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Tag Archives: California wine

Mini-reviews 71: Vin Vault, Rueda, Arido, Avalon

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vin vaultReviews 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.

Vin Vault Pinot Noir 2013 ($20 for 3-liter box, sample, 13%): This California red, part of E&J Gallo’s assault on the booming box wine business, offers much more than $5 a bottle worth of value (since a 3-liter box equals four bottles). Look for red fruit and soft tannins, though it tastes more like a red blend than pinot noir (and my guess is that it has been blended with lots of grenache or syrah). Still, it’s pleasant drinking and a huge step up from most $5 pinot noir.

Marqués de Cáceres Rueda 2013 ($8, purchased, 12.5%): This version of the Spanish white from one of Spain’s biggest producers is made with the verdejo grape. It’s much more balanced than previous vintages — the lemon fruit is more rounded and it’s less harsh. A steal at this price, though it’s still a simple wine, and its tartness may put some people off.

Árido Malbec 2013 ($10, sample, 13.7%): Just another Argentine grocery store malbec with lots and lots of sweet red fruit, some tannins that don’t really fit with the sweet fruit, and not much else. It’s an example of why I liked this malbec so much.

Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($10, sample, 13.9%): This California red is not the old $10 Napa Avalon cabernet, one of the great cheap wines of all time and which now costs as much as $18. But it’s professionally made, if hardly complex, and mostly a value with soft tannins, black fruit, a little mouth feel, and some acid to round it out. If you’re in a grocery store and need a red wine for dinner, this will be fine.

 

Wine of the week: Bogle Pinot Noir 2013

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bogle pinot noirThe Wine Curmudgeon has probably tasted more poorly-made pinot noir than anyone in the wine business. I mention this not to elicit sympathy (tasting badly made pinot noir still beats working for a living), but to reinforce just how well made the Bogle pinot noir is, and especially for the price. It mostly tastes like pinot noir, and there aren’t many $10 pinots you can say that about.

That’s because most pinot noir that costs less than $20 bares as much resemblance to traditional pinot noir as I do to an editor at the Wine Spectator. It’s too ripe, it’s too fruity, it’s blended with too many other grapes, it’s too tannic, and it’s too alcoholic, and tastes nothing like the traditional description of pinot — elegant and refined. This doesn’t mean many of those aren’t enjoyable; they just don’t taste like pinot noir.

Which the Bogle ($10, purchased, 13.5%) does. It’s not a $100 red Burgundy or $50 Oregon pinot noir, but most of what needs to be there is there: Enough fruit (mostly black), a fresh mouthfeel, and real pinot tannins, which invigorate the wine. It’s not full of the jammy sweet fruit that most pinots at this price opt for, and it’s smooth in the way many consumers like without insulting those of us who want more than smoothness.

The oak — too obviously trying to be chocolate — could be better done, but this is another example of how much Bogle cares about cheap wine and gives those of us who want to drink it value for our money. Highly recommended, and why Bogle has been in the $10 Hall of Fame since I started it.


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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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