Tag Archives: holiday wine

Wine of the week: Kon Tiki Merlot 2014


kon tiki merlotMichael Franz, who judged the flight of $15 and under merlots at the Critics Challenge with me last month, was even less optimistic abut finding quality wine among the nine entries than I was. And regular visitors here know how the Wine Curmudgeon feels about $10 grocery store merlot.

So if Michael was happy, then you know the wine was worth drinking. We gave six medals, including a platinum to the Chilean Kon Toki merlot ($12, sample, 13.2%) — easily one of the best grocery store merlots I’ve had in years. It tasted like merlot and not a chocolate cherry cocktail, with almost unheard of depth and subtlety. Look for a black currant aroma followed by black fruit and very correct tannins that weren’t harsh or off, but complemented the fruit.

This is the kind of wine to buy by the case and keep around the house when you want a glass of red wine that does what red wine is supposed to do, and that doesn’t offend you with too much fruit, bitterness, or oak. Drink it on its own, or with any weeknight red wine dinner, from meat loaf to takeout pizza. Dad probably wouldn’t mind a bottle, either, if he needs something for Father’s Day.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the $10 Wine Hall of Fame if I can find it for that price. The only catch? The importer lists distributors in 33 states and the District of Columbia, but many of them are small and may not have enough clout to get the wine on store shelves.

Expensive wine 75: John Duval Plexus 2011


plexus 2011John Duval is a legend in the Australian wine business, someone who made some of the greatest wines in the country’s history when he worked for Penfolds and who has produced consistently outstanding wine on his own since leaving Penfolds in 2003. His wines are an example of the best of Australia, blending terroir, craftsmanship, and that sixth sense that the best winemakers have about what should go where.

The Plexus 2011 ($39, sample, 14%) is a red blend that does all of that, combining shiraz, grenache, and mouvedre to produce a wine that is somehow both powerful and sophisticated, soft and structured, cultured and free-spirited. In this, it does what so much great wine does, marry what seem to be contradictions to produce something greater than the whole.

Look for lots of berry aromas, followed by ripe but not quite jammy blackberry and cherry fruit and some spice and black pepper. That the alcohol is so low for an Australian wine speaks to Duval’s respect for terroir and to work with what the grapes gave in a cool vintage, rather than to force high alcohol to please critics. Not surprisingly, the 2011 Plexus only got 89 points from the Wine Advocate, about what it gives very ordinary $15 California chardonnay.

Highly recommended and a steal at this price, especially given how much junk is for sale that costs more than $40 and gets 94 points. We tasted this in my El Centro class, and the students were flabbergasted that this style of wine could be this delicious and taste so completely different from anything they had tasted before.

This is a Father’s Day gift for anyone who loves red wine and wants to take a step forward in understanding how wine can be different depending on where it’s from. Serve this with any red meat or Father’s Day barbecue.

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Mother’s Day wine 2015


Mother's Day wineMother’s Day wine is about options: wine for a gift, wine for brunch, or wine for dinner? Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon has all possibilities covered, as well as the most important piece of advice when it comes wine gift giving. you’re buying someone a gift they will like, and not a gift that you think they should like because you know more about wine than they do. In other words, if Mom likes sweet red, then buy her the best sweet red you can afford, and don’t worry about the wine police.

These wines are a start on covering most of the eventualities:

Vinum Cellars Sparkling Chenin Blanc NV ($18, sample, 12.5%): Delicious bubbly that shows what a top-notch California producer can do with the charmat method and the Wine Curmudgeon’s beloved chenin blanc. The wine is slighty sweet, with fine bubbles, lime fruit, and even a bit of spice. This is Mother’s Day brunch wine, and if it is a touch pricey, it is for Mom.

Château Sainte Marie Vieilles Vignes 2011 ($15, sample, 13.5%): Varietally correct right bank Bordeaux, which means earthy, jammy black fruit, smooth tannins, and a merlot sort of finish — not long, but round and full. If you’re planning a barbecue or informal dinner, this French red will make Mom happy.

Château Sainte Marguerite Côtes de Provence 2013 ($18, sample, 12%): Gorgeous onion skin rose from Provence in France that’s worth the price, one of the best roses I’ve tasted in years. Look for fresh red fruit to complement the orange-ish color; what the French call garrigue, an almost herbal aroma; and a very long finish.

Domaine Félines Jourdan Picpoul 2013 ($10, sample, 13%): White wine from southern France with the picpoul grape’s trademark tart lemon as well as something softer — peach? — in the middle. This is about as well made as $10 picpoul gets, and is a candidate for the 2016 $10 Hall of Fame. Let Mom sip it on the porch while she enjoys her holiday.

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