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Tag Archives: chardonnay

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.

Expensive wine 77: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2012

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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.

Wine of the week: Scaia Garganega Chardonnay 2013

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Scaia Garganega ChardonnayIn the Winestream Media’s version of the world, the only odd grapes that matter come from countries that don’t make enough wine to matter, but are sold in Manhattan. If odd grapes are used in something that’s actually on store shelves, the wine gets 87 points, like the Scaia Garganega Chardonnay.

Which demonstrates two things — the uselessness of scores, and the idea that we should not be afraid to try something that isn’t what we usually drink. The main reason I bought this was wine was because it was an odd blend, and as the Italian Wine Guy has said more than once, the Wine Curmudgeon never met a grape he didn’t want to try. Especially it costs $10.

The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay ($10, purchased, 12.5%), an Italian white blend, speaks to all of those points. It will never get a 90-plus score because it’s a cheap white, and because the chardonnay is blended with the grape used to make Soave, an Italian white that is too often indifferently made. Besides, any self-respecting Winestream Media type would gag at the thought of chardonnay blended with garganega.

All of which is just wine writing foolishiness. The Scaia Garganega Chardonnay features the best of each grape — crispness and acidity from the garganega and a bit of richness and tropical fruit from the chardonnay. It’s a combination that’s to be much appreciated on a hot summer day, either on its own or with any kind of seafood. It’s also the kind of wine to keep on hand if you want a glass with dinner

Highly recommended, and a candidate (almost certain to be included) for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame.

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