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Tag Archives: chardonnay

Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011

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Expensive wine 62: Chamisal Califa Chardonnay 2011One of the challenges with writing about California chardonnay, and especially the expensive kind, is that the Wine Curmudgeon is often in danger of wearing out his welcome. How often will visitors here read “over-oaked” and “too much alcohol” before they shake their heads, click the post closed, cancel their e-mail subscription, and hope someone tells me I need to get some help.

Fortunately, I was at a big-time tasting last week, and the Califa ($40, sample, 13.2%) was one of the highlights. It comes from the Edna Valley, which means winemaker Fintan du Fresne doesn’t have to deal with the expectations that winemakers do in Napa or Sonoma. That means he can take advantage of the region’s cooler temperatures (and it was very cool in 2011) to fashion a leaner, though still rich and elegant, white wine. Look for green apple and lime fruit, some amazing crispness, and just enough oak to let you know you’re drinking high-end chardonnay.

How nice was this wine? I preferred the Califa to Pine Ridge’s Dijon Clones chardonnay, also at the tasting, and there was nothing wrong with the Dijon Clones. The Califa wasn’t intent on impressing me with the first sip; rather, it’s as if it said, “Take your time. Drink a little more, and really get to know me.”

Highly recommended (though, sadly, with what appears to limited availability). This is a Mother’s Day gift for any mom who loves wine and wants to be reminded why California is one of the world’s great wine regions.

Mini-reviews 60: Wairau, Garzon, Chapoutier, Chablis

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Mini-reviews 60: Wairau, Garzon, Chapoutier, ChablisReviews 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.

Wairau River Chardonnay 2012 ($22, sample, 13%): Professionally made California-style chardonnay from New Zealand, with green apple fruit and enough oak to be noticed but not to be offensive. Having said that, why spend $22 for it when there are similar wines costing one-third less?

Bodega Garzón Tannat 2012 ($20, sample, 13.8%): Tannat is a red grape that has caught on with wine geeks, and this bottle from Uruguay is well made, if pricey. But, save for a funky aroma, it tastes a lot like $15 California central coast merlot without any of tannat’s grip.

M. Chapoutier Rosé Belleruche 2013 ($15, sample, 13%): Dependable French rose has increased in price by almost one-third (thanks to a new importer?), which makes it a lot less dependable. Wine itself is OK, though this vintage has more strawberry fruit and less crispness. But there are dozens of $10 roses with same quality or better.

Drouhin-Vaudon Chablis 2012 ($20, purchased, 12.5%): This chardonnay from Chablis region of Burgundy in France was sadly  disappointing — thin and almost watery, with very little of the crisp, fresh green apple fruit that makes Chablis so wonderful. May have been corked, which is yet another reason for screwcaps. If not, the producer has serious quality control problems.

Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages 2012

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Wine of the week: Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Villages 2012One of the most amazing things about the Golden Age of Cheap Wine is that it’s amazing despite the dollar’s weakness against the euro. Its decline, dating to the beginning of this century, has increased the price of European goods by as much as 20 percent, and cheap wine has mostly followed suit.

Case in point are the French wines from Cave de Lugny, a growers’ cooperative in the Macon region in Burgundy, which makes some of the best grocery store whites in the world. The catch, thanks to the weak dollar, is that they aren’t priced like grocery store wines these days, costing $15 or more. Which is why I haven’t reviewed a Cave de Lugny wine in three years.

Which is also why the Wine Curmudgeon was so excited to see Lugny’s Macon-Villages ($10, purchased, 13%) at this price. And, frankly, I should have bought more than one bottle. It’s a chardonnay that is always dependable and always varietally correct, made in the traditional Macon style — no oak. That means some lemon and green apple fruit, lots of crispness, and a very clean finish that hints at the minerality of a more complex wine.

Serve this chilled with almost any white wine dish. And if you see other Lugny wines, like the Les Charmes, for $10 or so, don’t hesitate to buy it. You can enjoy it while pondering the mysteries of exchange rates and international banking.

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