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Oregon and pinot noir

Or, how a state that everyone laughed at when it first started making wine has turned into one of the best regions in the world for pinot noir. That’s the subject of Read More »

wineofweek

Wine of the week: Lamura Rosso 2013

Years ago, before the hipsters discovered Sicily, Lamura was about the only Sicilian producer with any kind of distribution. And even Lamura hedged its bets, marketing the wine as organic as much Read More »

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Winebits 400: Wine writing ethics edition

Who knew we’d have so much controversy about wine writing ethics? But an increasing number of wine writers don’t understand (if events this summer are any indication) that their first duty is Read More »

winereview

Expensive wine 77: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2012

Call it irony or coincidence or whatever, but Australian wines keep showing up in the monthly expensive wine post even though Australian wines are a drag on the market and aren’t famous Read More »

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Barefoot wine review 2015

How is Barefoot the best-selling wine brand in the country, and perhaps the only wine costing less than $10 to thrive during premiumization? Because Barefoot is wine for people who don’t drink Read More »

Expensive wine 77: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2012

winereview

Leeuwin chardonnayCall it irony or coincidence or whatever, but Australian wines keep showing up in the monthly expensive wine post even though Australian wines are a drag on the market and aren’t famous for being expensive. Bring on the Yellow Tail shiraz, right?

Nevertheless, that producers like Leeuwin are making these kinds of wines points to the quality that has been overlooked in Australia’s troubles over the past decade. The Leeuwin chardonnay ($70, sample, 14%) is top-notch, even for the price, and if it isn’t high-end white Burgundy (chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France), it’s not supposed to be.

Look for rich, delicious apple fruit, as well as what the wine magazines called baked apple aromas, with a little cinnamon and spice mixing with the apple. Also, the wine has a full mouth feel, which you should get at this price. This is a New World chardonnay, a little heavier and with a little more oomph than white Burgundy, but it understands that quality is about more than oomph. In this, it should age well, losing some of the heft and becoming more refined over the next several years.

Drink this chilled with classic chardonnay cream sauce dishes; it’s also the kind of wine to give as a gift for someone who wants to explore high-end chardonnay, and understand that terroir exists in places other than California and France.

Barefoot wine review 2015

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Barefoot wine revie 2015How is Barefoot the best-selling wine brand in the country, and perhaps the only wine costing less than $10 to thrive during premiumization? Because Barefoot is wine for people who don’t drink wine, and this year’s labels are excellent examples of that approach. And if the chardonnay was a touch sweet, the cabernet sauvignon was pleasant enough to drink again.

In this, it’s not so much that the cabernet ($6, purchased, 13.5%) and the chardonnay ($6, purchased, 13%) are simple, but that there is a method to their simplicity — sophisticated winemaking is used to get them to taste the way they do. Each wine emphasizes its fruit while pushing the stuff casual wine drinkers don’t like, the tannins and acid, to the background. The result? A soft, fruit-forward wine made for someone who buys Barefoot to have a glass or two in the evening, re-cork what’s left, and then drink again the next night. Frankly, that’s an impressive achievement for a $6 wine.

The cabernet, with an Argentine appellation but no vintage, was more enjoyable than the chardonnay, with a surprising amount of cabernet character, juicy dark berry fruit, almost no acidity, and enough tannins so that I noticed them but not so noticeable as to bother the brand’s target demographic. This is a red wine that is smooth and easy drinking, two terms that make wine geeks cringe but that are perfectly understandable to the people who buy Barefoot, and are the reasons they buy it.

The chardonnay tasted much like Cupcake’s chardonnay — not quite sugary, but sweet enough to linger on the tongue, plus caramel fake oak and lots and lots of green apple fruit. There was almost no acidity, and the sweetness helped mask a bitterness on the finish (probably from tannins from grape seeds and stems). That Barefoot delivers the same wine as Cupcake for half the price speaks volumes about how smart Barefoot parent E&J Gallo is. This wine is also non-vintage, and the grapes are from California.

More Barefoot wine reviews:
Barefoot wine review 2014
Barefoot wine review 2013
Barefoot wine review 2012

Dallas’ Lucia, restaurant wine, and doing it right

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lucia restaurant wineRegular visitors here know that the Wine Curmudgeon dislikes restaurant wine almost as much as he dislikes oaky, alcoholic chardonnay. So it’s a pleasure — no, a duty — to let the world know when restaurant wine is done the right way.

That would be at Lucia in Dallas, an Italian-inspired restaurant in the city’s hip Bishop Arts neighborhood. Full disclosure: Jennifer Uygur, who owns Lucia with chef husband David, is a friend of mine. But, and she will be the first to tell you, I wouldn’t write this unless her wine list deserved high praise — almost all Italian, small but extensive, fairly priced, interesting, and missing the distributor-driven junk that even lists that get a Wine Spectator award have. It also has a Texas wine, which shows Jennifer’s commitment to doing things the right way.

Almost half the 50 wines cost around $50 or less, and the markups on most seem to be about two to one retail. This should be standard practice in the restaurant business, but it isn’t, something I have lamented many times. The list also reflects Jennifer’s wide-ranging taste, in which she wants not just quality, but something that is fun and different and a treat for her customers. What’s the point of wine otherwise?

We had two wines: First, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle ($48 restaurant, purchased, 12%), made with a grape, prié blanc, from a region called Vallee D’Aoste, neither of which I had ever heard of. It’s a white with austere white fruit and lots of minerality, but it’s about more than a clean mouth feel. There is an almost chardonnay-like richness, which adds complexity and gives the wine something that’s as enjoyable as it is difficult to describe.

Second, Nervi Bianca ($52 restaurant, purchased, 12%), a white from Piedmont made with the erbaluce grape. Yes, I’ve heard of Piedmont, but the grape was a new one, and the region is much better known for its reds than its whites. The best way to describe the Nervi? Think of an Italian pinot grigio, but one with character, fresh white fruit, crispness, and minerality, absent the fussy tonic water aftertaste of pinot grigio.

Finally, the food was stunning. It reflects David Uygur’s Italian influences, his skill as a chef, and the idea that the food should be something for customers to eat and not something to help the chef get a TV show. Know two things: We had tajarin, thin, small egg noodles, with house-cured anchovies, toasted bread crumbs, and herbs that was one of the best things I’ve had in my life even though I don’t like anchovies; and there was no tomato sauce on the menu. None. At all. In Dallas, that’s close to heresy.

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