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Tag Archives: California wine

Mini-reviews 76: Four $20 (or so) wines worth buying

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white wine 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. This month, four whites around $20 that offer value and are well worth drinking:

• Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2013 ($17, sample, 13.5%): This California white, part of E&J Gallo, shows what Big Wine can do when it pays attention — lush and creamy, but not over the top, with baked apple and lemon fruit. Highly recommended, and the kind of wine you’ll be stunned to be able to buy at the grocery store but delighted none the same.

Coquerel Family Le Petit Coquerel Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($22, sample, 13%): One of the best California sauvignon blancs I’ve tasted in a good while — fair price, determined quality, gooseberry, long finish (mineral, lychees) and that wonderful California expression that isn’t done enough anymore. Highly recommended.

• Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc ($17, sample, 13.5%): Consistent, well-made, varietally correct California white that always offers value. Look for assorted citrus and tropical flavors, none overdone, and a clean finish.

• Kunde Estate Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($17, sample, 13.8%): Zesty and fresh California white, with notes of grapefruit and lemon rind and a crisp finish. Not overly complex, but lively, and doesn’t disappoint.

Wine of the week: Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2014

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Vin Gris de CigareBonny Doon’s Randall Grahm is perhaps the most subversive person in the wine business, and one sip of his rose, the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare, shows why. On the one hand, it has all of the necessary qualities for a terrific pink wine — freshness, nary a hint of residual sugar, and a certain stoniness that many of the great French roses from Provence have.

On the other hand, the Vin Gris de Cigare ($15, sample, 13%) also tastes like it will age for at least a couple of years. What cranberry fruit there is is hidden beneath the other components, and the fruit should slowly show itself over time. This is not supposed to happen with rose, which is usually made to last for just one vintage (and is perfectly fine when it does). That Grahm makes a rose that will age, and for only $15, is just another example of how sneaky he is, and how his wines almost never do what the wine business says wine should do.

Hence it’s no surprise that I enjoy them so much. Highly recommended; serve the Vin Gris de Cigare chilled, either on its own or with any summer food, be it salad or grilled fish, chicken, or beef. I drank it with socca, the chickpea flour pancake from southern France on a hot Dallas Saturday afternoon. If I wasn’t magically transported somewhere other than my air conditioned living room, the combination reminded me why pairings can work as long as we aren’t slaves to them.

Finally, a note about Grahm’s newest — and perhaps most subversive — project. He is crowdfunding a vineyard to create 10,000 new grape varieties, in the hope of finding a unique New World vinifera, something that didn’t come from Europe and so is better suited to our climate and soil. In this, Grahm figures he has a chance to explore New World terroir in a way no one ever has. That creating new grape varieties is incredibly difficult does not seem to daunt him in the least.

The project is about 35 percent of the way to its $350,000 goal — you can contribute here, and there are some impressive premiums. And, given my experience with crowdfunding, Grahm will have more fun than he can imagine. Not that I know anything about waking up at 2 a.m. to check the funding percentage.

Mini-reviews 75: White wine for summer

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white wine for summerReviews 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. Th month: white wine for summer.

Josh Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): The Josh Cellars reds are some of the best values in the world. Unfortunately, this California white is nowhere near as well made as the reds — thin, bitter, and stemmy, and what seems like fruit chosen to hit the price point and not to make better wine.

Argento Chardonnay Reserva 2014 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Grocery store chardonnay from Argentina that demonstrates how Big Wine can turn ordinary grapes into something quite pleasant when it wants to Look for white stone fruit and a hint of sweetness that balances everything out.

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Consistent, well-made, varietally correct California sauvignon blanc that always offers value. Look for citrus and tropical flavors, but none that are overdone, and a clean finish. This may cost as little $12 or $13 in the grocery store, which is the time to buy several.

Line 39 Pinot Grigio 2014 ($12, sample, 13%): One of the oddest wines I’ve ever tasted, with little pinot gris or pinot grigio character and more chardonnay flavor than anything else. But it’s 100 percent California pinot grigio, and without any added sugar despite a decidedly sweet feel to it. Go figure.

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