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Tag Archives: California wine

Wine of the week: Hess Sauvignon Blanc Select 2014

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hess sauvignon blancThe knock against Big Wine is that it can’t make terroir-driven wines, because the formula that has given us better quality at lower prices works against that style. But that’s not necessarily true, and we have the Hess sauvignon blanc to prove the point.

Hess is among the 30 biggest producers in the U.S. and it sells six brands besides its namesake. So why is the Hess sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13.5%) a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame (since it’s probably $9.99 in many places)? Because not everyone in Big Wine uses the same formula, or any formula at all.

The Hess sauvignon blanc is a tremendous value, given that most sauvignon blanc at this price tastes like it came off an assembly line — a requisite amount of grapefruit, a hint of something tropical, and not much of a finish. This wine is the just the opposite. It shouts of the grassy aroma and flavor that defines California sauvignon blanc, and those are followed by some lemon fruit and a stony finish. Plus, it’s fresh and crisp, two of the qualities that make sauvignon blanc so attractive.

Highly recommended — wine from a producer that cares about quality, its customers, and charging a fair price for its products. Drink this chilled on its own, or with grilled or roasted chicken.

Wine of the week: Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red 2012

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shannon ridge wrangler redThere are a variety of red blends from California, usually older vintages from smaller wineries, that you won’t find unless you dig through the bottom shelves at your local retailer. The Wine Curmudgeon, who is infamous for this sort of behavior, found the Clayhouse, Josh Cellars, and Stephen Vincent reds this way.

My most recent shelf digging turned up the Shannon Ridge Wrangler Red ($14, purchased, 13.9%), a blend from from Lake County, a region probably better known for its whites. Nevertheless, the red — a combination of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah, and cabernet sauvignon — was more than up to the standards set by the region’s whites. It had a most welcome freshness, without any of the cloying fruit that dominates so many of these kinds of wines.

Look for red fruit (cherries and raspberries?), but much more than fruit, including a surprising depth from the cabernet that most winemakers don’t bother with when they make this style of red blend. The oak was a little top heavy, but given the wine’s age, it didn’t get in the way and even sort of faded as the bottle emptied. Drink this with any summer barbecue; it’s the kind of wine to sip while you’re grilling burgers and getting ready for Fourth of July fireworks.

Mini-reviews 74: White wines for summer

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white winesReviews 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, white wines for the beginning of summer:

Honora Vera Rueda 2013 ($6, purchased, 13%): Ordinary grocery store verdejo, missing some lemon fruit that should be there and a little harsh on the finish. Yet, having said this, that a national retailer is selling this hardly common Spanish white speaks to how far cheap wine has come.

Canals Canals Cava Classic NV ($15, sample, 11.5%): Very pretty cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, that is softer and more Prosecco like, with green apples and lemons. Not crazy about the price, if you appreciate the style, worth the money.

Amarte Mas Albariño 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Quality albarino, a white wine from Spain, though there are equally as good wines made with the same grape for less money. Look for soft white fruit aromas, some lemongrass in the middle, and a full finish.

Vinum Cellars Chenin Blanc 2013 ($15, sample, 13.5%): This California white is a touch overpriced, but a solid, dry, crisp, and lemony chenin blanc — the kind of inexpensive and well-made California white wine we need more of.

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