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Category Archives: Wine reviews

Expensive wine 72: Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz 2010

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Two Hands Gnarly Dudes ShirazThe latest Australian wine news is more doom and gloom: 2015, with some grape prices once again less than the cost of production, will see more more growers fail. So let’s remind the world what’s right about Australian wine, the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz ($40, sample, 14.8%).

This red wine from the well-regarded Barossa does so much that other, more expensive, higher scoring wines don’t do. For one, it ages gracefully, becoming more interesting over the past three years without losing any of its varietal or Aussie character. For another, it does the clever name bit without being silly. Finally, the alcohol, though high, doesn’t get in the way and make you groggy after a couple of sips.

Look for deep, rich black fruit (black cherries? plums?), tannins that demonstrate how tannins should be done, and a jammy, almost refreshing, intensity that ties everything together. This is red meat wine, but wine that will complement beef, not relegate it to the back of the plate.

Highly recommended, and it’s worth noting that its original $40 price has been cut by one-third by a producer who understands the marketplace and wants to sell wine. Would that more producers felt that way.

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.

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