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Category Archives: Wine reviews

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.

Mini-reviews 69: Marchesi di Barolo, Bibi Graetz, Clos du Val, Bolla

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wine mini-reviewsReviews 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.

Marchesi di Barolo Barbera Monferrato Maràia 2012 ($10, purchased, 13%): Very nice price for a barbera that is mostly fun to drink. Look for dark berry fruit in this Italian red, plus a little earthiness. But there’s just enough oak to get in the way, and there’s hole in the middle that the oak doesn’t cover up.

Bibi Graetz Casamatta NV ($13, purchased, 12.5%):  Nothing really wrong with this Italian red, made with the soleras method, in which grapes of different vintages are blended. Simple and well-made, with cherry fruit and some acid, but it needs more than just that at this price.

Clos du Val Pinot Noir Carneros 2010 ($32, sample, 13.5%): Nothing at all wrong with this California red wine. It’s almost polite — with proper weight, fruit, tannins, and alcohol. But I want more than polite for $32.

Bolla Soave Classico 2011 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian white, which is what we drank if we wanted Italian white wine in the 1970s and 1980s, was surprisingly Soave-like given its age. Thin, but varietally correct and still drinkable.

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