Tag Archives: California wine

Expensive wine 80: Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2012


grgich hills chardonnayWant a classic example of Napa Valley chardonnay, with the just right amounts of fruit and oak, a proper mouth feel, balanced alcohol, at a fair price, and that speaks to Napa’s terroir? Then you could do much worse than the Grgich.

This is not damning with faint praise; rather, it says much about how wine is often made in that part of California — score driven, price be damned, and that the consumer will buy the Winestream Media tells them to buy. The Grgich, which has been around longer than I have been writing about wine, takes none of that into account. The 2013 Grgich Hills chardonnay ($42, sample, 13.5%) is no exception.

Look for green apple, a little citrus, and even some peach tucked away in the back. The oak is there, of course, but it’s integrated and part of the wine — not a flavor in and unto itself. Perhaps the most important quality is the wine’s acidity, something most California chardonnays don’t worry about. It helps the wine taste fresh and clean despite its richness.

Highly recommended, and the kind of wine to give as a holiday gift, drink at this time of year, and enjoy anytime.

Wine of the week: Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc 2014


Line39 Sauvignon Blanc Line 39 is one of five labels owned by Cecchetti Wine, which makes it a sort of Big Wine company brand. In this, the sauvignon blanc can teach the rest of Big Wine a thing or two.

That’s because the Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc ($12, sample, 13%) does something too many Big Wines don’t — offers more than the one flavor that dominates everything else, on the theory that’s all cheap wine consumers want or understand. Instead, it makes the step from the quality $10 wine that it has been over the years to outstanding $10 wine that we don’t have enough of. This may be the best Line 39 sauvignon blanc vintage yet.

Look for muted citrus (lemon-lime) in the front, some tropical fruit in the middle, and a richness that previous vintages didn’t have. This is exactly what quality sauvignon blanc should taste like, regardless of price, and that the citrus is muted puts in squarely in the California style. Plus, the wine doesn’t have any of the bitterness in the back that too many $10 wines expect us to endure as the cost of paying that little.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s $10 in many parts of the country).  Drink this chilled on its own or with anything with garlic and parsley — grilled shrimp, for instance, or spaghetti olio.

Wine of the week: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2014


Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognierHow impressive is this California white wine blend? For one thing, it has its own website, and how many $10 wines can say that? For another, some retailers — who apparently have no shame — charge as much as $15 for it. Is it any wonder the Wine Curmudgeon is so curmudgeonly?

The other thing you need to know about the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier ($10, purchased, 12.5%)? That it is, as always, one of the great cheap wines ever made, combining the qualities of each grape to produce something greater than the whole. Given how much stupid label, fake oak, sort of sweet cheap white wine gets foisted off on us, this is a revelation. And that it’s made with two grapes that don’t get much respect makes the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier that much more interesting.

In addition, the Pine Ridge chenin blanc viognier is different each vintage, something that also rarely happens with cheap wine. The 2014 has less citrusy sauvignon blanc character than the 2013 (something you can get from chenin blanc), with more steely chenin minerality and a dollop of white fruit (peach?) from the viognier, as well as an almost floral aroma.

Drink this chilled on its own, or with any end of the summer dinner. It’s a fried seafood wine, too — clam rolls, anyone? Highly recommended, and sure to take its place again in next year’s $10 Hall of Fame.


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