astonishing in itself given the rarity and inconsistency of German pinot, but even more so given the wine’s subtlety and style. This is not an oaky, yeasty sparkling bomb, but a wine with fine, tight bubbles, hints of berry fruit, an almost spice-like aroma, and bone dry.

Highly recommended, though it may be difficult to find. If you can, serve it on its own (chilled, of course) or with seafood and chicken. We had it with a shrimp boil during the infamous wine samples dinner, and the Raumland was gone in minutes. This is also a fine gift for any open-minded sparkling wine drinker.

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