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Tag Archives: inexpensive wine

Wine of the week: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Wine of the week: Joel Gott Sauvignon Blanc 2013Whenever the Wine Curmudgeon gets depressed about the quality of cheap California wine, Joel Gott’s wines always cheer me up. Gott not only makes impressive cheap wine, but he is passionate and committed about it, and believes that consumers deserve the best value possible for their money. Would that more California producers felt that way.

Case in point is the 2013 sauvignon blanc ($12, purchased, 13.9%). This is top-of-the line California sauvignon blanc, comparable to wines that cost as much as $10 more. Look for citrus (lemon and not grapefruit) and trademark California grassiness (the smell of a freshly cut lawn) in the front, but also some tropical fruit (melon?) in the middle, a quality most of the people who make cheap wine don’t bother with.

It’s not quite as impressive as the 2012, but that may be because it had just been bottled when I tasted it. Regardless, and assuming I can find it later this year for $10, it’s a candidate for the 2015 Hall of Fame.

Pair the sauvignon blanc, chilled, with grilled seafood or roast chicken, or drink on its own. And, when you do, toast someone who understands that most of us want quality wine we can afford to drink every day, and who makes wine for that purpose.

Wine of the week: Le Coq Rouge 2012

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Le Coq Rouge The Le Coq Rouge is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge wine before you taste it. Because it offers plenty of reasons to do just that:

• Cutesy label. How many chickens, birds, and assorted fowl have we endured over the years?

• Odd Rolling Stones referece in marketing material, because Coq Rouge means Red Rooster in French, and the Stones covered Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster.”

• Descriptors that bear no relationship to the wine, including “a lovely mix of chocolate and vanilla” and “wooded notes” — whatever that is.

Chalk it up to French marketing envy, under the mistaken impression that American consumers need that kind of foolishness. What does matter is the wine’s pedigree and what’s in the bottle, and both are impressive.

The Le Coq Rouge ($10, sample, 13.5%) is from the company run by Sacha Lichine, whose father was the legendary Alexis Lichine, one of the men who gets credit for introducing Americans to wine. The wine is mostly grenache, with enough red fruit to be pleasant but not so much as to confuse it with other, more over the top critter wines. It also has a bit of a back and soft tannins; in this, it’s a more modern version of another red blend from southern France, La Vielle Ferme, but more consistent and better made.

A tip ‘o the Curmudgeon’s fedora to Chris Keel at Put a Cork in It, who did a tasting with this wine when I did a cheap wine book signing at his store last month and put me on to the Coq Rouge. Because, otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered, despite my best intentions.

 

Take heart: Charles & Charles has three great cheap wines

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Take heart: Charles & Charles has three great cheap winesTake heart, everyone who loves cheap wine. Charles & Charles has not only released its new, always excellent, rose, but a white and red as well.

“We try to have fun with the labels, and we want people to have fun drinking our wines, but that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention when we make them,” says Charles Bieler, who was in Dallas this week to promote the inexpensive Washington state wines he makes with Charles Smith. “We couldn’t be more serious.”

In this, Bieler is as passionate as the labels are unconventional — think 30-something winemakers as urban music superstars. Our discussion covered the costly winemaking techniques not usually used for cheap wine but found in Charles & Charles wines; high alcohol, and why the Charleses don’t like them; the changing face of the wine business and the need to attract new wine drinkers; and that rose is quickly becoming an acceptable wine to drink in a way that I never thought it would be (and for which Bieler didn’t treat me like a cranky old man).

Most importantly, we tasted the wines, which are priced at $13 but can be found for as little as $10 (and all were samples):

 • Charles & Charles Rose 2013 (12.6%): This is consistently one of the best roses in the world, fresh and crisp with red fruit, and the 2013 is no exception. The best news is that production almost doubled for this vintage, so there should be plenty of wine to go around.

 • Charles & Charles Chardonnay 2012 (13.3%): Bieler emphasized the wine’s French style, but I saw more Washington state, with a touch of oak, rich fruit, and a subtle balance. It’s practically subversive, given what most cheap chardonnays taste like.

• Charles & Charles Post No. 35 2012 (13.6%): This red blend, cabernet sauvignon and syrah, was my favorite of the three. It’s a stunning wine for the price, dark and interesting but with telltale Washington state black fruit and amazing tannins. The catch? The 50,000 cases are almost gone, thanks to a 90-point review in the Wine Spectator. How dare it deprive us of such a wonderful wine.

Finally, consider this irony: We met at a restaurant where there was only one wine on the list that cost less than $30, and most were overpriced and quite ordinary. Maybe I should have mentioned the Charles & Charles to someone there?

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