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Tag Archives: pinot noir

Christmas wine 2014

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• Order by noon Monday for holiday delivery for the cheap wine book


Christmas wine 2014Wine suggestions for the holiday next week, whether you need to buy a gift or aren’t sure about what to serve family and friends, be it for dinner or just because:

Sileni Pinot Noir 2013 ($16, sample, 12.5%): This red wine from New Zealand has been winning awards around the world this year, and why not? It tastes like pinot noir, with dark cherry fruit, soft but still noticeable tannins, and no hint that the wine wants to be anything other than pinot noir, like lots of alcohol or over the top jamminess. If it doesn’t taste like red Burgundy, and I don’t know why it should, it tastes like what it is — one of the best pinots at this price from anywhere in the world.

Grgich Hills Merlot 2010 ($42, sample, 14.8%): Another remarkable effort from Grgich, which has been making this sort of wine for so long we tend to take it for granted. This California red somehow combines high alcohol with style, finesse, and even some earthiness. Look for red fruit and an almost licorice finish. It’s big enough for red meat, but well made enough to enjoy without it.

Chateau d’Archambeau 2012 ($14, purchased, 12.5%): Just when I’ve given up on finding white Bordeaux that tastes like white Bordeaux — minerality and crispness without an overabundance of citrus fruit — along comes this French white, made with two-thirds sauvignon blanc and one-third semillon. Nicely done, and worth the extra couple of bucks compared to something like Chateau Bonnet. Sip on its own, or with holiday turkey.

Argyle Brut 2010 ($22, purchased, 12.5%): Argyle always seems to show up in holiday wine roundups here, but there’s a reason for that. It’s one of the best sparkling wines, dollar for dollar, made in the U.S. — about half the price of its California counterparts, and with that much better quality than less expensive California bubblies. Lots of apple fruit, but also some creaminess. Drink for toasting or with almost any food that isn’t prime rib.

Hacienda Araucano Reserva Carmenere 2013 ($10, sample, 14%): Carmenere is a red grape from Chile that is supposed to vaguely resemble an earthy merlot, but mostly tastes like grocery store merlot. This wine, from the same family that owns Bonnet, is carmenere the way it should be, and especially at this price. Look for black fruit and some grip, a welcome change from all of the flabby carmeneres on the market. Beef wine without a doubt.

More about Christmas wine:
Christmas wine 2013
Christmas wine 2012
Wine of the week: Astoria Prosecco NV
Wine of the week: Little James’ Basket Press NV

Mini-reviews 66: Les Griottes, Ecco Domani, Rios de Chile, Rauzan Despagne

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wine reviews ecco domaniReviews 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.

• Pierre-Marie Chermette Les Griottes 2013 ($19, purchased, 12%): Very pretty rose form Beaujolais made with gamay that has cranberry fruit and a hint of gamay’s grapiness. The catch, of course, is that it’s twice the price of a quality $10 rose without being anywhere close to twice as good. Hence, almost no reason to buy it.

Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio 2013 ($12, sample, 12.5%): This Italian white, one of the leading grocery store pinot grigios, is neither good nor bad. It just is — traditional tonic water flavor blended with a sweet pear middle. Which is why it sells millions of cases. It’s overpriced at $12, but you’ll probably be able to find it for as little as $8 if you really want to.

Rios de Chile Pinot Noir Reserva 2011 ($12, sample, 13.5%): Another competent, well-priced Chilean pinot noir that doesn’t have much to do with red Burgundy, but tastes more like pinot noir than its American cousins, the Mark Wests of the world. Simple but enjoyable, with some spice and berry fruit.

Château Rauzan Despagne Grand Réserve 2011 ($10, purchased, 13.5%): Professional, French red blend from Bordeaux that is mostly merlot, with berry fruit and some earthiness. It’s a little thin through the middle, but that may be the wine getting old.

Expensive wine 67: Brandborg Pinot Noir Estate 2012

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Brandborg pinot noirOne of the controversies amusing the Winestream Media, which allows its members to toss cyber-objects at each other, is the state of expensive pinot noir. It’s convoluted beyond description; for our purposes, it’s enough to know that some of my colleagues are throwing a hissy fit because other of my colleagues want to drink pinot noir that doesn’t taste like cabernet sauvignon. Sommelier Rajat Parr seems to be particularly disliked for advocating this kind of pinot noir, and I admire his thick skin.

The Wine Curmudgeon, of course, could care less about what his colleagues drink. Or argue about. Which is one of the differences between us.

Rather, I mention the controversy because the vitriol has gotten to the point where wines like the Brandborg ($38, sample, 12.8%) are dismissed because they don’t fit the current style. In this, the Brandborg is part of the resurgence in traditional pinot noir — which, oddly, I’ve noted here in several recent reviews, including this one and this one, without realizing it.

The Brandborg is quite nicely done, being both a varietally correct Oregon pinot and a wine with much more going on that just varietal correctness. It’s even big enough (though still balanced) that it needs food. Look for low alcohol, more fruit than a red Burgundy (black cherry?), and minerality, as well as a wine that’s still young and not quite all together. It’s going to get more complex and taste even better over the next couple of years, and offers fine value even at its price.

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